How to Permanently Bend Acrylic Sheets

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Acrylic sheets
Scrap acrylic (optional)
Tape measure
Pen and paper
Strip heater
Bending fixture
Utility knife
Safety gear
Coping saw

Acrylic sheets are perfect for home decor because they’re affordable, sturdy, and come in a variety of thicknesses and colors. Plus, you can permanently bend these plastic sheets for multiple projects, like making display cases or artwork, with a bending fixture, a few tools, and the right steps.

Step 1 – Designing

First, sketch out your design. If you plan on creating a piece of furniture, consider the area where you intend to put it. Then, scale your design and take the proper measurements.

Step 2 – Gathering Equipment

Warning: Before using your tools, especially if you rent them, make yourself familiar with the owner manuals. Some tools, like the strip heater, require special safety precautions to avoid potential hazards.

Obtain sheets of acrylic that match your measurements. Cut the plastic sheets with a coping saw if you need to. Choose any thickness you think would be appropriate for your project.

Bending Tools

Then, gather the tools you will need to manipulate the sheets. The tools it takes to manipulate an acrylic sheet can be expensive. Therefore, unless you already have the tools, you should rent out the equipment that you need. You will need a strip heater to melt the plastic enough to bend it, and you will need a bending fixture to hold the plastic sheeting in place while it cools. Make sure the strip heater is able to accommodate your chosen thickness of the acrylic.

Tools for Complex Designs

If you want to create anything more than a simple design, like a complicated design with decorative accents, you will also need a hacksaw and an engraving machine.

Step 3 – Preparing the Acrylic

Check to see if your acrylic sheets have a protective film layer stuck to their surface. If they do, you should peel them away before working with them.

Creating a Sharp Edge

Be aware that simply bending the acrylic sheet will create a rounded edge. If you want to create a sharp edge, you must initially saw a “V”-shaped groove along the outside edge of the line to be bent. Lightly score a cut along the line with a utility knife.

Step 4 – Applying Heat

The strip heater should come with instructions to confirm the optimum temperature at which acrylic can be bent according to the thickness. Read the owner's manual and prepare your safety gear. Then, let the strip heater heat up to the appropriate temperature before using it. Position the sheet over the heating element, directly over the line where you want to bend it. If you want to practice first, use a scrap piece of acrylic.

Step 5 – Bending and Securing

After removing the acrylic from the strip heater, bend it in accordance with your desired shape. In the case of a sharp-edged design, remember to bend it with the cut edge on the outside. Once it is at the required angle, use a bending fixture to hold the sheeting in place. Leave the acrylic in a cool, dry area for several minutes to cool. Once the acrylic has cooled and firmed, you can remove the fixture. Then, use an engraving machine if you want intricate designs.