Acrylic Fabrication Methods
Plexiglass sheets can easily be processed by the do-it-yourselfer but it’s important to take into account that they are much more susceptible to breakage than polycarbonate. There are many trusted processing techniques such as drilling, sawing, milling, and sanding that can be used to process acrylic/plexiglass sheets. On the other hand, techniques such as punches and typesetting are not suitable for this material.
For users who do not have the skill, experience, tools, or time to fabricate these sheets, ShapesPlastics offers cut-to-size ad hoc services. The ability to create cut-to-size products that deliver the best quality, precision in cutting, and tight tolerances, is what truly sets us apart. You can also benefit from additional savings in shipping as cutting the sheet down to your final size, might qualify it for free standard shipping.
Drilling Acrylic / Plexiglass
There are a few factors to consider when drilling in a plexiglass sheet. Cast Acrylic is better suited for drilling than Extruded Acrylic. This is particularly because Cast Acrylic sheets have less internal tension and offer more dimensional stability. Like all other plastic sheets, thinner plates are more susceptible to breaking and tearing than thicker plates.
Another thing to keep in mind is maintaining discipline and patience. Plexiglass is brittle and drilling holes quickly can break out and lead to cracks. You can overcome this through preparation and using the right tools. The best tool for this process when machining acrylic / Plexiglass is with a drill press and an ordinary iron drill bit from any do-it-yourself store.
Sawing Acrylic / Plexiglass
- Cast Acrylic: the best tool is a circular saw with a fine-toothed saw blade. If that is not available, then you can use a jigsaw blade with fine teeth for a smoother finish - let the machine do the heavy lifting without putting too much effort or speeding the process. For the best sawing result, ensure that the Plexiglass panel is lying flat and does not rattle when the saw passes through it.
- Extruded Acrylic: do not use a jigsaw blade. Experts at ShapesPlastics highly recommend a circular saw, table saw, or saw table with a fine-toothed saw blade for machining this material.
For complex shapes, Polycarbonate sheets are ideal as they can be machined with any sawing machine without breaking or tearing. For the do-it-yourselfers, we recommended ordering a sample piece of plastic sheets prior to purchase so you can practice different machining styles. You can also take advantage of our custom fabrication services to save time and money - get what you want - exactly the way you want it.
Sanding Acrylic / Plexiglass
There are many reasons and applications that can require sanding acrylic / Plexiglass sheets. Firstly, to minimize any visible signs of sawing or machining for a matte surface. Secondly, to smoothen any sharp edges for applications in heavy foot traffic areas, and lastly as processing to step to final polishing.
Before you start sanding Plexiglass, you need to know which type of Plexiglass you will be sanding: extruded or cast. This will allow you to choose the right tool and the right grit (coarse) sandpaper for the job. Cast Acrylic can be sanded with a heavy machine, whereas Extruded acrylic cannot. This is because under excess pressure, stress and tension is built in the edge of the material leading to poor results when sanding. In terms of tools, experts use heavy-duty belt sanders and flatbed sanders. For the do-it-yourselfers, there is a range of other options such as multi-sanding, delta sanding, and lighter belt sanders for sanding. You can also sand them manually by wrapping sandpaper around a block. Experts at ShapesPlastics recommend ordering a sample piece of plastic sheets prior to purchase so you can practice sanding styles.
Polishing Acrylic / Plexiglass
Polishing is the last processing step after the edges have been finely sanded to achieve a shiny result. Professionals use diamond polishers and flame polishers for this. The hobbyist can polish with a cloth wheel or with a polishing block. An expert tip - oftentimes, a layer of polishing paste will remain on the polished surface. This can easily be removed with felt cloth or a soft cotton cloth.