Materials and applications – plexiglass

What is plexiglass?

  • Plexiglass is a general name for clear, transparent plastic. It is used to refer to two types of plastic: acrylic (PMMA) and polycarbonate (PC and hard-coated PC). It is available in various colour tones.

  • Acrylic (PMMA) is a versatile, clear plastic. In addition to being more impact-resistant than glass, it also lets through more light. It has a hard surface and it does not scratch easily. Acrylic is used for terrace glazing, luminaire diffusers, Wendy house windows and kitchen splashbacks.

  • Uncoated polycarbonate (PC) is a transparent, impact-resistant material, which is easy to machine. It can be bent without heating, it is suitable for cutting and holes can be drilled in it easily. It has a soft surface, which makes it prone to scratches. It is not resistant to strong chemicals.

  • Hard-coated polycarbonate (hard-coated PC) does not scratch when it comes into contact with windscreen wipers, for example. Hard coating offers high levels of protection against scratches and improves resistance to chemicals. The sheets have coating on both sides. Typical applications for polycarbonate include protective covers for machinery, wok machine glazing (for example for forestry machines, tractors, excavators), lighting shields, warehouse windows and glazing for ice-hockey rinks.

  • PETG is ideal for thermo- and vacuum forming. It is more impact-resistant than acrylic (PMMA), but weaker than polycarbonate.

What should be taken into account in deciding on the thickness of plexiglass?

  • Plastic is not as rigid as glass and therefore its strength cannot be compared with that of glass.

  • Thin sheets (for example, 2 mm PMMA) are typically used as protective covers for pictures and posters. Thin materials may crack during drilling. Thin PMMA typically needs support around it.

  • Thin PC plastic sheets are more durable than PMMA but lack rigidity. The rule of thumb is that larger the piece, the thicker it has to be.

  • For example, with terrace glazing, the sheet has to be 5 mm thick or thicker if its height is close to two metres and height is close to a metre. Thinner sheets can be used for smaller areas.

  • For work machine glazing, 6-12 mm thick PC is used, preferably with hard coating.

How can plexiglass be processed?

  • PMMA and PC can be drilled and cut. PMMA is more susceptible to cracking than PC and needs to be handled more cautiously. Sharp wood drill bits or special bits designed for plastic can be used for both materials.

  • Screws can be used to fix both materials but holes must be drilled first. Self-tapping screws must not be used.

  • The holes must be a couple of millimetres larger than the screws because plastic expands and contracts when the temperature fluctuates. If the hole is too small, the plexiglass may crack as a result of thermal expansion. To protect the plexiglass, we recommend that a washer is placed between the plastic and the screw head.

Painting acrylic (PMMA)

  • Acrylic is easy to paint. Suitable paints include oil, alkyl, spray and acrylic paints and paint felt tips

Can plexiglass be bent? How?

  • PMMA can be bent if it is first heated with a hot air fan or another heater. After heating, PMMA can be bent against a suitable surface. The main challenge is keeping the area to be bent at an even temperature without it cooling down.

  • To begin with, keep the heater further away from the material and bring it closer little by little. If the heater is too close to the material, the arterial's surface may begin to bubble.

How can I make acrylic (PMMA) less static?

  • Prepare a mild dilution of water and detergent and wipe the surface with it.

Which material can I use to protect posters, photos or other pictures?

  • PMMA (acrylic) is a clear material with a polished surface that does not scratch easily. It is commonly used to protect pictures and posters. For example, art galleries typically protect works of art with acrylic.

  • PC (polycarbonate) is a clear impact-resistant material with a polished surface. Even though it has good impact-resistance properties, its surface is slightly soft and it should only be wiped when necessary. It is typically used for public notice boards that may be exposed to acts of vandalism.

Which material is suitable for use for boat windows?

  • PMMA is commonly used as glazing material in boats. It is resistant to UV radiation, remains clear for several years and does not scratch easily.

Which material should I use as the kitchen splashback and what is the best way to fix it?

  • PMMA offers an ideal solution for kitchen splashbacks. It can be fixed from the edges with screws or silicone. If you use screws, make sure to drill holes for them that are a couple of millimetres larger than the screw. Be careful not to crack the material. We recommend ordering a small test piece for practising on. If the material is not transparent, it can be fixed with silicone. The sheet can also be painted on one side.

Which plastic material is suitable for use as terrace glazing or a railing for stairs?

  • PMMA is an ideal material for terraces and staircases as it does not scratch easily.

Which material should I select as a protective cover for a table?

  • Dining tables and other tables can be protected against scratching with PMMA. It is a clear material that is resistant to scratching and sudden impact.

Is plexiglass available as a milk glass version?

  • Plexiglass is available as an opal version. It lets through about 30% of light. Opal plexiglass is typically used in luminaire diffusers and illuminated advertising boards.

Which material is suitable for light boards, diffusers and illuminated advertising boards?

  • The best material for these applications is opal acrylic. It lets through about 30% of light.

Which material is suitable for a terrarium?

  • PMMA is used for terrariums. It is easy to cut with a jigsaw and it can be glued with adhesives designed for the purpose.

Which material is suitable for greenhouses and what is the recommended thickness?

  • PC (polycarbonate) twin-wall sheets are an ideal choice for building a greenhouse. Depending on the structure, the recommended thickness ranges from 6 mm to 16 mm. We recommend H profiles for fixing the sheets to one another and U profiles for protecting the sheet ends. If the twin-wall structure remains open, dust, insects and other debris may accumulate over time, affecting the transparency of the material.

Which material is suitable for use as transparent roofing panels?

  • As roofing panels, we recommend PC (polycarbonate) twin-wall sheets. Make sure you install the sheets so that the cell structure runs lengthwise.

Which material is suitable for use as windows for a Wendy house, barn or warehouse?

  • We recommend PMMA or PC.

  • PMMA is a thermoplastic that can be used to replace glass. Its impact strength is about eight times greater than that of glass. Thanks to its excellent weather-resistance, PMMA is ideal for outdoor applications.

  • PC is an impact-resistant thermoplastic but because of its soft surface, it is prone to scratching.

Which material is suitable for glazing in forestry machines, excavators, tractors or other work machines?

  • We recommend hard-coated polycarbonate (PC), because its coating gives it excellent abrasion-resistance without affecting its optical properties. The coating is necessary in applications subject to abrasion (such as windscreen wipers) and scratching. Because of the material’s impact strength and lightness, PC Hard sheets are widely used for safety glazing in work machines. The material is also weather‑resistant, with excellent resistance to low temperatures and UV radiation.

Which material should I use as a motorbike windscreen?

  • You can use standard PC but this material scratches easily. Hard-coated PC is the ideal option.

Which material should I use as a snowmobile windscreen?

  • You can use standard PC but this material scratches easily.

  • Alternatively, you can select PETG, which is a clear, impact-resistant thermoplastic that can withstand low temperatures. It is well suited to thermoforming and machining.