Everything You Need to Know About Acrylic Mirror Sheets
What Is Acrylic Mirror?
An acrylic mirror sheet is a thermoplastic sheet that comes with a highly reflective surface. Mirror sheets are a cost-effective alternative to traditional glass mirrors. You can cut, drill, shape, and bend mirror sheets with a strip heater.
The mirror aspect of the acrylic sheet is achieved through vacuum metalizing. This is a finishing process that covers the desired material in a metal coat that is shiny and reflective.
Mirror sheets are an immensely popular alternative to glass because they are lightweight as well as shatter-resistant. These qualities are hugely important for certain applications because they offer a higher degree of safety as they can’t be accidentally smashed.
As acrylic mirror sheets are a safer and cheaper alternative to glass, they have a range of possible applications in various environments. In general, these sheets are ideal to use across a range of sectors, from educational institutions to entertainment venues. They are also a perfect choice for many applications in craft and home modification projects.
Some of the common applications include:
- Health center mirrors
- Studio mirrors
- Equestrian mirrors
- Display stands
- Decorative windows
Acrylic mirror sheets offer a variety of features that are comparable to those of glass in terms of performance and quality, and their popularity is largely based on these unique features:
- Lightweight: Acrylic mirror sheets are extremely lightweight. This is a key advantage when it comes to transportation and fitting, making both jobs significantly easier.
- Reflectivity: Mirror sheets have approximately 85-90% over the 400-700 nanometer visual light spectrum.
- Strength: A mirror sheet is a material that is as much as 20 times tougher than glass.
- Impact-Resistance: These sheets have an impact resistance that is 17 times greater than a glass mirror of equal strength and half of the weight.
- Weather-Resistance: Yes, acrylic mirror sheets are waterproof and can be used outdoors, since they can withstand all weather conditions, including rain. However, to achieve this, the sheets must be sealed around the edges so that no water can enter the backing of the sheet, which would cause extensive damage.
- UV-Resistance: Mirror sheets are UV-resistant. Even if they are in direct sunlight, they are not prone to discoloration.
- Thermal- Insulation: Acrylic mirror sheets have great thermal insulation properties. They are an effective means of preventing heat loss, which is invaluable if being used as an accent window.
- Easy-to-Clean: These sheets are easy to clean - all you need is a liquid detergent and a cloth. Also, they are not prone to smears or stains and have a protective film to prevent scratches.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Buying acrylic mirror sheets, especially in bulk, is incredibly cost-effective. These sheets are cheaper to manufacture, transport and deliver than other sheet materials.
- Durability: Acrylic mirror sheets are highly durable, and their resilience is what makes them ideal for a wide range of applications.
- Easy Fabrication: Various shapes and sizes can be obtained by cutting with power saws and routers, using the proper blades and cutters. Acrylic mirror sheets can be cold bent for curved shapes or strip heated for a sharp bend.
Acrylic mirror sheets come in protective masking on the top side of the sheet. It is not recommended to slide acrylic mirrored sheets when transporting. The masking should be left on the sheet during storage and fabrication to prevent damage. These sheets are shipped in "ready-to-store" condition.
It is necessary to keep them away from excessive heat, paint overspray and vapors from solvents and other chemicals. The materials should be stored in a clean, dry and warm area with the original packing intact.
Proper maintenance is mandatory to keep acrylic mirror sheets looking amazing.
- Masking: Each mirrored sheet is well protected by a durable paint backing and removable masking on the front. This masking should be in place to protect the sheets during all phases of fabrication and installation. These sheets should be handled mirror side down, with the masking left on. Care should be taken not to slide sheets against each other.
- Removing the Masking: If there is any difficulty in removing the masking, it is recommended to use aliphatic naphtha, kerosene, or distilled alcohol to moisten the adhesive. Never use other chemicals or sharp objects to remove the masking.
To maintain the shiny appearance of acrylic mirror sheets, you need to clean them with extreme care.
- Washing: It’s ideal to use mild dish soap, water and a soft cloth to wipe the surface, and apply only light pressure. To remove grease, oil, or tar deposits on the material, use hexane, kerosene or aliphatic naphtha to remove them. Avoid using any chemicals on a painted print design. Also, do not use window cleaning sprays, kitchen scouring compounds, or other chemicals to clean mirrored sheets.
- Polishing: You can maintain the surface gloss by using a flannel cloth and a good plastic cleaner or polish occasionally. Follow the instructions for polishing the container.
- Scratches: Scratches can be removed by hand polishing with a plastic scratch remover. Deep scratches need to be lightly sanded, using a 400-grit wet or dry sandpaper.
It is relatively easy to cut acrylic mirror sheets into your required size and designs than glass mirror sheets. Essentially, this allows you to obtain the ideal size, which fits your application depending on its size demands.
Some of the many methods to cut acrylic mirror sheets are given below.
