Fact Checked

What is Acrylic?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

The term "acrylic" is used for products that contain a substance derived from acrylic acid or a related compound. Most often, it is used to describe a clear, glass-like plastic known as poly(methyl) methacrylate (PMMA). PMMA, also called acrylic glass, has properties that make it a better choice for many products that might otherwise be made of glass. There are two basic types: extruded and cast.


Acrylic box.
Acrylic box.

Extruded acrylic is made through a process in which the liquid plastic is pushed through rollers, which press it into sheets as it cools. This is a comparatively inexpensive process, but the resulting sheets are softer than cast acrylic, can scratch easier, and may contain impurities. Extruded acrylic is still generally considered to be good quality, and is usually the more common type made available on the market.

Plastic tube.
Plastic tube.

Cell cast acrylic tends of be of higher quality than extruded, but it's also more expensive. In cell casting, single sheets are made by pressing the liquid plastic between pieces of a mold, often made of glass, which is then taken through a gradual heating process. The resulting sheet is stronger than extruded acrylic. This type is often used for aquariums, awards, and other products that require shaping or machining of the final product.


Two acrylic protractors.
Two acrylic protractors.

Many different products are made from acrylic, including shower doors, bath enclosures, windows, and skylights. It is many times stronger than glass, making it much more impact resistant and therefore safer. Falling against a shower door will not likely break it, for example; baseballs that would otherwise crash through glass windows will, in most cases, just bounce off acrylic windows. It also insulates better than glass, potentially saving on heating bills.

A red sweater made from acrylic yarn.
A red sweater made from acrylic yarn.

Acrylic glass is also very clear, allowing 92% of visible light to pass through it. Very thick glass will have a green tint, while acrylic remains clear. It also weathers well, keeping its clarity over the years without turning yellow or breaking down when exposed to sunlight over a long period of time.

Another advantage of acrylic is that it is only half as heavy as glass. This makes this material easier to work with, and makes it a better choice for projects where weight is an issue. It can also be sawed, whereas glass must be scored.

Aircraft windows are made of acrylic.
Aircraft windows are made of acrylic.

Virtually all major public aquariums now build display tanks out of this thermoplastic, and it is often used in many other buildings. When this material is just over 1 inch thick (about 25 mm), it is bullet resistant; the presidential motorcade, the pope's booth-vehicle, teller enclosures, and drive-through window enclosures all feature bullet-resistant acrylic. It is used for airplane windows as well.


A unique property of this thermoplastic is its ability to be shaped. Extruded acrylic is not as strong as cell cast, and tends to crack or splinter when being machined, so most higher quality products are made from cast acrylic. Structures can also be made with no seams, as chemical welding at the molecular level actually "melts" seams into one piece of solid material. Seams that are welded and polished correctly are invisible.

Misconceptions and Disadvantages

There are some misconceptions about acrylic, namely that it yellows, turns brittle, and cracks over time. Though this might be true of cheap forms of plastic, it is not so with acrylic. If taken care of, this material can remain new looking for several decades, regardless of age or exposure to sun. Some people worry that it scratches too easily, but unlike glass, scratches may be buffed out.

For all of its advantages, there are two disadvantages of acrylic: It is more expensive than glass, and if exposed to a direct flame, it will melt and eventually burn. Burning releases toxic fumes, so safety precautions should always be taken when it is being cut with power tools or bent using heat. When it is not cared for properly, or when inferior acrylic is used, it can scratch, and improperly made joints can be very visible.

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Discussion Comments


Can anyone can guide me to find out which is the largest producer of acrylic tubes and pipes in the world?


What's the difference between acrylic and emulsion and distempers? Can you use acrylic paint for interiors?

What is the maximum heat reduction of acrylic paint?


Is perspex another name for acrylic?


Where can I get one-inch thick acrylic to use instead of glass window panes measuring say 2m by 2.5m (full-length) windows panes for my living room. Will this offer some security and negate the need for windows (burglar-proofing) bars? How much would it cost?


Can you guide me how to manufacture acrylic solid surface sheets?


One of the best ways to cut acrylic is with a laser. The laser system should have a filtration or ventilation method to take care of the fumes.


How do you cut acrylic?


I have a question regarding use of kerrock in kitchen which is made of acrylic and is hazardous in contact in case is being accidentally consumed?


I want to know why light passes through an acrylic box and it does not reflect back light. And also its melting point.


Does it come in different colours? Because I love pink!


What is made with acrylics?


I need to know how you say cell cast acrylic in spanish. I'm making a large fish tank and buying the acrylic in spain and need to make sure they give me cell cast acrylic.


I need to know urgently what can it be used for?


why it is so tough to process acrylic? i have issues with black spots and milky lines on lens production on cars and why should there be a separate mc for it?


