National Inventors Month: The history of Acrylic plastics

Acrylic thermoplastic is everywhere. It’s also less widely known by its chemical name Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) or acrylic glass.

February is National Inventors Month, so we thought we’d look at the history of acrylic plastic.

This popular thermoplastic was developed in 1928 and brought to market in 1933 by Rohm and Haas Company. It was widely used during World War 2 for submarine periscopes, airplane windows, turrets, and canopies. Because this clear plastic doesn’t shatter like glass, it was popular for airmen as it protected them from injury when their plane windows shattered in battle.

Today acrylic plastic is used for many consumer (i.e., eye lenses, acrylic nails, paint) and industrial applications (including medical devices, LCD screens, and furniture). It’s also become a popular plastic to use as a protective barrier for retail shops and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also a strong material for retail displays, windows, and tanks, where clarity or tinted colour is essential.

Today’s acrylic has several key properties, including:

  • Excellent optical clarity
  • Excellent weatherability and resistance to sunlight
  • Rigid, with good impact strength
  • Excellent dimensional stability and low mould shrinkage
  • Stretch forming increases bi-axial toughness

If you’re looking for a clear or coloured plastic for your next project, talk to our team about doing it in acrylic thermoplastics.


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