Plexiglass is a type of plastic acrylic, which is used as an ideal substitute for glass in furniture, craft items, picture frames, and greenhouses. As compared to glass, it is lightweight, more durable, shatter-resistant, heat-resistant, and is less expensive. It is available in different patterns, like transparent, translucent and opaque.
However, this material can chip, smear, melt, or break, if it is not cut carefully. It is also prone to scratches. The tools for cutting plexiglass may differ with the thickness of the material, the purpose of cutting and the frequency of cutting. While it can be cut with simple tools, some situations require specialized tools.
Plexiglass was patented in 1933 and its commercial production started in 1936. In order to manufacture one kilogram of PPMA, around two kilograms of petroleum is required. It is generally produced through methods like emulsion polymerization, solution polymerization, and bulk polymerization.
While scribing is more appropriate for straight cuts in thin pieces with a thickness of less than 0.236 inches; sawing and routing is ideal for making straight as well as curved cuts in plexiglass of any thickness.
If you want to cut curves, plexiglass with a thickness of more than 1/8 inch should be used, and the blade used for cutting should be fine-toothed. In case of sawing, circular blade saws are used for making straight cuts, and scroll and saber saws are used for rough cutting of small-radius curves in thin plexiglass.
Rough cutting of large-radius curves are made with band saws, which are also used for making rough straight cuts in thicker plexiglass. Cutting and trimming of edges are done using routers and woodworking shapers. Routers are usually used for trimming purposes.
Use a Dremel
This tool allows the user to cut a wide range of materials at very high cutting speeds. The cuts made with this tool are found to be of high quality with a good finish. By using a dremel, you can cut in straight lines, curves, or any other shape you desire. Once you mark the plexiglass for cutting, insert a 561 multipurpose cutting bit into the tool.
To make straight cuts, clamp the plexiglass sheet to a straightedge to avoid movements while cutting. Turn on the tool, adjust the peed setting and start the cutting process. It is always better to cut plexiglass at a 45° angle, as you begin the process. Once the cutting is over, remove the cutting bit and waste materials from the tool, after unplugging it.
Use a Table Saw
In case of a thin sheet, use a saw blade with more teeth, so as to avoid chipping of the material. The selection of blades depends on the material and the shape of cutting. You will develop a fair idea about the use of different blades, on a trial and error basis. Once the cutting is over, use a sandpaper to smooth the edges of the cuts.
This is only a brief overview about cutting plexiglass using different tools. Use safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying chips, while cutting this material. Being a combustible material, you must keep a fire extinguisher too.