From acrylic paints, acrylic windows and counters, to acrylic nails, acrylic is everywhere around us these days: but, what exactly is acrylic? It is a term used for products that contain a substance derived from acrylic acid or a related compound. This transparent synthetic material is also known as polyacrylate.
High grade acrylic is also sometimes referred to as Lucite (Perspex) or Plexiglass (Acrylite). Some other trade names under which acrylic is marketed include Policril, Gavrieli, Vitroflex, Limacryl, R-Cast, Per-Clax, Plazcryl, Acrylex, Acrylplast, Altuglas, Polycast, Oroglass, and Optix.
Acrylic has a wide range of possible end uses. It can be painted using – obviously – acrylic paint; it can be mirrored or made opaque.
This type of plastic fiber is used for thousands of products in many industries. It can be made into products as varied as yarn, fabric, windows (including airplane windows), display tanks for public aquariums, shower doors, bath enclosures, and skylights.
It combines strength and aesthetics. It is clear as glass, but only half as heavy as glass: it is many times stronger, impact resistant, and therefore safer than glass. It also insulates better than glass. Still, it is more expensive than glass.
Acrylic can be made in sheets: a thick enough piece of acrylic sheet can actually be bulletproof! No matter how thick it is, acrylic remains clear. It is very durable and stands up to the elements longer than other plastics.
It can be shaped as well as glued seamlessly together, and the scratches can be easily buffed out. It can be cut, sawed and drilled. That makes it ideal for interior and exterior design purposes.
Acrylic is thermoplastic, which means that it will soften at high temperatures, but it will not melt until it reaches 160 degrees Celsius. There is no need to keep acrylic items out of the sun, as they are completely inert in solid form and do not yellow in the sunlight, but placing it near an open flame or hot surface is not recommended. Burning acrylic releases toxic fumes.
The price of acrylic is directly related to the price of oil, because it is derived from natural gas. Since it is a petroleum-based product, petroleum solvents and chemicals should be avoided to prevent marking it.
It is very easy to care for acrylic: normal wipe-cleaning is enough to keep it looking new. It is important to avoid scratches and chemicals.