Acrylic resins can be thermoformed, or molded by heat, into usable plastic products like tubing. Most thermoformed acrylic resins are near-transparent, which makes them ideal for creating clear tubing.
Acrylic tubing does not age noticeably; an acrylic tube is likely to be broken by accident before it wears out naturally. It is not significantly affected or altered by sunlight and can remain highly functional under variable conditions of heat, cold, and exposure to moisture; it will not warp, crack or corrode under such conditions.
In applications where clear tubing is required, acrylic tubing outperforms glass in terms of its economy and functionality. Glass tubing can be twice as heavy, less insulated and much more vulnerable to impact. Cast acrylic tubing in particular demonstrates exceptional qualities of tensile strength.
Acrylic tubes are used in toys, surgical devices, museum displays, product design, laboratory equipment, home furnishings, lighting and in countless other applications. Marine, commercial, food and beverage, manufacturing, utility, architecture, fine arts and biomedical industries make extensive use of acrylic tubes.
Acrylic tubes are easy to fabricate as well as being cost-effective tubing solutions. There are two main types of acrylic tubing: extruded and cell cast. During the extrusion process, a hopper above an extrusion machine is filled with raw acrylic resin. Gravity feeds the raw material into a conveyance channel.
A long screw within the channel turns and forces the raw material toward a die. A die is a shaped tool that is used to shape a material. As the raw material approaches the die, friction caused by the turning screw combined with heat from electric heat sources along the channel melt the raw material. The molten material is then forced into the die, where it takes its tube shape.
It emerges as new acrylic tubing, at which point it can be cut and either prepared for shipment or sent for additional processing. Other methods of acrylic tubing fabrication also exist, though extrusion is the most efficient and effective method. Cell casting, for example, is the process in which molten plastic is poured into a mold.
It is by definition a non-continuous process, allowing only for the creation of tubing that is as long as the molding cell. Extrusion is continuous and always creates uniform products, both of which are major advantages over other processes.