What is Acrylic?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
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  • Last Modified Date: 11 May 2019
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The term "acrylic" is used for products that contain a substance derived from acrylic acid or a related compound. Most often, it is used to describe a clear, glass-like plastic known as poly(methyl) methacrylate (PMMA). PMMA, also called acrylic glass, has properties that make it a better choice for many products that might otherwise be made of glass. There are two basic types: extruded and cast.


Extruded acrylic is made through a process in which the liquid plastic is pushed through rollers, which press it into sheets as it cools. This is a comparatively inexpensive process, but the resulting sheets are softer than cast acrylic, can scratch easier, and may contain impurities. Extruded acrylic is still generally considered to be good quality, and is usually the more common type made available on the market.

Cell cast acrylic tends of be of higher quality than extruded, but it's also more expensive. In cell casting, single sheets are made by pressing the liquid plastic between pieces of a mold, often made of glass, which is then taken through a gradual heating process. The resulting sheet is stronger than extruded acrylic. This type is often used for aquariums, awards, and other products that require shaping or machining of the final product.



Many different products are made from acrylic, including shower doors, bath enclosures, windows, and skylights. It is many times stronger than glass, making it much more impact resistant and therefore safer. Falling against a shower door will not likely break it, for example; baseballs that would otherwise crash through glass windows will, in most cases, just bounce off acrylic windows. It also insulates better than glass, potentially saving on heating bills.

Acrylic glass is also very clear, allowing 92% of visible light to pass through it. Very thick glass will have a green tint, while acrylic remains clear. It also weathers well, keeping its clarity over the years without turning yellow or breaking down when exposed to sunlight over a long period of time.

Another advantage of acrylic is that it is only half as heavy as glass. This makes this material easier to work with, and makes it a better choice for projects where weight is an issue. It can also be sawed, whereas glass must be scored.

Virtually all major public aquariums now build display tanks out of this thermoplastic, and it is often used in many other buildings. When this material is just over 1 inch thick (about 25 mm), it is bullet resistant; the presidential motorcade, the pope's booth-vehicle, teller enclosures, and drive-through window enclosures all feature bullet-resistant acrylic. It is used for airplane windows as well.


A unique property of this thermoplastic is its ability to be shaped. Extruded acrylic is not as strong as cell cast, and tends to crack or splinter when being machined, so most higher quality products are made from cast acrylic. Structures can also be made with no seams, as chemical welding at the molecular level actually "melts" seams into one piece of solid material. Seams that are welded and polished correctly are invisible.

Misconceptions and Disadvantages

There are some misconceptions about acrylic, namely that it yellows, turns brittle, and cracks over time. Though this might be true of cheap forms of plastic, it is not so with acrylic. If taken care of, this material can remain new looking for several decades, regardless of age or exposure to sun. Some people worry that it scratches too easily, but unlike glass, scratches may be buffed out.

For all of its advantages, there are two disadvantages of acrylic: It is more expensive than glass, and if exposed to a direct flame, it will melt and eventually burn. Burning releases toxic fumes, so safety precautions should always be taken when it is being cut with power tools or bent using heat. When it is not cared for properly, or when inferior acrylic is used, it can scratch, and improperly made joints can be very visible.


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Discuss this Article

Post 247

Can anyone can guide me to find out which is the largest producer of acrylic tubes and pipes in the world?

Post 244

What's the difference between acrylic and emulsion and distempers? Can you use acrylic paint for interiors?

What is the maximum heat reduction of acrylic paint?

Post 241

Is perspex another name for acrylic?

Post 240

Where can I get one-inch thick acrylic to use instead of glass window panes measuring say 2m by 2.5m (full-length) windows panes for my living room. Will this offer some security and negate the need for windows (burglar-proofing) bars? How much would it cost?

Post 239

Can you guide me how to manufacture acrylic solid surface sheets?

Post 238

One of the best ways to cut acrylic is with a laser. The laser system should have a filtration or ventilation method to take care of the fumes.

Post 236

How do you cut acrylic?

Post 234

I have a question regarding use of kerrock in kitchen which is made of acrylic and is hazardous in contact in case is being accidentally consumed?

