Bending acrylic sheets is possible because of the thermoplastic properties of acrylic, but is not for everyone. A distinction must also be made between the bending and the forced bending of acrylic. In this article, we provide some information and explanation about the bending of acrylic, and what resources you need to do this yourself. Acrylic bending is also possible for the handyman and hobbyist, but the most important thing is: practice makes perfect!
Depending on the thickness and size of the sheet, each acrylic plate will bend slightly. If you only want to achieve a slight curvature, you may want to consider using the natural deflection of the material. We strongly advise you not to use cheap acrylic for this, because of the high internal stresses in the material. If it does not break during bending, it will quickly rupture under load. Always use cast acrylic if you want to bend the material, even if the desired curvature is only slight.
Bending acrylic with heat
Professionals who bend acrylate regularly or bend acrylic sheet do so with the aid of a filament. The acrylic sheet is laid over a long, thin filament with the bending line just above the wire. If the material is at 160 degrees Celsius, it can be bent. It becomes soft and can then be properly, although care must be taken. The material must be bent gently, otherwise, it can tear on the outside of the fold. After bending, the acrylic on the exterior of the fold must be heated for a short time so that it flows well. Subsequently, the material is fixed in the desired shape or form during cooling. After cooling, the material remains in the same shape without rebound.
Acrylic bending with a blow dryer
In the absence of a filament, you can also use a blow dryer (an adjustable paint burner) or an oven. In both cases, keep in mind that the acrylic sheet will become flexible over a larger surface. Remove the protective film on both sides and heat the sheet. When using a hair dryer, keep the outflow opening at least 5 centimetres from the acrylic, gently move the hair dryer along the bending line and ensure that the entire bending line is evenly heated. Pull the edge of the sheet gently from time to time to check the flexibility. If you are going to bend it, place a slat along the bending line to achieve a straight fold.
Deforming acrylic with a convection oven
Smaller acrylic sheets can also be softened and deformed using a convection oven. Never place the acrylic sheet on a grid, but on a flat, heat-resistant plate or tray. Place the acrylic in the oven during preheating and allow it to heat gradually. When the set temperature is reached (160 degrees Celsius), let the acrylic lie for 4 to 5 minutes, thinner sheet thicknesses (up to 5 millimetres) are more bend-ready. If you want to make a sharp fold, leave the acrylic sheet on the heat-resistant tray and bend the acrylic along a slat and keep it fixed in the desired shape until it has cooled down. It will now remain in the desired curve without rebounding.
Requirements for bending acrylic
- An adjustable hair dryer / paint burner
- A hot air oven
- A (professional) bending device with filament
- Requirements for fixing (gluing tongs, slats)
- A heat-resistant tray or plate for support when heating in the oven