Acrylic Sheets 101

14 March 2017
30 - Acrylic Sheets 101 (Option1)

A term used so rampantly yet less pondered upon is ‘Acrylic Sheets’, also referred to as ‘Acrylic Plastics’. What does this term mean? Why are acrylic sheets so common and preferred over other equivalents? And where do we use them in our day-to-day lives?

Whether you’re a veteran in the chemical and manufacturing industry space, or a novice, here are some basics worth reiterating. If you’re someone without much idea about the industry but are looking to purchase acrylic sheets, it becomes even more important to be well-informed. Read on, as we take you through a quick 101 on Acrylic Sheets.

What are Acrylic Sheets?

Though used interchangeably with plastics, acrylic sheets or acrylic plastics only form a subset of plastics. By definition, plastics are synthetic materials made from a wide range of organic polymers that can be moulded into any shape while soft, and set into a rigid or slightly elastic form. Acrylics are plastics too, and are manufactured using one or more derivatives of methacrylic acid. The typical acrylic sheet is made of Polymethyl Methacrylate or PMMA, synthesised from Methyl Methacrylate monomer which in turn is the ester derivative of methacrylic acid.

How are they made?

Manufacturing Acrylic Sheets from Methyl Methacrylate (MMA Monomer): Acrylic plastic sheets are formed by bulk polymerization process where the monomer and catalyst are allowed to react in a mould. The two methods of bulk polymerization are batch cell and continuous polymerization.

  • Batch Cell Bulk Polymerization – It is used for making acrylic sheets in thicknesses from 0.06 to 6.0 inches (0.16-15 cm) and widths from 3 feet (0.9 m) up to several hundred feet.
  • Continuous Bulk Polymerization – This method is used to make sheets of lower thicknesses and smaller widths than those produced by the batch cell method. It proves to be a quicker method and is less labour intensive.

Manufacturing Acrylic Sheets from Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA polymer): The acrylic polymers are subject to an extrusion process. In this, they are heated to form a molten mass in the barrel of an extruder. The molten mass is forced out of the end of the barrel through a die as a molten sheet. The thickness and surface finish are determined by the spacing and design of the die. This continuous band of acrylic sheet passes through a set of cooling rolls, and cut or trimmed to suit the dimensions and purpose it is required for.

What are their areas of applications?

If you take a quick glance around you, you’ll probably spot at least five articles made of PMMA plastic. In the acrylic sheet form, they are used in a variety of applications right from the homeware applications like digital displays like the computer screen or mobile phone you are reading this article on. Click here to take a look at the industries where Sumitomo Chemical Asia’s SUMIPEX® PMMA is used.

Why are Acrylic Sheets preferred over other similar materials?

A quick list of PMMA acrylic sheet’s properties indicates why it is preferred over other similar materials. Polymethyl Methacrylate exhibits qualities such as clarity, brilliance and transparency, all this at half the weight much higher impact resistance than that of glass. It is versatile and can be suitably modified to be tinted, coloured, and acquire properties like scratch resistance, anti-fogging, solar reflectivity, reduced glare and reduced UV transmissions. A durable thermoplastic, acrylic sheets are used where thermal resistance, scratch resistance and weathering properties are needed. Research indicates that some forms of acrylic are even able to resist bullets. Acrylic sheets are extremely easy to cut, allowing for easy customisation. This blog tells you more about why PMMA Acrylic Sheets are preferred.

What are the maintenance constraints?

Acrylic sheets are not tough to maintain. They can be washed with mild soap or detergent and lukewarm water, using a clean sponge or soft cloth.However, it is not recommended to use scrubbing aids, gritty cloth, window cleaning fluids and chemicals such as gasolines (both leaded and ethyl included), as well as solvents like alcohol, acetone, carbon tetrachloride, etc. Antistatic coatings can be applied on acrylic sheets to prevent the accumulation of electrostatic charge.

Where are Acrylic Sheets available commercially?

Sumitomo Chemical Asia is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of SUMIPEX® PMMA polymer. You can find out more about how to procure acrylic sheets made of SUMIPEX® PMMA from us here. Please feel free to Contact Us should you have any queries about the commercial availability.