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Building and Modding with Acrylic: A Q&A

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post #1 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Note: This is a work-in-progress.


Acrylic



Acrylic is a versatile and attractive material to build and mod with. Available in numerous gauges, manufacturing methods, and colours makes for a material that can be used for everything from latch-hooks, panels, windows, to entire cases.

This thread will address modding and building with acrylic, and cover some techniques that will assist modders to utilise this medium with success.

It is my intention to continually update and edit this first post with posted questions and answers, along with images and video where applicable.

I will continually change, update and re-organise this inital post as/if required as questions and information are accumulated and presented by Members of the Forum.


Before I get too deep into this may I state that one does not need an array of expensive or high-end tools to mod a case, or even build one from scratch (but it helps). This case, Indigo:



...was built using these 3 power tools:




Online source of supply:

For our UK, EU and European modders:

** Thank you to Marcus000 for the links. (+)


Note: There are essentially two types of acrylic: Extruded and Cell-cast. Cell-cast acrylic handles heat much better than extruded. Extruded acrylic will typically congeal and re-form (in a wad) when blades and bits cut into it.



Each subsection has a Permalink, please click the appropriate heading for more information. In some situations the numerical order is not the same as the post order

Table of Contents:


I. Anti-static measures
II. Making straight cuts
II-a ~ Table Saw III. Scoring and snapping
IV. Cutting Holes with a Rotary Tool
V.Scroll Saw Use by CommanderCup

VI. Sanding a Polishing



The Maestro's (aka CyberDruid) helpful hints, tips and shotgun tests.

Routing Technique
Shotgun Test: Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate


Addendum: Some of my completed projects.




Contributions by:

~ Rado
~ CattleRustler
~ CyberDruid
~ Marcus000
~ CommanderCup



SAFETY:

It is advisable to wear eye protection at all times when using power tools. Additionally, many of the fabrication processes' create a large volume of miniscule airborne particles. That having been said; respiratory protection is also highly advisable.







I. Anti-Static measures:

Static build-up can be an issue with acrylic. But, with a thorough initial cleaning and periodic cleaning with a specifically formulated cleaner this issue can be alleviated.

It is note-worthy that it is unadvisable to use cleaners that contain ammonia. This has been on an ongoing debate, but I tend to err on the side of caution.

To get a static-free and clean finish I use this:



Both the cleaner and the microfiber cloth are available through online plastic retailers.



Note: Goof-Off is a product that does not seem to cause issues when used to clean acrylic panels. I only use it sparingly, and only when I need to remove adhesive residues.





II. Straight cuts:
  • Table saw
  • Hand-held saw
  • Router
  • Dremel
  • Jigsaw *
  • Scroll Saw **




Blades and blade types:

(to be added)


This image shows the cleanliness of 3 types of cuts. Each of these can be sanded and polished to perfect clarity:



From top-to-bottom: Dremel and sideways bit, table saw, router
  • The sideways bit was a RotoZip, SC5, 1/8" Sabrecut.
  • The table saw blade was an 80-tooth, 10" blade specifically for plastics
  • The router bit was a 1/2" non-bearing bit




Additionally, a hand-held circular-saw with a veneer/siding blade can be used in conjunction with a guide:








And my favorite... the Dremel and the edge guide.








The easiest way (for me) to cut large panels to size is to use this portable table saw:






III. Scoring and Snapping:

Scoring and snapping acrylic is probably the least expensive technique to achieve a straight "cut".

A decent score and snap can yield an edge that is ready for bonding, although it is prudent to note that any panel that is "see-though" will most likely show a flaw.

The flaw is the slightly tapered edge that the scoring knife makes when cutting into the panel itself.



Scoring knife and edge scraper:





A heavy-duty angle works well. A SST ruler will also do the trick, but I recommend an angle in order to keep the angle as true to 90-degrees as possible. Yes, there are numerous alternatives, but (for me) a carpenters angle is the simplest.




I generally score the panel about 1/16".



