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How does acrylic (strength-wise) compare to glass?

A .125″ thickness of acrylic is 2 to 3 times more impact resistant than double strength window glass, 4 to 5 times more impact resistant than wire glass or other glasses. A .250″ thickness of acrylic is 9 to 10 times more impact resistant than wire or other glasses.

How does acrylic compare to other plastics in strength?

Polycarbonate is strongest, followed by PETG/PET, impact modified acrylic sheet, then general-purpose acrylic sheet.

What are the benefits of acrylic over glass?

Acrylic is stronger, more impact resistant, lighter in weight, won’t shatter, is easier to fabricate, and can be easily formed.

Is standard acrylic non-conductive?

No, standard acrylic is a conductive material. A spray coating is available if non-conductivity is needed.

I'm worried that Plexiglas® sheet is going to yellow on me after a few years. Also, should I be concerned about scratching?

All of the acrylic sheet Emco Plastics sells is manufactured with plenty of Ultra-violet stabilizer (UV) protection. This means that with proper maintenance of the Plexiglas® acrylic sheet, it should last 10 years or more before it ever yellows. Of course, you’ll need to wash the Plexiglas® with the proper cleaning solutions like our Novus® brand polish or Brillianze®, and to also be careful to never use such products as commercial brand “glass cleaning” sprays. Glass cleaning spray and other such products contain ammonia that will cause hazing or fine scratching and eventual yellowing of the Plexiglas® sheet. If you need an acrylic product that resists scratching, then ask us about our Lucite® SAR® abrasion-resistant acrylic sheet.

Does acrylic (Plexiglas® and Lucite®) yellow in the sun?

Since the beginning of the creation of plastics, many myths have been perpetuated about the longevity of plastics, especially outside in the elements. All plastics come from petroleum and natural gas. Sunlight, especially ultraviolet radiation, has a disastrous effect on most plastics. Some plastics, like polyethylene (PE) milk jugs, degrade quickly in the sun – in a matter of months. PE can easily be recycled. Many children’s toys are made from PE and get brittle and crack when left outside. Acrylic (Plexiglas®, Lucite®, and Acrylite®) comes from natural gas and is completely inert when in solid form. American-made acrylic does NOT yellow in the sunlight. Witness the protective canopies and bubbles in the World War II bombers- they are still clear after 50 years in the sun! There are three other clear plastics that do yellow in the sun and get confused with acrylic- Styrene, PETG, and Polycarbonate. They have their respective qualities that make this an acceptable trade-off. Ask your Emco Plastics salesperson for information on all of these plastic solutions.

What about Thermal Expansion & Contraction of Plexiglas®?

All materials expand and contract to a greater or lesser degree due to changes in temperature and humidity. Allowances must be made for these changes in the construction and fabrication of products; for example, the expansion joints in cement sidewalks and on steel bridges. Acrylic sheet is subject to greater dimensional change, due to thermal expansion and contraction, than other materials with which it is used in construction. Acrylic Sheet vs. Other Materials Inches/Inch/F Acrylic Sheet .0000410 Aluminum .0000129 Plate Glass .0000050 For indoor applications where temperatures normally remain the same (+/- 20 degrees F), acrylic sheet does not generally require special considerations for expansion and contraction other than providing for a snug rather than tight fit since its movement is approximately .00984″ per foot length for each 20 degrees of temperature change.

Degree of Size of Temperature Change for Plexiglas
  10 15 20 30 40 50 60
12″ 1/16 1/16 1/16 1/16 1/16 1/8 1/8
24″ 1/16 1/16 1/16 1/16 1/8 1/8 1/8
36″ 1/16 1/16 1/16 3/8 1/8 3/16 1/4
48″ 1/16 1/16 1/8 1/8 3/16 1/4 1/4
60″ 1/16 1/16 1/8 1/8 1/4 1/4 3/8
72″ 1/16 1/8 1/8 1/8 1/4 5/16 3/8
84″ 1/8 1/8 3/16 3/16 5/16 5/16 1/2
96″ 1/8 1/8 3/16 1/4 5/16 3/8 1/2

What type of saw blade is used to cut acrylic sheet?