Post 229

I want to know why light passes through an acrylic box and it does not reflect back light. And also its melting point.

Post 222

Does it come in different colours? Because I love pink!

Post 221

What is made with acrylics?

Post 220

I need to know how you say cell cast acrylic in spanish. I'm making a large fish tank and buying the acrylic in spain and need to make sure they give me cell cast acrylic.

Post 219

I need to know urgently what can it be used for?

Post 213

why it is so tough to process acrylic? i have issues with black spots and milky lines on lens production on cars and why should there be a separate mc for it?

Post 212

I have heard if you soak felt made products in liquid acrylic polymer, it makes it easier when cutting through the felt. What I need to know is can you give me the name of a liquid acrylic polymer to purchase (small amounts). It is a mine field when you look up acrylics!

Post 211

I prefer Polycarbonate or lexan as it is more commonly known. It's 25 times stronger than acrylic and bullet and shatter resistant. If you are going for display material, acrylic is fine but for anything that requires strength, polycarbonate is the way to go.

Post 210

My name is john and I was wondering how many types of acrylics there are and what are they used for?

Post 209

we were cutting acrylic with a laser at work and a terrible noxious odor was emitted. Is it harmful to your health? What chemical exposure may have there been?

Post 207

can you tell me what the difference is between acrylic and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), in terms of shower bases and walls? People say an acrylic base/wall is much better quality, but what is it that makes it so much better? is there a huge difference in quality?

Post 206

Is this related to acrylic paint by any chance?

Post 204

A question: How would it be possible to detect acrylic layer on a tooth? Would there be any way to do it?

Post 203

what glue is used to glue wood to acrylic?

Post 199

they are both great materials, with polycarbonate being the strongest. acrylic is a good material but is a little brittle and yellows over time.

Post 198

Does acrylic have a fatigue endurance limit like many structural metals do?

Post 196

If I put a sheet of acrylic across our doorway and threw a stick over it, would my dog see it or would he run straight into it and make me laugh histerically?

Post 195

You can use chloroform as glue to cast two pieces of acrylic.

Post 194

What are the main sources of acrylic? thanks to anyone who answers.

Post 192

Can a small crack on the edge of polycarbonate be stopped or epoxyed to keep it from running?

Post 191

Is there such thing as an acrylic counteractant?

Post 189

How do you glue cast acrylic?

Post 187

Acrylic is the best for fish tanks.

Post 184

isn't the continuous cast a different type of acrylic formation?

Post 179

What is the procedure of polishing the inside machine bore of acrylic square bar and to remove the tool marks also.

Post 178

What glass paints can I use to paint onto acrylic/perspex?

Post 169

If I use 1" thick acrylic for my gas station if someone shoots it would it stop handgun type bullets

EG:9mm 40 45 357mag

Post 165

acrylic is a form of plastic so it is recycled and did you know that spray paint is a form of acrylic. Because when you spray paint on plastic, the ink will peel off the surface. Making it a plastic substance.

Post 164

we are using it in dt.

Post 163

would i die if i ate it or licked it up and down?

Post 161

thanks for help, but how is it shaped?

Post 160

i was wondering how acrylic is manufactured and shaped, cut, etc. thanks.

Post 159

i am wondering what is the chemical formula for acrylic. And what its cost and common uses are. i am doing a project on it.

a. what is the description?

b. what are the properties?

and if there is any other information could you please tell me? thank you.

Post 158

i want to know the difference between pmma and acrylic.

Post 154

i need help on acrylic. What do you cut it with?

Post 153

what are acrylic's properties and uses? it's for a school project and i know nothing.

Post 152

i received a cocktail shaker made of acrylic and was wondering if that would be dangerous to use with alcohol or not?

Post 151

is acrylic biodegradable? I need to know for my D&T Project.

Post 150

what does acrylic look like?

Post 149

can you be allergic to acrylic?

Post 148

The main property you need to know is it can be molded into shape but is solid at room temperature, and it also come in many colours. Hope it helps!

