Acrylic plastic fabrication is fantastic for modern manufacturing and product design. It’s easy to work with, cheap to make and purchase, and has a laundry list of possible uses. Acrylic plastic can do a lot, and that includes replacing conventional materials to bring costs down.
How is acrylic fabricated?
There are plenty of ways to work with acrylic, thanks to its useful material properties. Being a thermoplastic, it can be heated and thermoformed or welded, as well as being cut and bonded using adhesives.
Acrylic plastic fabrication can come in the form of:
There are plenty of ways to machine plastic that come under the umbrella of CNC machining. A wide variety of tools means that CNC machines can cut, drill, and mill acrylic parts by way of subtractive manufacturing, i.e. removing material from a block until the desired shape is achieved.
CNC machining can create parts with very intricate features and complex geometries, and it works to a high degree of accuracy. CNC machining has a high throughput and can make precision acrylic parts to very tight tolerances.
Being a thermoplastic, acrylic is a good candidate for injection moulding. The plastic starts in pellets, which are heated until they’re a viscous liquid. The liquid plastic is then fed into a mould using an extrusion unit.
The plastic is then cooled until it solidifies, taking the shape of the mould’s recesses. Thermoplastics like acrylic are flexible in that they can be melted and resolidified to create parts in this way, with only some post-processing needed.
Though not one of the most common plastics to be used in rotational moulding, acrylic can be used in this way. Similar to injection moulding, the plastic is heated until it becomes liquid and extruded into a mould.
The mould is then rotated so that the molten plastic evenly coats the recesses in a uniform layer, creating a hollow part that has stability and structure once cooled and hardened. Rotational moulding is best for creating hollow parts like plastic drums and barrels, or watercraft like kayaks.
Bonding and plastic welding
Some parts can’t be created in one piece from a chunk of plastic, and they require some assembly to create the finished composite.
Sometimes, the best way to do this is with the help of powerful and long-lasting adhesives which chemically bonds one piece of plastic to another. Using solvent-based adhesives actually softens the surface of the plastic, allowing the parts to bond much more closely than standard super glue can achieve.
Alternatively, the thermal properties of acrylic allow it to be welded. In some cases this will be preferable to bonding as it blends and combines material at the joins, and can be used to create an actual composite part between two pieces. Welding can be seen as more ‘permanent’ than bonding, since there’s nothing holding the piece together that can wear out or be overstressed like the adhesives used in bonding.
Can other plastics be fabricated?
There’s a wide range of strong plastics that can be fabricated which you might want to consider over acrylic plastic fabrication, depending on your needs.
However, acrylic is often sought out for its fantastic bundle of properties in one material, and can replace materials like glass, cardboard, and metal when the need arises.
Some plastics are suitable for welding where others aren’t. Similarly, some plastics are cheap enough to be used generously, whereas other plastics are simply too advanced and currently expensive to work with in the same way.
Many plastics are virtually confined to advanced aerospace and engineering applications due to their high performance and advanced properties. Acrylic, on the other hand, is open for practically anybody to purchase and work with as long as they have the right tools and equipment.
Acrylic plastic fabrication with GA Profiplast
We are through-and-through experts in plastic fabrication methods, from CNC machining to die cutting, solvent bonding, mechanical fastening, and so much more. If you need plastic parts making, we can make them.
To learn more about our range of plastic fabrication services, contact us today.