A 10″ carbide tipped circular saw with 80 teeth.

I'd like you to build a display case with special features, but I only need to purchase one - can you do this?

Absolutely! In fact, Emco Plastics can build you any size or style of custom-designed Plexiglas® acrylic case, to your exact requirements in no time at all. And that same care and quality is extended to your individual display case as well. Just give us an idea of what you are looking for and our designers will do the rest.

Can you cement acrylic shapes?

Yes. You can cement them to many different materials using the appropriate adhesive. Please refer to our adhesives chart for specific information.

Help! My plastic is scratched!

When your beautiful piece of Lucite® acrylic scratches, you can fix it quickly! If you can’t feel the scratch with your fingernail, then Novus® #2 or #3 should restore the finish. Otherwise, you will need to sand and buff the area that is scratched to return the shine (see the Solution in the next paragraph). It’s the same way we polish the edges of thick pieces of acrylic here at Emco Plastics – it works! This procedure ONLY works on acrylic. It does not work on styrene (like the colored boxes we sell) or on polycarbonate (Lexan®, Tuffak®, Hyzod®). They both look clear, but they cannot be restored. Ask about our Abrasion Resistant coatings.

Are acrylic shapes available in different colors?

Yes they are available in different colors - however, minimum order requirements may apply.

What if I have a deep scratch in my plastic?

Sand the scratch with a #400 grit sand paper. Once the scratch is removed, wet sand with a #600 grit sand paper. Buff out using 3M® super duty rubbing compound and a high speed bonnet buffer. Buff out with a fine polish such as 3M® finess-it-II or Mequiars® #17 clear plastic polish and a high speed bonnet buffer.

How can you drill a hole in acrylic sheet without cracking the material around the hole?

The material cracks because the drill speed is too fast or there is too much pressure on the drill when exiting the hole at the underside of the acrylic sheet. Back up the work area with another piece of acrylic or plywood so then the drill can continue through into solid material. If using a commercially available twist drill, make sure it is ground to a proper angle of 60-90 degrees.

There’s a crack in my plastics! What do I do?

There is nothing more frustrating than a crack in a piece of Plexiglas® or Lexan®. Both of these materials are “notch sensitive”. By the way, so is glass! That’s why you can scribe and break glass (and Plexiglas®) along the scribe. These materials have no grain and therefore cracks can travel as they please. However, cracks can be stopped with a simple procedure. Using a very small drill bit, (1/16″ or so) drill a hole through the material at the end of the crack. That’s it. If it is a long crack, you might be able to inject some IPS WeldOn® #3 (Methylene Chloride) into the crack to partially seal it. If the plastic is on a sign, and therefore most likely opaque, you should glue a 1″ strip of 3/16″ Plexiglas® to the back side to reinforce the cracked area.

How can you cut or scribe one piece of acrylic sheet properly?

Use a Fletcher Terry Knife or a plastic cutting tool when cutting the sheet. This method can be used for sheet thicknesses of .250″ and thinner. Scribing the sheet should be done at least 7 to 12 times for .250″ material and 5 to 7 times for .187″ materials and under. It is best to support the bottom of the sheet on both sides of the score line. After the part is scribed and broken, the edges should be finished.

Can I get cast acrylic in colors?

Yes, cast acrylic sheet, tube and rod are available in a variety of colors. Please call for availability and pricing.

What masking is used for laser cutting acrylic and mirror?

3mil polyfilm or papermask.

Hey - This sticker won't come off my plastic!

Don’t you just hate it when those price tags don’t come off a plastic item? The problem is that the adhesive either dries out or the wrong kind of adhesive was used on the price tag. In any case, you need to find a way to get the darn thing off your plastic.

Solution: The simple way to take a “stuck” sticker off of plastic is by moistening the price tag with Lighter Fluid – which is actually a very refined grade of kerosene! This will not bother Acrylic, Styrene or Polycarbonate plastics which will be 90% of the types you will be dealing with. If in doubt, test the fluid on small part of the plastic. Look at it in 24 hours. Remember that you could scratch the plastic when rubbing the price tag loose. Easy does it.

