In the view of the experts, working with acrylic is far simpler than working with glass. It is easier to shape acrylic as opposed to glass. The process is simpler and less expensive. In addition, the emergent product also happens to be much lighter and certainly, more durable than glass. The acrylic fabrication process enables fabricators to achieve a myriad of effects. For instance, workers can keep varying the thickness, the shape and the complexity of the design in several diverse ways. In addition, fabricators can provide a diverse range of finishes to the material as well. High gloss finishes and frosted matte finishes are highly popular in contemporary times. Similarly, in some cases, fabricators need to polish the acrylic as well. For this, they will usually employ different methods such as hand buffing or diamond edge and flame polishing.
Clearly, accomplishing all of these activities would be nigh impossible, were it not for the availability of specialised tools and equipment. Some of the tools and equipment that fabricators typically use comprise:
The Router: This is one of the most important tools that fabricators use. Many fabricating companies use routers that can accept ¼ inch and ½ inch shank bits. Some even use these Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines that enable workers to fit them with guide collars. It is worth highlighting that acrylic is a much softer material than tool steel. Despite this, it can render regular tool steel cutters very frequently. This is why many fabricators purchase router bits fitted with carbide tip cutters of the finest quality. These will usually be more expensive than lower quality bits. But, they will make smoother cuts and last for much longer too. Without a doubt, the router is one of the most essential CNC routing and machining equipment in the fabricating industry.
- The Solvent Cement and Applicator: Workers typically use some adhesive to cement acrylic. This serves to melt the plastic chemically. As a result, it leads to the combination or fusion of the molecules from both parts. This leads to the formation of clear, watertight and strong joints. Fabricators typically use a process called capillary cementing. This process involves holding the parts that require joining in the desired position. Then, the workers permit a watery solvent cement to flow into the joint, which results in bonding the parts together.
- The Scrapers: The fitting of glue joints need to be as perfect as possible. Otherwise, even the smallest of gaps will produce bubbles in the joint. These bubbles will weaken the joint, while making it unsightly. Fabricators usually use scrapers made from tool steel. They will use these scrapers to scrape away the tool marks until the edges of the material are smooth and square.
- The Scoring Tool: Some fabricators use scoring tools for cutting plastic. This tool places a heavy scratch on the surface, thereby creating a weakened area. Breaking this piece of plastic thereafter, is very easy.
- The Blow Torch: To flame polish edges, fabricators use propane blowtorches. These are useful for producing clear and bright finishes.
- Miscellaneous: Other tools that fabricators will use include clamps, squares, drill bits, sabre saw blades, hole saws, table saws, band saws and strip heaters