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Brief History of Acrylic Plastic

Acrylic polymers are considered synthetic materials that are created through chemical reactions between monomers and a catalyst. All acrylic plastics are derivatives of acrylic acid. The most commonly used type is polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA. When shopping for this material, it is usually sold under a different name: Plexiglas, Perspex, Lucite, and Crystallite. PMMA is used because it is highly transparent and robust. Frequently, individuals will use it instead of glass. When comparing glass and acrylic glass, acrylic has more benefits. The characteristics that this plastic boast makes it widely used in different applications. It is used to make: skylights, airplane windshields, outdoor signs, business displays, wall decorations, and automobile tail lights.

acrylic cutting plates

The first plastic polymer to be used was called celluloid, which was a combination of camphor and cellulose nitrate. This was happening in 1869, and the ideas were based on the natural polymer cellulose (found in plants). It wasn’t until 1909 when Leo Baekeland created the first synthetic plastic polymer to achieve commercial success. He used phenol formaldehyde resins, which he later named Bakelite. His material was an excellent electrical insulator, and it was able to resist heat, weather, and acids. It could be easily colored and dyed. Bakelite was used to make telephones, radios, and other electrical equipment.

By the 1930s, British and German chemists were separately working on advancing polymers for commercial use. In 1933, Plexiglas was trademarked. During World War II, acrylic plastic was widely used by both the Axis and Allied powers. Because of its practical applications in the war, it was and is still used after the war.

We work with the highest quality acrylic we can get. We only use the most sophisticated acrylic cutting technologies, such as laser cutting acrylic. Call us for more information on creating custom acrylic for your needs.

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