Acrylic tubing can be simply defined as a variety of plastic tubing. Acrylic tubing, like any substance that can be classified as "acrylic," is created from acrylic resins that are formed by the mixture of pure acrylic acid and various other substances. Most acrylic resins are transparent or translucent, making it a highly sought-after material for plastic tubing. Acrylic resins are typically formed by the process of thermoforming, or the utilization of heat to form a material into a functional plastic product.
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Advantages of Acrylic Tubing
Acrylic tubing is more likely to be accidentally damaged than naturally worn down. It is highly resilient and will not corrode or crack under numerous external conditions such as ultraviolet radiation, moisture, cold, or heat. Acrylic material allows for easy and cost-effective fabrication, and its level of tensile strength is also exceptional.
As advantageous as acrylic can be, it is not a perfect material, and thus comes with several drawbacks. First, it is generally more expensive, and can be easily damaged by direct exposure to fire. However, its beneficial properties can outweigh its disadvantages, especially in applications where durability is an important factor. The advantages of using acrylic tubing over other materials such as glass make it a worthy investment to consider when searching for tubing for your particular application.
Applications of Acrylic Tubing
Some applications that utilize acrylic tubing can be found in your own home. For instance, acrylic tubing can be used as a durable and aesthetically pleasing substitute for various household objects such as curtain rods. There are also many customization options for acrylic tubing. There may be some applications that can benefit from tubing that is either colored or varies in transparency. Acrylic tubes can come in frosted, pearl-like, glossy, or clear textures, and can be made with a broad range of colors, including fluorescent. The lighting industry greatly benefits from colored tubes. They can assist in illuminating a room in a particular color, and they allow for brilliance and a clear view of details in many types of displays.
In terms of economy and otherwise functionality, there are many applications where acrylic tubing is more favorable of a material than glass. Examples of applications where acrylic can outperform glass include lighting, furnishings, laboratory equipment, product design, museum displays, surgical devices, and children’s toys. Glass tubing is much less resistant to impact, can weigh twice as much, and provides much less insulation. In addition, when glass is fabricated for thickness, it can develop a greenish tint. Acrylic, on the other hand, does not, and has much clearer visibility. Industries that use acrylic tubing extensively include biomedical, fine arts, architecture, utility, manufacturing, food and beverage, commercial, and marine. The variety of industries in which acrylic is used is a testament to how trustworthy it can be in performing highly demanding tasks.
Types of Acrylic Tubing
Acrylic tubing can be categorized into two main types, based on the method in which they are fabricated.
- The extrusion process involves pouring raw acrylic resin into a hopper, which is suspended over an extrusion machine. The raw material is then emptied into a conveyance channel. The channel features heating elements and a long screw mechanism. The heat generated by the heating elements and the friction caused by the turning screw work together in melting the resin down to a molten state and forcing it toward a die. A die is a tool that is used to form material into a specific shape. After the molten material is forced into the die, it takes on a tubular shape by the time it emerges from the machine. Once cooled, the tubing can be cut and sent for additional processing or prepared for shipment. This process allows for flexibility as to how long the tubing can be, and it ensures uniformity in the final product. One disadvantage is that the material can be prone to scratching due to how much it is manipulated. However, out of all methods of fabrication, the extrusion process is the most effective and efficient.
- Cell casting
- Cell casting is a much more simplified process, which involves the pouring of molten plastic into a mold. It is a non-continuous process, meaning that the final tubing product can only be as long as the molding cell. Since the process is simple and involves little manipulation of the material, the material will be less prone to scratching. Although the extrusion process is much more reliable, extensive research is being done on both the molecular structure of plastic as well as cell casting itself in order to find additional advantages to the process.