How to Bend Acrylic into Sign Holders

Have you read our Brief History of Acrylic and its’ Amazing Attributes?  They’re the perfect lead-ins to this explanation of how Acrylic bends into perfect Sign Holders.  Without further adieu, here’s the process in a nutshell…

Horizontal Sign Holders
Horizontal Sign Holders

Let’s say we’re going to make a 5-1/2” x 3-1/2” Horizontal Slant Back Sign Holder.  We start with an acrylic sheet 5-1/2” wide by 7-1/2” high.  To make that sheet pliable and get it to the desired height of 3-1/2”, we need to mark the line where we want to bend the sheet and create our base, then apply heat along that line.

Bending and forming begins with a Strip Heater and a little mathematical planning.  Once the heater’s temperature is set (usually around 300 degrees Fahrenheit), the acrylic sheet is lined up following a guideline on the heater’s “element.”  In our example here, the marked line will determine the size of our base…starting with a sheet 7-1/2” in height and turning it into a Sign Holder 3-1/2” inches tall.  Of course, the angle of the slant must also be taken into consideration to determine the overall height.

Strip Heat Bending Acrylic
Strip Heat Bending Acrylic

After lining up the sheet’s “bend” point on the Strip Heater, both sides are heated until the acrylic becomes pliable and easy to form.  You can actually see it soften along the “bend” line…it takes very little heating time to get the material into a formative state.  From there, your sheet can be bent from both sides to the desired angle – the “slant” in our Sign Holder.

To ensure a perfect, consistently uniform slant, the sheet is then “formed” against a triangular shaped block, or Angular Former.  Front and back sides are determined and solidified here – no turning back!  Then, great care must be taken but once in place, all that’s left is to wait until the acrylic has cooled and again hardened back to its solid state.  Just like that, the Horizontal Slant Back Sign Holder is ready for work, or shipment to the workplace.

Angled Sign Holder Solidified
Angled Sign Holder Solidified

While the entire process may seem fairly simple, there are several areas where a misstep can turn that acrylic sheet into garbage.  Too much heat to start or improper cooling to finish?  Big no-no’s.  Bending the sheet without great care could result in a crooked stand, weakened structure, or a slightly lopsided base.  Every edge has to be clean and straight if you’re an experienced professional!

This is just one in a myriad of acrylic forming processes we use, each being a special craft of its own.  Manufacturing Sign Holders en masse and ensuring each is perfectly defect-free takes a high degree of expertise and careful attention to detail.  It’s something to think about when considering your order…how each piece begins as a sheet and is transformed into something completely different.  Whether creating sign holders, business card holders, donation boxes, or table tents, bending acrylic is another art form courtesy of the ever-evolving Industrial Age!  If you’d like to know more about this or any of our amazing processes, stay tuned.

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Acrylic and its Amazing Applications and Attributes

Hopefully, you had a chance to read our Brief History of Acrylic and how this revolutionary substance helped transform everything from the heroic Allied warplanes of World War II to today’s most exemplary fiber optics and aquarium showcases.  How those attributes of strength, flexibility, and heat resistance in a non-breakable yet lightweight material transform into the products used in your operation?  That’s what we’ll cover here…

Acrylic Sheets - Clear and Colored
Acrylic Sheets – Clear and Colored

 

In case you didn’t see it, we discussed how Acrylic’s versatility over the years has been flexible enough for spinning into a textile resembling wool or cashmere and sturdy enough as Plexiglass sheeting to endure gunfire and extreme duress.  Somewhere in between is where we’ll likely find the right combination of thickness, texture, and even color to create the application you have in mind for acrylic sheet.

 

The beautiful thing about continuously manufactured, or extruded, acrylic sheet is that thicknesses and stress tolerances are easily controlled and manipulated in the extrusion process.  Guidelines in place have been designated so that each sheet is thermoformed to exact specifications, taking different factors into consideration.  Designs requiring more visual acuity have high optical characteristics to consider; others must have the tight thickness tolerance required to provide end users with a reliable weather-resistance warranty. 

Acrylic Tank
Acrylic Tank

 

The sheet specs in a four metric ton aquarium designed to hold 468,000 gallons of water?  Those acrylic sheets are more likely cell cast than extruded, or at least should be.  That way they’ll maintain a higher level of mechanical strength.  The cell cast method mixes the liquid acrylic ingredients and “molds” or presses them, creating a homogenous material with equal properties in all directions.  Extruded acrylic “pushes” the acrylic mass through a form – something like a printing press – before the material is totally hardened.

 

While cell cast sheets are going to stop hockey pucks at the ice arena, the extrusion process allows lighter sheets to bend and shape easier…it’s a more pliable substance.  It’s also a big advantage when heating, bending, or vacuum forming.  Extrusion is generally less expensive than cast acrylic, especially in larger dimensions.  It’s also easier to flame polish and give that glass-like edge.

Protective Acrylic for Hockey Rink
Protective Acrylic for Hockey Rink

 

You’ll find cell cast acrylic in the aeronautics industry, skylights, and furniture, as well as hockey rinks and aquariums.  Because acrylic can be cut to virtually any dimension, cell cast acrylic also makes outstanding picture frames, store displays, and engraved fabricated plaques and awards.  Extrusion applications also include displays, as well as camper tops, spas, glazing, and signage with cut letters. 