I have heard if you soak felt made products in liquid acrylic polymer, it makes it easier when cutting through the felt. What I need to know is can you give me the name of a liquid acrylic polymer to purchase (small amounts). It is a mine field when you look up acrylics!


I prefer Polycarbonate or lexan as it is more commonly known. It's 25 times stronger than acrylic and bullet and shatter resistant. If you are going for display material, acrylic is fine but for anything that requires strength, polycarbonate is the way to go.


My name is john and I was wondering how many types of acrylics there are and what are they used for?


we were cutting acrylic with a laser at work and a terrible noxious odor was emitted. Is it harmful to your health? What chemical exposure may have there been?


can you tell me what the difference is between acrylic and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), in terms of shower bases and walls? People say an acrylic base/wall is much better quality, but what is it that makes it so much better? is there a huge difference in quality?


Is this related to acrylic paint by any chance?


A question: How would it be possible to detect acrylic layer on a tooth? Would there be any way to do it?


what glue is used to glue wood to acrylic?


they are both great materials, with polycarbonate being the strongest. acrylic is a good material but is a little brittle and yellows over time.


Does acrylic have a fatigue endurance limit like many structural metals do?


If I put a sheet of acrylic across our doorway and threw a stick over it, would my dog see it or would he run straight into it and make me laugh histerically?


You can use chloroform as glue to cast two pieces of acrylic.


What are the main sources of acrylic? thanks to anyone who answers.


Can a small crack on the edge of polycarbonate be stopped or epoxyed to keep it from running?


Is there such thing as an acrylic counteractant?


How do you glue cast acrylic?


Acrylic is the best for fish tanks.


isn't the continuous cast a different type of acrylic formation?


What is the procedure of polishing the inside machine bore of acrylic square bar and to remove the tool marks also.


What glass paints can I use to paint onto acrylic/perspex?


If I use 1" thick acrylic for my gas station if someone shoots it would it stop handgun type bullets

EG:9mm 40 45 357mag


acrylic is a form of plastic so it is recycled and did you know that spray paint is a form of acrylic. Because when you spray paint on plastic, the ink will peel off the surface. Making it a plastic substance.


we are using it in dt.


would i die if i ate it or licked it up and down?


thanks for help, but how is it shaped?


i was wondering how acrylic is manufactured and shaped, cut, etc. thanks.


i am wondering what is the chemical formula for acrylic. And what its cost and common uses are. i am doing a project on it.

a. what is the description?

b. what are the properties?

and if there is any other information could you please tell me? thank you.


i want to know the difference between pmma and acrylic.


i need help on acrylic. What do you cut it with?


what are acrylic's properties and uses? it's for a school project and i know nothing.


i received a cocktail shaker made of acrylic and was wondering if that would be dangerous to use with alcohol or not?


is acrylic biodegradable? I need to know for my D&T Project.


what does acrylic look like?


can you be allergic to acrylic?


The main property you need to know is it can be molded into shape but is solid at room temperature, and it also come in many colours. Hope it helps!


hey i see many people are asking for the properties. well i'm one of them. i need to know for a school project. thanks


what should i use to stick acrylic to a mahogany wood? as its part of my year 11 GCSE course i need something that will look good and not leave marks.


hey what are the properties of acrylic? i need to know for a special project i'm doing. thanks.


just to let you know both the the presidential motorcade and the Pope's booth-vehicle have bullet proof glass that is about twice the thickness of normal car class and the presidential glass can withstand the force of a tank shell being fired at from 3 meters away.


Please can someone tell ne what acrylic is used for? thank you.


I recycle acrylic glass and make art out of it. It is beautiful and green, better than it being in a landfill somewhere!


i've got to find out what acrylic is used for.


I want to know what do we use to smooth acrylic?


hi i am wondering what is the chemical formula for acrylic. And what its cost and common uses are. i am doing a project on it.

a. what is the description?

b. what are the properties?

and if there is any other information could you please tell me? thank you.


How expensive is acrylic? I need to know for a project for tonight.


Hi, I am doing a research report and I need to know what acrylic is made of.


I think acrylic rocks. i have a big garden with a greenhouse and the area that is best for playing cricket, football and tennis, etc.. is right next to that area. It had been smashed numerous times until i read this article. Now my greenhouse is thick acrylic, and so is bullet proof and it gets hit again and again but still stands firm. Thanks a lot!


Hi is acrylic recyclable?


i made a clock out of acrylic


Is polycarbonate an acrylic? I need to replace tempered glass and drill four holes for a latch. I have a problem drilling the holes without it cracking. I’m going to use polycarbonate, does that sound right?


what is the meaning of hydrofob or hydrofil acrylic in the application of acrylic lenses used by eye doctors?


