Acrylic is an inexpensive and versatile material used for anything from props to canopies. Spice up your home projects and learn how to cut acrylic!
Acrylic, also known as PMMA, plexiglass, and Perspex, is a clear plastic often used where glass is too heavy, shatters too easily, or costs too much. You’ll find it in the likes of fish tanks, aircraft canopies, and artwork.
To make use of acrylic, however, you’ll likely need to cut it — and that’s where things can get tricky. Acrylic chips and melts more easily than the wood and metal most people are used to, so different cutting methods, tools, and tips apply.
In this article, we present three ways to get it done, from quick-n-dirty, DIY tricks to professional-grade solutions.
This is, by far, the easiest method for cutting acrylic. It’s quick, inexpensive, and great for straight lines (but not much else).
What you’ll need:
In general, play close attention to whatever you’re doing with or around sharp objects. That includes the scoring blade and edges of acrylic sheets. To be on the safe side, wear proper eye protection.
It’s as simple as that!
With this method, you can very quickly split acrylic sheets into manageable, workable sizes. You can’t cut curves, but for straight lines, it’s hard to go wrong by scoring and breaking.
If you’re looking for a little more flexibility when cutting acrylic, consider sawing. This will open up possibilities for curved, thicker, and longer cuts.
What you’ll need:
If you can’t find a dedicated acrylic or plastic saw, any metal-cutting blade with fine tooth profiles (i.e. more saw teeth) should also work, but your mileage may vary. Typical woodworking blades will just chip and crack acrylic, making them unsuitable.
Power tools like a jigsaw or circular saw may also work, assuming the tooth profile is, once again, fine. Look for “zero kerf” (blade teeth flush to the body of the blade) and “triple-chip” (a specific teeth design) blades.
Once again, always exercise caution around sharp objects. Eye protection is always a good idea, as is ear protection if you’re using a power tool.
With the right tools and a little experience, you can nail acrylic sawing. The hardest part will be finding the proper blades and cutting speeds, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to rip through large sheets and cut out flowing curves.
For the ultimate acrylic-cutting experience, turn to laser cutting. This will give you the finest precision and realize the most intricate details. As we have a dedicated guide to laser-cutting acrylic, the following is just a quick rundown of what to expect.
What you’ll need:
This time around, you’ll be wanting proper laser safety glasses. Apart from that, you’ll generally want to make sure you have a set up appropriate for laser cutting, including proper cooling and ventilation.
Laser-cutting takes more design work and can be more costly than the other methods on this list, but the results speak for themselves. If you need clean, precise, and intricate cuts, this will give you what you need.
With that, you have three methods for cutting acrylic, from quick to intricate, DIY to professional. There are different times and places for each, so pick your method based on the cutting task at hand and resources available. If a quick-n-dirty straight cut is all you need, scoring and breaking will suffice. If you need thin, intricate pieces, you’ll want the laser cutter.
To see how acrylic can be used, check out our guide to making a laser-engraved acrylic sign. If you’re having trouble picking a laser cutter, we’ve broken down the best machines. Finally, for more details on laser-cutting acrylic, refer to our dedicated guide.
Feature image source: plasticsheetsshop.co.uk
License: The text of "Acrylic Cutter – How to Cut Acrylic" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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