- Scribing & Breaking: This method is used to achieve a quick and straight-line cut of single sheets of acrylic mirrors less than 3 mm thick. First, you need to mark the line to be scribed (scored) on the acrylic mirror with a commercial scriber.
Then, place a straight edge firmly along the line and use it as a guideline for the scriber or knife. Scribe the mirror along the line using several firms, evenly pressured strokes. Lastly, overhand the end of the mirror off the worktable and break the acrylic mirror with sharp downward pressure.
- Circular Table & Panel Saw Cutting: These saws are generally used to achieve a precise, straight-line cut of one or more sheets of acrylic mirror. This method is highly recommended because of the minimal vibration. The best way to avoid vibration and unwanted runout is to install a stiffener 1/2 to 2/3 of the saw blade diameter and mount it against the outside of the blade.
To prevent back cutting, the saw arbor, the saw table and the table fence must be properly aligned. Also, the throat plate (table kerf) must be kept to a minimum. A 10", 80 teeth carbide-tipped blade is recommended for all-purpose cutting. The blade's teeth should be the triple-chip design, where every other tooth has a beveled cutting edge to help clear away saw chips.
- Saber Saw Cutting: Saber saws are usually used for cuts that involve a frequent change in direction. Maintaining adequate support is essential to prevent the vibration which may cause chipping. To achieve it, clamp a straight board on the sheet near the cutting line.
Set the saw to full speed before cutting the acrylic mirror. Without feeding too fast, press the saw shoe firmly against the mirror while cutting." Blades for saber saws should have at least 14 teeth per inch.
- Jig Saw Cutting: Jigsaws are mainly used for inside cuts and intricate letters. Since the stroke is short, the blade heats up quickly and tends to soften and fuse the acrylic mirror. You can use a fast and steady feed rate. Make sure that the blades for jigsaws have at least 14 teeth per inch.
- Band Saw Cutting: Band saws are used to cut curved sections or trim thermoformed parts. Ensure that the blades for band saws have at least 10 teeth per inch.
- Laser Cutting: Lasers are used to cut virtually any image on an acrylic mirror with minimal material waste. The CO2 laser is operated by focusing a large amount of energy on a small defined area and melting and vaporizing the material. It produces a clean, polished edge without any saw chips. An average of 200 inches per minute may be accomplished by using about 200 watts from a 1200-watt laser.
It is highly recommended to have a cool air mist in contact with the blades of all cutting devices before and during penetration of the plastic.
Many different routers are available for use in the fabrication process of acrylic mirror sheets. It is recommended that the router have a minimum of one horsepower and a no-load speed of about 20,000 RPM.
Routers are normally used with a single or double fluted bit but may consist of one to four flutes. Router bits can be carbide-tipped, high-speed steel, solid carbide, or diamond-tipped. They may be one piece piloted, non-piloted, straight cutting, multiple parts, forming, or specialty bits.
Types of routing methods that are ideal for acrylic mirror sheets include hand routing, circle routing, pin routing, contour routing and CNC routing.
Acrylic mirror sheets can easily be drilled with any commercial power-driven drill, such as portable drills, drill presses, lathes, or automatic multiple-spindle drilling units.
Before drilling holes in an acrylic mirror, it is recommended to use a bit offered especially for plastics. If a drill bit for plastics is not available, a metal-working drill bit with a high-speed twist can be used with some modification.
Edge & Surface Finishing Methods
Producing a smooth, transparent edge is based on the quality of the cutting tool used to machine the edge. A properly designed cutting tool with a sharp cutter will reduce the amount of finishing needed. Finishing is also reduced when a spray coolant is used along with the cutting tool to reduce excess heat build-up.
Based on the depth of the scratches, you can use a medium-level polishing compound or a fine compound. Also, make sure to always keep acrylic mirror sheets in motion during the polishing procedure.
Acrylic is way more flexible than glass and so to achieve a perfect mirror reflection, it needs to be installed completely flat to reduce the chances of any distortion. We would suggest applying the mirror to a hardboard, such as plywood or MDF, to make the fitting process as easy and streamlined as possible.
The material can be fitted using an adhesive called mirror mate, which must be applied to the mirror evenly. This is the only adhesive we would recommend fitting the acrylic mirror sheets with.
If the mirror is fitted evenly to a completely flat surface, distortion should not be an issue and a true reflection should be seen.
Acrylic mirror sheets are a great, safe alternative to traditional glass mirrors. These reflective acrylic mirror sheets can be used to amplify the look and the safety of a project at the same time. They are also ideal for projects where glass mirrors can be too heavy to use.
What Blue Rhine Offers?
Being the largest supplier of acrylic in the GCC region, Blue Rhine offers mirrored acrylic sheets from many prestigious brands in multiple colors and thicknesses. All colored acrylic mirror sheets are covered with a laser-cuttable protective film.
Consult our experts to learn how to integrate these sheets into your projects and get the most out of them.
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