Post 146

hey i see many people are asking for the properties. well i'm one of them. i need to know for a school project. thanks

Post 145

what should i use to stick acrylic to a mahogany wood? as its part of my year 11 GCSE course i need something that will look good and not leave marks.

Post 144

hey what are the properties of acrylic? i need to know for a special project i'm doing. thanks.

Post 140

just to let you know both the the presidential motorcade and the Pope's booth-vehicle have bullet proof glass that is about twice the thickness of normal car class and the presidential glass can withstand the force of a tank shell being fired at from 3 meters away.

Post 139

Please can someone tell ne what acrylic is used for? thank you.

Post 138

I recycle acrylic glass and make art out of it. It is beautiful and green, better than it being in a landfill somewhere!

Post 137

i've got to find out what acrylic is used for.

Post 136

I want to know what do we use to smooth acrylic?

Post 135

hi i am wondering what is the chemical formula for acrylic. And what its cost and common uses are. i am doing a project on it.

a. what is the description?

b. what are the properties?

and if there is any other information could you please tell me? thank you.

Post 133

How expensive is acrylic? I need to know for a project for tonight.

Post 131

Hi, I am doing a research report and I need to know what acrylic is made of.

Post 127

I think acrylic rocks. i have a big garden with a greenhouse and the area that is best for playing cricket, football and tennis, etc.. is right next to that area. It had been smashed numerous times until i read this article. Now my greenhouse is thick acrylic, and so is bullet proof and it gets hit again and again but still stands firm. Thanks a lot!

Post 123

Hi is acrylic recyclable?

Post 122

i made a clock out of acrylic

Post 120

Is polycarbonate an acrylic? I need to replace tempered glass and drill four holes for a latch. I have a problem drilling the holes without it cracking. I’m going to use polycarbonate, does that sound right?

Post 119

what is the meaning of hydrofob or hydrofil acrylic in the application of acrylic lenses used by eye doctors?

Post 118

Any info on the Miracle Method of painting tubs with acrylic polymer enamel? Is it carcinogenic and/or leave an odor?

Post 115

re-encased hand: To get the acrylic of without burning him well, it is brittle so you could break it off! mind you you may break his hand but you only seemed worried about burning him!

the real qeustion is why did he do it in the first place?

Post 114

can people who are allergic to latex be also allergic to acrylic? Are they similar?

Post 113

I have a clear acrylic drumset. Can I use UV reactive paint on it? It's an acrylic based spray paint that goes on clear but reacts under blacklight. Will any chemicals in the acrylic spray have a bad reaction with the acrylic drums?

Post 112

I'm framing a large photograph and need a light, protective covering (not glass). Is an acrylic sheet safe to use on archival prints?

Post 111

my friend melted acrylic around his hand, it burnt through his hand and has now encased it.. how can i get it off without burning him?

Post 110

Does anyone know if Intense Pulsed Light will heat/reshape acrylic? If so what wavelengths? Thanks.

Post 108

To the person that asked about bottled water;

most bottles are made from PET or PETE. Acrylic is too brittle to use as a simple drink bottle so I don't think anyone can become allergic. Also allergies are not generally due to excessive exposure to a substance, there is more often than not an allergic reaction from the first contact. While we're on the note of bottled water always try and look out for bottles made from PETE as these do not leach chemicals into the water after continuous use and sun light as PET does.

Post 107

Can you put a hot liquid into acrylic and it be safe for consumption?

Post 106

For the person whose dog ate some acrylic, there is no chemical problem with the acrylic. It will just pass through. The concern would be if there are sharp edges that could cut the dog's insides. I work at a zoo, and our staff vet has given the OK to using acrylic around animals that naturally chew.

Post 105

As a polymer, acrylic is non-organic. That means it takes thousands (no exaggeration) of years to break down. Isn't it nice to know that fake fingernails and ugly faux fur coats will be around 10,000 years from now?

It is also made from fossil fuels. Not only are fossil fuels non-renewable resources, they are the leading cause of air pollution.

Nice, huh. Destroying the planet for skylights.

Post 103

I have worked with acrylic for many years and for me there is nothing better to work with.

