Is acrylic plastic or glass? I have misunderstood all these years

In order to meet the needs of the market, companies or scientific researchers will develop materials with different properties such as color, strength and flexibility.

There are more types of materials, which is definitely a good thing for users to have more choices, but for many ordinary people, sometimes they are very confused, and they don’t know what the difference is between them, whether it’s right or wrong. The same material.

Many people have such questions about acrylic that is often used. It looks like glass at a distance and plastic at a close. And its name is Acrylic. Is it glass or plastic?

1.What is Acrylic?

Acrylic is our most common name for this material, also known as plexiglasses, the English name is Polymethyl Methacrylate. After the English translation called acrylic, abbreviation is PMMA. Its full name is called Polymethyl Methacrylate. Its raw materials belong to acrylic chemicals.

Usually besides the use of acrylic sheet, we can also hear the name of acrylic cotton, acrylic yarn, acrylic nylon and so on. Acrylic sheet is made of acrylic particles and resin and other materials synthesis, and other acrylic textiles are made of acrylic fiber, they do not belong to the same category.

Most of the time we will feel that acrylic is a new material, but in fact it has been invented for more than a hundred years. As early as 1872, this chemical polymer was discovered. Until 1920 in the laboratory synthesis of the first acrylic sheet.  In 1927 finally in the factory to complete the manufacture of acrylic sheet.  At the beginning of the manufacture of acrylic is only used in the aircraft, at the end of the last century with the improvement of the production process and maturity, acrylic began to be widely used in many industries.

Now, acrylic has become an important material in many industries. Such as instrument parts, car lights, optical lenses, transparent pipes and crafts and so on.

2.The Characteristics of Acrylic

Acrylic has high transparency, clear vision, can reach more than 92% of the light transmittance. Ordinary glass transmittance is only about 85%, can achieve the transparency of optical glass. Even after dyeing also has a very good transparency, which increases the display and aesthetic effect of acrylic.

aterial performance, the strength of acrylic is more than ten times that of ordinary glass. And glass can be compared with strong to describe it, made of acrylic products will be very durable. Transparent products are most afraid of being scratched because of acrylic’s high strength, so it’s  also one of the most wear-resistant transparent materials.

Acrylic begins to soften at 113℃, melting point at 160℃. This temperature makes it has a very high plasticity. It becomes easy to make any shape.

Acrylic changes in temperature and humidity, as well as acid and alkaline substances all have high resistance. It’s very suitable for outdoor applications.

Although acrylic has many advantages, but also has some shortcomings. The first is that the price is more expensive than glass, it is difficult to completely replace glass; secondly, due to its low ignition point, direct exposure to the flame will melt and eventually burn, burning will also release toxic smoke. So in the use of power tools and cutting produce high temperature, it will be easy to bend.

Acrylic belongs to a kind of polymer material after polymerization, also is a kind of thermoplastic, right, you did not read wrong, it is a kind of plastic.

Acrylic is the use of monomer methyl methacrylate  polymerization, so what is the difference between acrylic and other plastics? Why do we call it “glass” when it’s plastic? This is due to a lot of acrylic and glass similar characteristics, some advantages than glass. And the advantages can be perfect to make up for the shortcomings of glass.

Transparent materials are among the most commonly used materials in many industries. Designers and manufacturers often choose these clear polymers as alternatives when traditional glass is too heavy or too prone to cracking. And acrylic  just have these characteristics of glass or transparent material, but it is not glass, so it is called plexiglass.

3.Acrylic Production Process

Acrylic production process and other plastics are almost the same, only in the specific temperature and added catalyst will be different. There are three main molding methods: casting molding, injection molding and extrusion molding.

Casting Molding:

Casting is less used in sheet production. Plexiglas (PMMA) and cellulose acetate plates are formed by casting. The deformation of cast PMMA during hot forming is completely different from that of extrusion.

For thermoforming, the big problem with casting materials is the resulting thickness tolerance. Thickness tolerances can be up to ±20%, depending on the thickness of the material and manufacture, which creates multiple problems for the thermal forming process.

A mold is required for casting, into which molten acrylic acid is poured and left to rest for a few hours until it becomes semi-solid and can be removed from the mold.

After the plates leave the mold, they are transferred to a high pressure furnace. A special machine that functions like a pressure cooker and oven. The high pressure furnace uses heat and pressure to force air bubbles out of the plastic, giving it a higher transparency and a stronger texture. The acrylic acid in the high pressure furnace usually takes several hours. After taking the formed acrylic out of the high pressure furnace, the surface and edges need to be polished several times. First with small grain sandpaper and then replaced with a soft cloth wheel, to ensure that the surface of the acrylic is smooth and transparent.

Injection Molding:

The acrylic pellet material is added to an extruder, which heats the material to about 150 ° C. Causing it to become a sticky state. And then into the two roller press between, through the pressure will be melted plastic flattening, into a uniform sheet. And then the sheet cooling, so that the acrylic sheet solidification.

The sheet is cut to the required size, after grinding and polishing can be used. Extrusion molding can only produce a thin sheet, and can not produce other shapes and thicker sheet. It needs to be reworked by thermal molding.

Extrusion Molding:

Like injection molding of other plastic products, acrylic is made by putting acrylic particles into a plunger or screw injection molding machine and melting the material into a paste at high temperatures. Then it is injected into the abrasive cavity, and it becomes a fixed shape after drying through hot air circulation. After grinding and polishing, it can be used.

Nowadays, the use of acrylic is increasing year by year; Although acrylic is one of the oldest plastics in use today, its optical transparency and resistance to outdoor environments make it the material of choice for many industrial applications.

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