Acrylic sheets are an element of the world around us that we see and interact with on a daily basis and yet, rarely ever notice. Whilst that might sound like a shame, it’s a testament to the sheer adaptability and success of acrylic sheets in adapting to the needs of modern life.
Look a little closer at the words written on this page and there’s a good chance you’ll find that you’re reading through acrylic. From the ‘glass’ on the front of your smart device to the screen of your laptop, acrylic sheets are used to produce a spectacular range of products.
You’ll also find they’re used in the production of glass for cars, wing mirrors, chairs, light bulbs, signs, sneeze guards, bus shelters and well, just about anything else you can imagine. Because acrylic sheets can be formed to almost any shape and to any thickness, it’s become an essential part of manufacturing.
But what are acrylic sheets? Well, acrylic is a type of plastic manufacturing using one of more derivatives of acrylic acid. This can produce a number of different types of acrylic, but the most widely used is known as PMMA (or Polymethyl Methacrylate acrylic). It’s regarded for its tremendous weatherability, clarity, strength and versatility.
PMAA is often utilised as a glass replacement thanks to its clarity and brilliance, but those aren’t its only benefits. It’s around half as heavy as glass and can have up to fifty times the impact resistance. Just like glass, acrylic sheets can be coated in a number of different ways to protect from fogging, glare, scratches or any other glass-like property.
A sheet of acrylic of produced by adding acrylic polymers to the barrel of an extruder, which then heats them until they’re a molten mass. This incredibly hot mixture is extruded from the machine by a screw drive through a die as a molten sheet. The spacing of the die will determine the thickness of the sheet and, sometimes, the surface finish.
From there, the continuous roll of still-hot acrylic is passed through a series of cooling rolls and cut to its final size, before it can be packed and shipped off to the company who ordered it.
It’s not a complicated process, but through the use of acrylic, manufacturing has been able to make some spectacular leaps forward, as has the like of automotive and technological design.