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Plastics cover a broad field of organic synthetic resin and may be divided into two main classifications – aerospace thermoplastics and aerospace thermosetting plastics. Both of these types are used extensively in Riverside County and the surrounding areas, where large amounts of Aerospace Plastic Sheet parts are produced. Thermoplastics may be softened by heat and can be dissolved in various organic solvents. Flat Plastic Sheet Suppliers Aerospace Thermoplastics Thermoplastics may be softened by heat and can be dissolved in various organic solvents. Two kinds of transparent thermoplastic materials are commonly employed in windows, canopies, etc. These are known as acrylic plastics and polycarbonate (Makrolon) plastic sheets. Aerospace thermoforming Many types of plastic sheet material can be heated, which enables the material to get soft and pliable when they are heated to their forming temperatures and can be formed to almost any shape. When they cool, they retain the shape to which they were formed. One of the highest concentrations of plastic sheet forming companies is Riverside County  and the surrounding areas. Forming methods Simple Curve Forming. Heat the plastic material to the recommended temperature, remove it from the heat source, and carefully drape it over the prepared form. Carefully press the hot plastic to the form and either hold or clamp the sheet in place until it cools. This process may take from ten minutes to one-half hour. Do not force-cool it. Compound-Curve Forming This type of forming is normally used for such parts as canopies or complex wingtip light covers, and it requires a great deal of specialized equipment. There are four commonly used methods, each having its advantages and disadvantages. Stretch forming. Preheated acrylic sheets are stretched mechanically over the form in much the same way as is done with the simple curved piece. Special care must be taken to preserve uniform thickness of the material, since some parts will have to stretch more than others. Aerospace Plastic Vacuum Forming Without Forms Aerospace Vacuum Forming With A Female Form. If the shape needed is other than that which would be formed by surface tension, a female mold, or form must be used. It is placed below the plastic sheet and the vacuum pump is connected. When air from the form is evacuated, the outside air pressure will force the hot performance plastic sheet into the mold and fill it.

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Acrylic is an extremely versatile material which is used in a wide range of environments. Acrylic sheeting is available in a huge range of variations, including; clear, coloured, mirrored, frosted and even with a brushed aluminium effect.

Extruded acrylic and cast acrylic are the two main types of sheet acrylic you will come across. Although they may initially look similar, the two have quite different properties and one is also much more expensive than the other.

It is important to be aware of the differences between the two so you can pick the type most suitable for your needs.

Extruded and cast acrylic sheets differ mainly in their thermal and chemical properties which are caused by the manufacturing process. There are also several other differences as outlined below which you may wish to consider when choosing acrylic sheet for your home DIY project.

Key differences you should be aware of when working with acrylic sheets:

Thickness differences

Due to the way the sheets are made cast acrylic tend to have slight variations in the thickness of the sheet whereas extruded sheets are much more uniform, with next to no variation. This makes extruded acrylic ideal for vacuum forming or situations where more detailed precise shapes are needed.

Temperature response

Cast acrylic has an isotropic response to temperature meaning there is a maximum shrinkage of 2% in all directions. It may be important to note that acrylic expands and contracts at a much greater rate than glass. Extruded acrylic, on the other hand, shows differences in shrinkage depending on the thickness and direction of extrusion.

Benefits of Extruded sheets

  • Reduced mechanical properties mean process advantages over cast acrylic when bending, heating and vacuum forming
  • Better thickness tolerances
  • Lower viscosity when hot means it is more ductile than cast acrylic

Benefits of Cast acrylic sheets

  • Better thermal stability
  • Higher resistance to crazing (when a network of very small cracks form) when exposed to solvents
  • Wider thermoforming range than extruded acrylic
  • Better ability to be reworked hot
  • Superior surface finish and optical properties

Both types of acrylic benefit from being durable and long lasting, showing excellent resistance to natural aging. Most manufactures will guarantee against noticeable yellowing for approximately 10 years.

Often it may not be made obvious which type of acrylic you are buying, especially online. Cast acrylic can be as much as double the price of extruded acrylic so if nothing is mentioned and it seems cheap, the chances are it is extruded acrylic.