Are the edges of your Plexiglas® too sharp?

Our saws and routers leave nice chip-free edges on the pieces of Plexiglas® we cut. On edges that will be exposed to the touch, beware. While this edge is not sharp like glass, if you run your hand down the edge quickly, and with pressure, you may get a “paper-cut” type of injury.

Solution: Use #100 grit sandpaper and a sanding block. Just pass the sandpaper over the edges at a 45 degree angle a few times. Use your fingers to test the edge. When it feels good, stop!

Will acrylic and Polystyrene burn if a flame is pressed against them?

Acrylic will ignite and burn if placed in an open flame. Polystyrene will smoke.

What film coverage is best when routing acrylic sheet?

Papermask, 2mil film & 3mil laser films are preferred.

How do you clean acrylic sheet?

Use a mild soap & water mixture with a gentle cleaning cloth. Do not use ammonia based cleaning solutions on the acrylic as it will eat into the sheet and cause it to craze.

How do you remove solvent cement from acrylic sheet?

Once applied, you will not be able to remove solvent cement from the acrylic. Solvent cement eats into acrylic; any excess would evaporate, leaving a slight outline where the solvent was located. You might try buffing to smooth the surface.

How do I remove the papermask from acrylic sheet when it is adhered too firmly?

Use water to wet the papermasking and then peel back, or add a mixture of a small of rubbing alcohol to water and spray onto the papermask. After the solution is applied, gently pull back from acrylic sheet.

How can I finish pieces cut from acrylic rod stock to match the clarity of the uncut surface?

Sand with successively finer grades of sandpaper and finish polish with buffing wheel and plastic polish or jeweler’s rouge.

Can I glue plastic?

One of the really great properties of some plastics is their resistance to chemicals. Plastics that can be dissolved by a chemical are generally glueable, while those that are not dissolved cannot be glued. A quick test you can do at home – find some nail-polish remover (acetone) and test a very small area on the plastic you would like to glue. If it gets sticky, then Emco Plastics has a solvent adhesive that will work! If the acetone simply dries up, you have a problem. Your choices will be; mechanically fasten the plastic, ultra-sonic welding, or hot-air welding. Most chemical tanks are made of polypropylene or polyethylene and will not glue. PVC and ABS will glue (like your sprinkler pipes). Engineering plastics for the most part cannot be glued with adhesive, unless a contact adhesive is acceptable for your application. Please talk to our sales people about our Adhesive Cross-Reference chart that will help you select the right adhesive for your application.

What is the correct glue to use when gluing 2 edges of acrylic sheet together?

WELDON® 3.

Can you glue edges of flame polished acrylic sheet?

No, the parts will craze (generate small cracks) due to the heat used to flame the edges.

Can you tell me what the difference is between cast acrylic rod, sheet and tube vs. extruded types?

Sheet, rod and tube in acrylic materials are available in both extruded and cast grades, the selection of which should be determined by the quality level desired when compared to cost considerations. When cast acrylic materials are manufactured they are manufactured from raw monomer which is cast or poured into molds. Once cured, the material is often ground and then repolished to finished dimensions. Casting is the more expensive of the two processes, but yields a better quality product. Extruded acrylic materials, on the other hand, are manufactured by pushing acrylic pellets through a highly polished extrusion die to produce a finished product. Die marks and other slight imperfections may make extruded sheet, rod, and tube somewhat less desirable for critical applications. The process is less expensive however, and the quality is perfectly acceptable for most applications.

Is acrylic tubing affected by water over a long period of time?

No, neither prolonged exposure to moisture nor total immersion will cause warping, swelling or loss of clarity.

In how large of an outside diameter is available cast acrylic tubing available?

You can get up to a 96″ diameter in cast acrylic tubing.

What are some of the mechanical properties of acrylic tube?