Post 102

Brilliant article, sad how few people can word a coherent question though.

Re: Acrylic Nails

Yes, Acrylic nails are made from Acrylic, surprisingly. Acrylic itself doesn't damage your nails, but the bonding agent (glue) might.

Re: Rust Resistance

Acrylic is not a metal, it is a polymer, it doesn't corrode.

Re: Acrylic Machining

Acrylic is very easy to cut, drill, saw, etc. but you must be careful not to put too much pressure on it, as it can snap

Post 101

Acrylic for boat windows. I have an old fiberglass boat and wanted to replace all the windows with acrylic. Can anyone advise how to cut and attach over the fiberglass window hole? I see many boats with acrylic these days and they have a black band on the edge with multiple screws. Pls help, Thks

Post 99

Great articles, always good to know anything!

Post 98

We have to make some covers of acrylic sheet 2 mm thk. We do not know its machining process and joining process. What adhesive is required for joining? How to cut sheet ? How to machine and drill it. Kindly give me information.

Post 97

Can a person become allergic to acrylic such as drinking bottled water?

Post 94

Can it be easily shaped? What is the heat resistance of acrylic? I am building a rocket and wanted to know if I should use this material so the rocket is clear.

Post 92

thanx so much. this helped me with my science fair project i am hoping to go to regionals.

Post 91

hi i'm in year 7 and i really need to know what the melting point of acrylic is.

Post 90

what is made out of acrylic?

Post 89

I am building a canoe. can I use gesso to shrink the canvas and should I use an acrylic paint over it?

Post 84

I had my screened porch replaced with acrylic windows and roof panels. With windows shut, the porch is extremely hot because of the Florida sun. I'm thinking of painting the acrylic roof panels with metallic silver paint (if I can find that paint). But first I need to know if those acrylic panels can take paint, oil-based or latex types. I plan on washing them first because of the dirt that stains them now. Any ideas or suggestions would be welcome.

Post 83

Hey i need help with some homework. how do you use acrylic?

Post 82

can old people be allergic to acrylic?

Post 81

can that Acrylic sheet be substituted for High Density Polyethylene plate

Post 80

What is the difference between Acrylic sheet & High Density Polyethylene?

Post 75


I have a plant for milk powder packing and I use acrylic pipe to transfer the powder to the machine and I wonder is it safe to use acrylic pipe and could I contact anyone for more information?

Post 73

hi, im really stuck, should i put acrylic in the pillow case to keep it straight? Oh and what about in my shoes to keep those straight?

Post 69

What is SAN acrylic?

Post 68

chicken on fire:

thankyou for this information it really helped me understand the main principles of dealing with acrylic

Post 66

why is it plastic????

Post 65

In looking at tubs/showers - it appears "acrylic" which is really a combo of fiberglass & acrylic is better than just fiberglass because it is much better at resisting stains & scratches. How does acrylic compare to VIKRELL, which is a combo of fiberglass and polyresin?

Post 64

what is the difference between Corian and acrylic? is acrylic a corian or is corian an acrylic? thank you.

Post 63


Used in the nail bars across the UK to give ladies confidence with natural looking false nails.

A word of warning though, nail bars can be addictive, the odor in the bars can be dangerous if inhaled regularly/constantly and letting a nail technician drill into your nail bed deeply with no complaints could lead to you developing a contagious illness from unsanitary equipment at the worst or at best weaken your natural nails and discourage healthy growth.

Post 62

i think that the acrylic means, like an nail acrylic!!

is that all right??

Post 61

I just bought some gorgeous acrylic drinking glasses from a museum gift shop. The saleswoman didn't know whether or not they could be safely washed in the dishwasher. Before I risk this, can you tell me whether they will scratch or melt?

Post 58

re alcohol, strong alcohol will degrade or destroy acrylic drinking glasses, etc. Avoid.

Post 55

How does micro-crazing affect the durability of continuous-cast acrylic?

Post 54

Is acrylic hard to cut, machine, drill holes, etc? Will it crack during those processes?

Post 50

Hi! Above you have explained all about acrylic over glass but can you tell me a bit about coloured acrylic? What can that be used for? What's good about it?