Any info on the Miracle Method of painting tubs with acrylic polymer enamel? Is it carcinogenic and/or leave an odor?


re-encased hand: To get the acrylic of without burning him well, it is brittle so you could break it off! mind you you may break his hand but you only seemed worried about burning him!

the real qeustion is why did he do it in the first place?


can people who are allergic to latex be also allergic to acrylic? Are they similar?


I have a clear acrylic drumset. Can I use UV reactive paint on it? It's an acrylic based spray paint that goes on clear but reacts under blacklight. Will any chemicals in the acrylic spray have a bad reaction with the acrylic drums?


I'm framing a large photograph and need a light, protective covering (not glass). Is an acrylic sheet safe to use on archival prints?


my friend melted acrylic around his hand, it burnt through his hand and has now encased it.. how can i get it off without burning him?


Does anyone know if Intense Pulsed Light will heat/reshape acrylic? If so what wavelengths? Thanks.


To the person that asked about bottled water;

most bottles are made from PET or PETE. Acrylic is too brittle to use as a simple drink bottle so I don't think anyone can become allergic. Also allergies are not generally due to excessive exposure to a substance, there is more often than not an allergic reaction from the first contact. While we're on the note of bottled water always try and look out for bottles made from PETE as these do not leach chemicals into the water after continuous use and sun light as PET does.


Can you put a hot liquid into acrylic and it be safe for consumption?


For the person whose dog ate some acrylic, there is no chemical problem with the acrylic. It will just pass through. The concern would be if there are sharp edges that could cut the dog's insides. I work at a zoo, and our staff vet has given the OK to using acrylic around animals that naturally chew.


As a polymer, acrylic is non-organic. That means it takes thousands (no exaggeration) of years to break down. Isn't it nice to know that fake fingernails and ugly faux fur coats will be around 10,000 years from now?

It is also made from fossil fuels. Not only are fossil fuels non-renewable resources, they are the leading cause of air pollution.

Nice, huh. Destroying the planet for skylights.


I have worked with acrylic for many years and for me there is nothing better to work with.


Brilliant article, sad how few people can word a coherent question though.

Re: Acrylic Nails

Yes, Acrylic nails are made from Acrylic, surprisingly. Acrylic itself doesn't damage your nails, but the bonding agent (glue) might.

Re: Rust Resistance

Acrylic is not a metal, it is a polymer, it doesn't corrode.

Re: Acrylic Machining

Acrylic is very easy to cut, drill, saw, etc. but you must be careful not to put too much pressure on it, as it can snap


Acrylic for boat windows. I have an old fiberglass boat and wanted to replace all the windows with acrylic. Can anyone advise how to cut and attach over the fiberglass window hole? I see many boats with acrylic these days and they have a black band on the edge with multiple screws. Pls help, Thks


Great articles, always good to know anything!


We have to make some covers of acrylic sheet 2 mm thk. We do not know its machining process and joining process. What adhesive is required for joining? How to cut sheet ? How to machine and drill it. Kindly give me information.


Can a person become allergic to acrylic such as drinking bottled water?


Can it be easily shaped? What is the heat resistance of acrylic? I am building a rocket and wanted to know if I should use this material so the rocket is clear.


thanx so much. this helped me with my science fair project i am hoping to go to regionals.


hi i'm in year 7 and i really need to know what the melting point of acrylic is.


what is made out of acrylic?


I am building a canoe. can I use gesso to shrink the canvas and should I use an acrylic paint over it?


I had my screened porch replaced with acrylic windows and roof panels. With windows shut, the porch is extremely hot because of the Florida sun. I'm thinking of painting the acrylic roof panels with metallic silver paint (if I can find that paint). But first I need to know if those acrylic panels can take paint, oil-based or latex types. I plan on washing them first because of the dirt that stains them now. Any ideas or suggestions would be welcome.


Hey i need help with some homework. how do you use acrylic?


can old people be allergic to acrylic?


can that Acrylic sheet be substituted for High Density Polyethylene plate


What is the difference between Acrylic sheet & High Density Polyethylene?



I have a plant for milk powder packing and I use acrylic pipe to transfer the powder to the machine and I wonder is it safe to use acrylic pipe and could I contact anyone for more information?


hi, im really stuck, should i put acrylic in the pillow case to keep it straight? Oh and what about in my shoes to keep those straight?


What is SAN acrylic?


chicken on fire:

thankyou for this information it really helped me understand the main principles of dealing with acrylic


why is it plastic????


In looking at tubs/showers - it appears "acrylic" which is really a combo of fiberglass & acrylic is better than just fiberglass because it is much better at resisting stains & scratches. How does acrylic compare to VIKRELL, which is a combo of fiberglass and polyresin?


what is the difference between Corian and acrylic? is acrylic a corian or is corian an acrylic? thank you.