Note: The first couple of runs along the straight-edge should be done lightly with attention to keeping the scoring blade flush with the straight-edge. Once a decent groove has been formed, then more pressure and less attention can be applied. ... I have slipped on the first run and ended up with a curved scratch along what was a perfect panel...


Once the score is done, snap the panel by using a wedge underneath (2x4 works) and applying pressure. Sometimes a lot of pressure is required...an alarming amount... but it will snap cleanly if the score was done properly.




Here is a close-up of the scored and snapped panel. Note the slight bevel on the adjacent panels.



If this were Black acrylic, then bonding can be done immediately without any clean-up. In fact, the edge is ready for any acrylic to bond, but as mentioned earlier the flaw will be visible from the clean-side, so some sanding may be in order for optimal aesthetics.



Please Note: The image cap has been reached, so from this point on I will post the update within the thread, and perma-link the post to the Section Title here.


IV. Cutting Holes with a Rotary Tool



Other topics to be covered:
  • Laser-cutting ***
  • Cutting holes
  • Sanding
  • Polishing
  • Forming and bending acrylic with heat
  • Bonding
  • Tapping plastics (reservoirs)
  • Design feasibility


Addendum:

Here are some of my projects that have utilised acrylic.


Test Benches:


Anvil


TnB=Gir's Dual-loop bench




Custom Cases:

Silentium:




Prometheus:



SFF:


Gemini:


Halcyon:




Retail Case Mods:


Liquid Chameleon:


LANCan:




Panels:






Custom Case building, dream and build

Custom Cases: Obsidian Silence, Silentium, Halcyon, Anvil, Indigo
Case Mods: Liquid Chameleon, LC-Lan Box


"Semper Fidelis"


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post #2 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 09:54 AM
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August 13th, 2011 sad-smiley-002.gif Happy trails, may we meet again.


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post #3 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 09:56 AM
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YAY! its up. CAnt wait to get all those nice juicy guides up for me to start working.



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post #4 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 11:09 AM
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Looking good so far; might I add using a jigsaw to that list of cutting tools?

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post #5 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 11:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radodrill View Post
Looking good so far; might I add using a jigsaw to that list of cutting tools?
Absolutely.

Thank you, Rado.


Custom Case building, dream and build

Custom Cases: Obsidian Silence, Silentium, Halcyon, Anvil, Indigo
Case Mods: Liquid Chameleon, LC-Lan Box


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post #6 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 10:24 PM
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Wow cant wait to see all that goes into this. Im building a custom reservoir for my case with acrylic and have only started to get supplies. I got everything but a bottle for the weld-on #3. The model shop didnt have the applicator only the solvent. Where would i obtain a good applicator for the solvent?

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They should borrow some of the lube that Nvidia has stocked up on to deal with the 5xxx series.
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post #7 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-19-2008, 10:28 PM
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This is gonna be the best Informational thread on Acrylic.

@shnoops : You should be able to find the applicator online at Tap Plastics or Delvies Plastics.

Never agrue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with their experience.

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post #8 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-20-2008, 12:23 AM - Thread Starter
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1st post updated with information on Anti-static measures and cleaning.


Custom Case building, dream and build

Custom Cases: Obsidian Silence, Silentium, Halcyon, Anvil, Indigo
Case Mods: Liquid Chameleon, LC-Lan Box


"Semper Fidelis"


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post #9 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-20-2008, 06:53 AM
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great thread Syr, cant wait until its full of info and details

for tools, you can add Scroll Saw to the list if you like, and feel free to grab some pics from the Gumdrop build, in the update named Acrylic & Scroll Saw Adventure, or something like that

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post #10 of 457 (permalink) Old 07-20-2008, 07:29 AM
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Might I make another addition

Another good antistatic product is the Novus #1 Plastic Clean & Shine


Also, since you mentioned Goof-off; I've found that Goo-Gone can attack the surface of the acrylic and dull the finish, if it's used to clean off some adhesive residue, then it's imperative to immediately follow it with a plastic cleaner to protect the finish.

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