 

Tensile strength varies in acrylic, of course, as it does with any material.  Acrylic sheets have proven to be sturdy, highly impact resistant, and able to handle stresses of weather, UV rays, human handling, and any assortment of other outside effects that would break a lesser substance.   

 

Sheets are cut to tolerance levels…in other words, the amount of precision required for a certain project.  Standard tolerance means sheets are generally cut to within 1/16”.  Where the application calls for an oversized tolerance, that specification might go up to ½ an inch – giving end users a bit more leeway in some circumstances where tightness is less of a concern.  With so many applications for acrylic, both have their up sides.  

 

Various forms of transparency also become a factor in acrylic.  Clear, Translucent, Fluorescent, Mirrored, Opaque…acrylic components can be manipulated to capture a number of textural acuities for visual effect.  And did you know that clear acrylic is actually clearer than glass and won’t yellow under sun or normal UV exposure?  Remarkably, it’s only half the weight of glass, too.  Adding color?  It can also be included in the process to maximize the finished effect, a significant boost for everything from branding to aesthetic appeal and product enhancement.

 

Don’t let it overwhelm you.  We’ve taken all these factors into consideration for years to create industry best brochure holders, business card holders, literature displays, chart holders, menu displays, table tents, donation boxes, name plate holders, and so much more.  And should you have questions about thickness, color, texture, or subjects like tensile strength, be sure to ask the acrylic experts here. 

 

We’ll have more to relay about the actual acrylic bending process coming soon, so be sure to stay tuned!

 

What Acrylic Sheet is…a Brief History in Acrylic

The applications for acrylic are so versatile that you’ll find it used in everything from art to industrial applications, furniture to airplane windshields.  It’s become such an integral part of manufacturing and commercial use, what Acrylic actually IS has become somewhat forgotten!

What is Acrylic?
What is Acrylic?

To show you how Acrylic’s strength and durability have made it such a staple in the products interesting you the most, we thought we’d take a look at how it got here.

Acrylic Resin
Acrylic Resin

Simply put, Acrylic is, in its essence, a plastic…a discovery that came along just about two centuries before it would be molded into the first brochure holders and literature displays.  Plastic itself is defined as a substance “capable of being shaped or formed” and traces back to the year 1773.  That’s when a “urea” compound was discovered and isolated.  Originally derived from the urine of mammals and other “higher forms” of animal life, urea became synthetically produced in 1828 – the foundation of the first phenol-formaldehyde plastics.  15 years later, the first acrylic acid preparation was reported, leading to Dr. Otto Rohm’s research with acrylic resinoids at the turn of the 20th Century.  His theories and research showed us the properties of Polymers could simultaneously be a tough but flexible form of glass and a rigid plastic.

Plexiglass Sheet
Acrylic Sheets

Ironically, Dr. Rohm and Otto Haas would form a company doing business in both Germany and Philadelphia, PA leading up to the outbreak of World War I.  The American side of the company prospered under Mr. Haas (Rohm stayed in Germany) thanks to their invention and production of Oropon, a synthetic substitute used in leather tanning…much needed for belts and saddles in the war effort.

Plexiglass for War Planes
Plexiglass for War Planes

With the arrival of World War II came a new demand: for Plexiglass Acrylic.  This new manifestation of Dr. Rohm’s polymers became the tough but transparent plastic ideal for new aircraft canopies.  And with manufacturing booming to keep up with the staggering demand for planes, this amazing material made of acrylic resins marked the beginning of a new era.  After all, Acrylic proved itself lighter yet stronger than glass; plus it could be molded to any form and either melted or welded for a perfectly tight fit.  No wonder it’s so reliable today that it’s used in everything from bullet-proofing to massive aquariums holding several hundred thousands of gallons of water.

According to the British firm Alternative Plastics Ltd., a French chemist named Charles Moureu discovered a petrochemical called “acrylonitrile” in 1893, but was at a loss how to use his new phenomenon.  Ultimately, Moureu would be overshadowed as years passed and scientists began finding other uses for synthetic acrylic fibers.  Spun wet or dry, for example, acrylic textiles were first formed to mimic wool and cashmere in the 1950’s, further exhibiting the versatile nature of acrylic composition.

Acrylic Fish Tank
Acrylic Fish Tank

So let’s call it Polymethyl Methacrylate, that same acrylic “plexi-glass” first used in those incredible flyers of WWII.  Brought up to date for 21st Century applications, Polymethyl Methacrylate’s ability to refract and contain light makes Acrylic an ideal attribute in fiberoptic instruments.  It can withstand intense heat and its properties are both water and break-resistant, making acrylic great for watch glasses, goggle lenses, protective screens, helmet visors, windows, fish tanks and many industrial applications…you get the idea.  There’s a virtually infinite list of other everyday uses for the material…stay tuned, because we’ll showcase those features in a forthcoming article you will not want to miss!

Capturing the very same toughness and flexible nature of Polymethyl Methacrylate in molded brochure displays, literature holders, business card holders, POP displays, table tents, donation boxes and so much more?  All we can say is thanks to Otto Rohm, Otto Haas, Charles Moureu, and the legions of industrialists and scientists who showed us this miraculous acrylic resin…getting stronger and more appreciated every day!