Used in the nail bars across the UK to give ladies confidence with natural looking false nails.

A word of warning though, nail bars can be addictive, the odor in the bars can be dangerous if inhaled regularly/constantly and letting a nail technician drill into your nail bed deeply with no complaints could lead to you developing a contagious illness from unsanitary equipment at the worst or at best weaken your natural nails and discourage healthy growth.


i think that the acrylic means, like an nail acrylic!!

is that all right??


I just bought some gorgeous acrylic drinking glasses from a museum gift shop. The saleswoman didn't know whether or not they could be safely washed in the dishwasher. Before I risk this, can you tell me whether they will scratch or melt?


re alcohol, strong alcohol will degrade or destroy acrylic drinking glasses, etc. Avoid.


How does micro-crazing affect the durability of continuous-cast acrylic?


Is acrylic hard to cut, machine, drill holes, etc? Will it crack during those processes?


Hi! Above you have explained all about acrylic over glass but can you tell me a bit about coloured acrylic? What can that be used for? What's good about it?

Please Help Me!


hi.. because of their molecular structure, thermoplastics can be reshaped when they are heated, as a result they can be reused whereas thermosetting plastics cannot be heated and shaped more than once, they melt, examples of these plastics are epoxy resin they're like the plastic electricity plugs on walls.


Is there a way to mold acrylic without heating?


I want to know industrial method of acrylic recycling.


which is more rust resistant, acrylic or enamel?


why can you re-use thermoplastics and not thermosetting plastics???


is acrylic edible? my dog pooped on my recently heated acylic, and then the dog ate a piece of it...

i took my dog to the vet, but the vet is too expensive, so i'd rather ask you.


I wanted to know if acrylic tubing is glueable to pvc pipe? I know the pvc fittings don't generally fit the acrylic tubing but I can stretch the pvc to accommodate the acrylic tubing. If the two can be joined what type of glue should be used?


Hello can you help me

how is acrylic recycled and what is it made into ?


I do not know exact impact resistance but I think you should use a 15mm Acrylic sheet it is safer,

I m a chemical engineer and I also own a Acrylic sheet production line in Turkey, Do you have a producer in İran?


hi. i am a structural engineer in iran. i want to build a SQUASH GLASS COURT. this is the first glass court in Iran. while i want to design the front wall, i have a problem and i can not solve it without knowing the impact resistance of the acrylic glass sheet. the thickness is 0.01 meter and the length is 2.05 meter and width is 1.28 meter. the impact force is 1000j and the impact area is 0.04 square meters. thanks


without Ox it decomposes to monomer and other organic forms in the air char form occurs


What would happen to acrylic if it was overheated?


i am an acrylic distributor and i wanted to help you guys with whatever i could do. Acrylic is called acrylic. the two types are extruded and cell cast. Although marble gives you a nicer more appealing look acrylic is better because of the aging properties and its ability to withstand impact whereas marble will crack and chip and is more expensive to replace and repair. expansion is minimal but do use caution when installing, I recommend to my customers to leave a 1/8" gap to allow for expansion. to adhere acrylic to itself you want to use a product called weld-on it is a acrylic type of glue and would work the best. alcohol may stain acrylic but damage would not occur.


Are acrylic nails the same as acrylic? i didn't think they were. and any way of course they damage your real nails!


Why does acrylic smell?


Can acrylic nails really damage your real nails?


I am doing homework does anyone know what the real name for acrylic is?


Is it possible to prevent scratches on acrylic? how? or how does one remove them?


pls advise what is the different between fiber glass and acrylic?


what is acrylic & identify the two basic types of acrylic???


though I'm not an engineer or scientist, I'm fairly certain that the density of acrylic changes, based on its purpose or method of manufacture. Anyone else have an idea?


what's the density of acrylic??


hi i am doing homework i have to describe the properties of acrylic can anyone help?


yes acrylic sheet can be used to protect your wood from your tv, it is actually a very good idea.


What about expansion and compression due to temperature change of acrylic sheets? Should it be considered when using it for skylights? Are there any sounds associated with expansion (or compression) of an acrylic sheet?


Do acrylic bath surrounds off gas? Are there any toxins such as formaldehyde in the acrylic products?


what can i use to stick acrylic firmly together?


I am going to put a 275lb tv into an armoire but want to protect the you think a piece of acrylic under the tv is an option? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you.



yes acrylic is recycleable. very easy to do so. thanks x


Is Acrylic recyleable ?


Is acrylic the best choice for a tub/shower enclosure. Is it a better choice than marble?


Hi, I am wondering what will happen if I store a liquor or other alcohol (Isopropyl) in an acrylic jar. Is it safe?

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