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A plexiglass plate is a high-quality plastic with a wide range of applications in a number of industries. It is often called PMMA plexiglass, plexiglass or acrylic glass. Plexiglass plates resemble glass, but they are much more resilient and, just like glass, fully transparent. They can be colourless, milk-white or black. Plexiglass plates are resistant to mechanical impact, tension and compression as well as ultraviolet light, which is very injurious. A plexiglass plate will not change its shape at temperatures of up to 115 degrees Celsius (although the maximum temperature of 80 degrees is assumed to be safe).
A plexiglass plate can be either extruded or casted, and its thickness depends on its applications. The thicker a plexiglass plate is, the more expensive it is. Colourless plexiglass plates can be used as roofs of terraces, greenhouses, winter gardens or carports. What characterises them is their light weight. They allow over 90% of light to pass through, and they do not turn yellow with time. Also, colourless plexiglass plates will make perfect sound absorbing barriers and glazed elements of cars, boats and planes. Milk-white plexiglass plates can be used in public toilets (e.g. in sporting facilities), where there is a high risk of mechanical damage. Colourless plexiglass plates may be used in the advertising and marketing industries as illuminated boards, display units, advertising panels, 3D lettering and light fixtures. They can also become parts of skylights and various installations (after proper machining).
Plexiglass plates are resistant to acids, bases and salts as well as weathering, including hail, thick snow and heavy rain. It is quite easy to cut plexiglass plates, but this requires specialist tools. Such cutting is most frequently done by means of a laser. Also, it is easy to bond plexiglass plates; all you need to have is some glue and a UV lamp. Producers, however, introduce certain restrictions and limitations here. Usually, special orders have to be placed for plexiglass plates of non-standard dimensions, which may generate higher costs and result in higher prices. Plexiglass plates cannot be bought from DIY shops; only specialist shops and specialist manufacturers have them on offer. What other plastics can plates be made of? The answer is: polycarbonate and PVC. Hard or foamed plates made of the latter are available on the market now.
Just like each product, a plexiglass plate has some flaws as well; with time, it grows brittle and becomes susceptible to breaking. What are the other practical applications of plexiglass plates then? Thinner ones (from 2 to 8 mm thick) can easily be used as window, door or notice-board filling. Almost as transparent as glass and, at the same time, much lighter and more resilient than glass, plexiglass plates can also make perfect shower stalls. Plexiglass plates which are 10–12 mm thick can be used as roofs, partition walls in offices, and shop windows (installed indoors).
Still, there is an alternative to a plexiglass plate. The alternative is called molten polycarbonate. How does it differ from plexiglass plates? Just like plexiglass, it is a plastic which is two times lighter and, at the same time, twenty-five times more resilient to damage than glass. It is characterised by its high transparency (it allows c. 92% of light to pass through) and has very good heat-insulating properties. Slow-burning and resilient, it can be used at temperatures ranging from -40 to +120 degrees Celsius (it begins to soften at a temperature of c. 140 degrees). It can easily be formed into various shapes and given various colours. Molten polycarbonate can be bought in many versions, including those with enhanced hardness, fire resistance and gleaming. It is used in the construction industry as roofs of car parks, garages, carports, commercial stalls and winter gardens as well as window and door filling. Molten polycarbonate is easy to machine (hot-shaping and cold-bending) so it is frequently used as a decorative material. Thanks to its higher resistance to tension and compression (as compared to plexiglass), molten polycarbonate is used to produce items which are thinner and lighter than plexiglass objects.