Acrylic tube is less than half the weight of glass and only 43% the weight of aluminum. Acrylics are unaffected by aqueous solutions of detergents, cleaners, alkalis and aliphatic hydrocarbons.

What are some methods of fabricating acrylic tube?

In order to achieve clean cuts and easy finishing, cut acrylic tube with carbide tools. The cut surfaces can be wet or dry sanded to smooth saw cuts then buffed and polished for clear finish.

Is Lucite® SAR scratchproof?

No material, including glass, is considered scratchproof. However the siloxane hard coat on SAR significantly improves the surface hardness of Lucite® sheet for exceptional performance in demanding glazing applications.

Can hardcoated sheet be glued?

No, the hardcoat will resist adhesive chemicals.

Are there any special fabrication techniques for Lucite® SAR?

 

No, Lucite® SAR fabricates identically to standard acrylic with power woodworking tools and blades. The protective masking should be left on during fabrication and transportation of the product, and removed upon installation.

How does the impact strength of SAR compare to the impact strength of polycarbonate (LEXAN®) sheet material?

Acrylic offers approximately 25 times and polycarbonate offers approximately 200 times the impact strength of float glass. In many cases, the impact strength of Lucite® SAR is satisfactory.

Can Lucite® SAR be formed into domed skylights and other formed shapes?

No, because of the hardness of Lucite® SAR’s surface coat, neither thermoforming nor cold bending is recommended.

Is Lucite® SAR coated sheet weatherable?

No, abrasion resistance will be lost.

Can hardcoated sheet be screen-printed?

No, standard inks will not adhere to the coating. Contact your ink supplier for possible ink alternatives.

Can you flame polish an AR coated sheet?

No, flame polishing an AR coated acrylic sheet will cause it to blush or whiten.

Can acrylic mirror be die cut?

No, only PETG and polycarbonate mirrors (up to .080″ in thickness) can be die cut.

What about polishing mirror edges?

Sanding the edges of acrylic mirror with successively finer grades of sandpaper and then buffing them with polishing compound works well.

How can scratches in the paint backing be prevented from showing thru the front?

Minor scratches can be repaired on the backside by applying a small amount of argent (silver metallic) paint over the scratch.

What is the reflectivity of Fabback® acrylic mirror?

Approximately 85-90%.

Is Fabback® acrylic mirror thermoformable?

It is not recommended. The acrylic will stretch and the backing will fail. Shallow depths may work. Plastic sheet should be formed then plated.

I've noticed different colors on the backs of mirror. Is there any significance to this?

Manufacturers sometimes use different color backings to differentiate and identify their products. Regardless of the color, the backing serves to protect the mirror from scratches in transportation and fabrication.

How can you mount Fabback® acrylic mirror?

Mount to a smooth, rigid flat backing such as 5/8″ or 3/4″ plywood. The surface should be coated with a high quality paint or sealant to cover pockets and seal out moisture. Next, cover the surface with mastic or adhesive.

Can Fabback® acrylic mirror be heat bent?

Yes, however, the mirror may blush at the bend especially when exposed to prolonged heat. Try samples for testing. Please refer to the Fabback® User’s Manual for instructions.

 

What fire ratings does Fabback® acrylic mirror meet?

The acrylic for Fabback® mirror sheet meets a C2 fire rating by ICBO. Polycarbonate meets C1.

How can scratches on the front side of a mirror be repaired?

Minor scratches can be subdued by polishing with wax. Larger scratches can be treated with a lamb’s wool pad and buffing with a light abrasive rubbing compound.

Can mirroring be used for outdoor applications?

Outdoor use is not recommended due to expansion, contraction and moisture. If outside use is desired, seal the perimeter with silicon sealant and protect paint backing.

What adhesives are recommended for outdoor mirror applications?

Palmer Mirro-Mastic®, Super Set Mirro-Mastic®, 3M® 4323, and Gunther Premier or Pro-Mastic®. If a spray adhesive is needed, 3M® Super 77 may be used. Please follow your adhesive supplier’s directions for gluing.

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