Please Help Me!

Post 49

hi.. because of their molecular structure, thermoplastics can be reshaped when they are heated, as a result they can be reused whereas thermosetting plastics cannot be heated and shaped more than once, they melt, examples of these plastics are epoxy resin they're like the plastic electricity plugs on walls.

Post 48

Is there a way to mold acrylic without heating?

Post 47

I want to know industrial method of acrylic recycling.

Post 46

which is more rust resistant, acrylic or enamel?

Post 45

why can you re-use thermoplastics and not thermosetting plastics???

Post 43

is acrylic edible? my dog pooped on my recently heated acylic, and then the dog ate a piece of it...

i took my dog to the vet, but the vet is too expensive, so i'd rather ask you.

Post 42

I wanted to know if acrylic tubing is glueable to pvc pipe? I know the pvc fittings don't generally fit the acrylic tubing but I can stretch the pvc to accommodate the acrylic tubing. If the two can be joined what type of glue should be used?

Post 37

Hello can you help me

how is acrylic recycled and what is it made into ?

Post 34

I do not know exact impact resistance but I think you should use a 15mm Acrylic sheet it is safer,

I m a chemical engineer and I also own a Acrylic sheet production line in Turkey, Do you have a producer in İran?

Post 33

hi. i am a structural engineer in iran. i want to build a SQUASH GLASS COURT. this is the first glass court in Iran. while i want to design the front wall, i have a problem and i can not solve it without knowing the impact resistance of the acrylic glass sheet. the thickness is 0.01 meter and the length is 2.05 meter and width is 1.28 meter. the impact force is 1000j and the impact area is 0.04 square meters. thanks

Post 32

without Ox it decomposes to monomer and other organic forms in the air char form occurs

Post 31

What would happen to acrylic if it was overheated?

Post 30

i am an acrylic distributor and i wanted to help you guys with whatever i could do. Acrylic is called acrylic. the two types are extruded and cell cast. Although marble gives you a nicer more appealing look acrylic is better because of the aging properties and its ability to withstand impact whereas marble will crack and chip and is more expensive to replace and repair. expansion is minimal but do use caution when installing, I recommend to my customers to leave a 1/8" gap to allow for expansion. to adhere acrylic to itself you want to use a product called weld-on it is a acrylic type of glue and would work the best. alcohol may stain acrylic but damage would not occur.

Post 28

Are acrylic nails the same as acrylic? i didn't think they were. and any way of course they damage your real nails!

Post 27

Why does acrylic smell?

Post 26

Can acrylic nails really damage your real nails?

Post 25

I am doing homework does anyone know what the real name for acrylic is?

Post 23

Is it possible to prevent scratches on acrylic? how? or how does one remove them?

Post 22

pls advise what is the different between fiber glass and acrylic?

Post 21

what is acrylic & identify the two basic types of acrylic???

Post 20

though I'm not an engineer or scientist, I'm fairly certain that the density of acrylic changes, based on its purpose or method of manufacture. Anyone else have an idea?

Post 19

what's the density of acrylic??

Post 18

hi i am doing homework i have to describe the properties of acrylic can anyone help?

Post 17

yes acrylic sheet can be used to protect your wood from your tv, it is actually a very good idea.

Post 11

What about expansion and compression due to temperature change of acrylic sheets? Should it be considered when using it for skylights? Are there any sounds associated with expansion (or compression) of an acrylic sheet?

Post 10

Do acrylic bath surrounds off gas? Are there any toxins such as formaldehyde in the acrylic products?

Post 7

what can i use to stick acrylic firmly together?

Post 6

I am going to put a 275lb tv into an armoire but want to protect the you think a piece of acrylic under the tv is an option? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you.

Post 4


yes acrylic is recycleable. very easy to do so. thanks x

Post 3

Is Acrylic recyleable ?

Post 2

Is acrylic the best choice for a tub/shower enclosure. Is it a better choice than marble?

Post 1

Hi, I am wondering what will happen if I store a liquor or other alcohol (Isopropyl) in an acrylic jar. Is it safe?

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