Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cutting Plexiglass, Cutting Acrylic Sheet - Saw Cutting

Part 2
In Part 1 we gave a light overview of cutting Acrylic or Plexiglass, in this part we are going to take a closer look at cutting Acrylic with a table saw. In general, the better the tooling, equipment and technique... the better the results.
There are a few things we should cover as far as the saw itself. Your saw should be rigid and free of vibrations(vibration = chipping). This also includes the throat plate and fence. The throat plate should have a minimal kerf opening to minimize chipping. The fence, solidly mounted and as parallel as possible to the blade. One of the most common reasons for chipping is the blade and fence not being properly aligned.
Equally as important if not more is your blade. I could write a book on just saw blades, there is so much to them. The most common configuration for cutting Acrylic is a carbide tipped triple chip blade. Acrylic blades are very similar to wood blades. The most obvious difference is the rake angle or hook of the teeth. Wood blades usually have a few degree negative rake angle, while Acrylic blades have a positive rake. The general rule is about a 10 degree hook with a 10 to 15 degree clearance angle. You want to keep your blade kerf to a minimum. If you want really great results, get a blade from a manufacturer that specializes in plastic blades. They use a harder grade of carbide and grind them with a finer grit then a wood or metal blade manufacturer would. The end result is a sharper blade giving better edge quality with less chipping and melting.
Part 3: Table Routing Acrylic/ Plexiglass

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How to Cut Plexiglass, How to Cut Acrylic

Part 1
Let's just get this out of the way first... What's the difference between Plexiglass and Acrylic? Nothing, it's the same thing, Plexiglass is the common name for Acrylic. Paper or film masking? Depends on your application, I prefer film because most plastic sheet manufacturer's film masking is specially made to work as a cutting lubricant.
We are often asked what is the best method to cut Plexiglass(Acrylic). For us, that's easy. We walk over to one of our state of the art computerized saws that is equipped with a high precision top of the line Acrylic blade. Perfect results. For the normal do it yourselfer the best answer is... it depends on what tools you have available to you and what you are trying to do. On the right is a link, Plastic Fabrication Manuals. On that page are a collection of fabrication manuals from different plastic sheet manufacturers. That's a great place to start. They cover cutting, drilling, bending, polishing and much more. Also on the right are a few videos, we'll try to keep adding more. I hear many people say they have had great results using a Dremel, I have never had that much luck. For a Dremel, your project needs to be small and you need to have a great deal of patience.
The most common tools to achieve the best results are either a table saw or table router. Using a table router generally produces better edge quality. Meaning less work if you plan to polish the edges. Don't get me wrong, a table saw can produce a great cut as well. One of the things to keep in mind is to use a very sharp blade or bit and a nice smooth steady feed. Allow the saw or router to freely cut the Plexiglass, don't try to force the material into the blade. You can tell by the sound. If you force it, you are generating heat and now melting the Acrylic instead of cutting it. Remember, sharp blade and smooth feed.
Part 2: Saw Cutting Acrylic/ Plexiglass
Part 3: Table Routing Arcylic/ Plexiglass