What Is Acrylic Plastic?

by acrylic on June 6, 2012

Acrylic plastic refers to a group of synthetic plastic materials, which are derived from acrylic acid. An example of acrylic plastic, which is quite common, is the polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). It has great properties that make it suitable for use in various ways. This type of acrylic plastic can be used in outdoor signs, airplane windshields, automobile taillights, and skylights. Some of the properties of this acrylic paint include toughness, resistance to ultraviolet radiation, very transparent and weathering. In addition to that, you can color it, mold, cut, drill, or form. All plastics are polymers and so is the acrylic plastic. A polymer is simply a material consisting of very many molecules.

What is Polymerization?

This is the polymer making process. It is similar to when you shovel copper, scrap glass, or any other material into a box, and shake it, then later on find a television set that works well. This is because the various materials undergo reassembly to convert them into something that works in a different manner. The first acrylic plastic polymer called celluloid was developed in 1869. This was achieved by combining camphor and cellulose nitrate.

It was used in making various items such as photographic films, combs, men’s shirt collars and many more. Later on, there was another acrylic plastic polymer developed which turned out to be successful commercially. Its name was Bakelite. This was because of its efficient properties. It was a perfect insulator that was not only heat resistant, but also weather and acids. You could also color and dye it if you wanted to use it for decoration purposes. This type of acrylic plastic was fit for use in radios, telephones, electric equipment, knife handles, buttons, and counter tops.

The Manufacturing process

If you want to form acrylic plastic polymers, you will have to react a monomer with a catalyst. An example of a monomer here is methyl methacrylate while organic peroxide can be used as a catalyst. The catalyst mainly makes the reaction to work faster but it does not form part of the polymer. There are 3 forms of acrylic plastic which include molding powder, elongated shapes and flat sheets. Molding powders are made through a process called suspension polymerization. This is where there is a reaction between the suspended monomer, tiny droplets and a catalyst.

Acrylic flat sheets are made through a process called bulk polymerization where a catalyst and the monomer are poured into a reaction mold. You can achieve desired results using the two techniques for bulk polymerization. These include continuous and batch cell methods. Elongated shapes such as rods and tubes can be formed using the batch cell method, which the most common technique.

Some people, on the other hand, prefer the continuous method, since it is quick and less tasking. Generally, acrylic plastics are quite useful but their greatest disadvantage is that they cannot be recycled. This is because acrylic plastics are group 7 plastics that most people do not prefer to recycle. In addition to this, some are highly flammable so you must keep them away from fire.

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