Plastic Machining with Acrylic Plastic

Pete Poodiack, VP of Sales and Marketing at Controlled Fluidics, talks about Acrylic plastic and what makes it a popular material for plastic machining and fabrication.

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Welcome. In this video, we're going to talk about one of our most popular plastics for CNC machined parts, and that's acrylic.

This plastic is used in a wide range of applications including medical devices, diagnostic applications, lenses, and security barriers to name just a few.

Acrylic is popular due to its very tight tolerances, wide range of color options, and optical clarity, but it's also very low cost. In this video, I'm going to talk about the benefits of acrylic, and then, I'm going to outline a few drawbacks and situations where you may need to consider another material.

First, the benefits of acrylic. Again, it offers very tight tolerances with a margin of error of plus or minus .0005 inches. Even with complex geometric designs, acrylic parts can have a smooth burr-free finish, and a 32 RA or better finish tends to be standard.

You can choose from cast and extruded acrylic.

Extruded acrylic is primarily used in sheet applications with relatively thin gauges. Cast acrylic, in contrast, gives you a lot more options. It comes in rods, tubes, and all sheet sizes including extra thick of over four inches.

Cast also comes in import or domestic grade. Domestic grade has more dimensional stability and stress crack resistance, but import grade is less expensive.

Compared to other plastics, acrylic offers the broadest range of hues, and its light transmission is up to 92%. After CNC machining, acrylic is translucent, but there are numerous finishing processes that can restore its transparent qualities.

Now, of course, like any material, acrylic has some limitations. At Controlled Fluidics, we don't recommend it for structural members due to its stress sensitivity. It can crack due to bending stress or over-tightened fasteners. It doesn't wear particularly well, and it can overheat if working conditions exceed 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, it also has weak chemical resistance, and even wiping it with isopropanol can degrade its clear surface.

This only covers the basics. Learn more about Acrylic Plastic on our materials page.