Plexiglass is a transparent thermoplastic that is often technically classified as a glass. Because of their high optical clarity, high tensile strength, outstanding light transmission properties and relative affordability, clear tubes made of plexiglass are often used in lieu of glass tubes or materials like polycarbonate (PC).
Plexiglass tubes may be produced in one of two ways: extrusion or casting. The process of extrusion begins by placing the raw plexiglass into the barrel of the extruder, where it is gradually melted by mechanical energy generated by turning screws and heaters along the barrel. The molten polymer is then forced into a die, which shapes the polymer into a tube that hardens as it cools.
Cast plexiglass tubes are made by pouring the material into a mold, where it hardens. Extruded plexiglass tubes are less expensive to produce, but they are not as strong as cast tubes, which not only boast superior strength but are also easily fabricated and machined. Additionally, cast plexiglass tubes are unaffected by sunlight and maintain their stability over a wide range of conditions. For at-home use, however, extruded plexiglass tubes can be cut with a hand saw, band saw or table saw.
Plexiglass tubes come in many forms, such as square, rectangular, circular, round, oval and other irregular or custom shapes. Plexiglass tubes are measured by nominal outside diameter, outside diameter tolerances, nominal wall thickness and wall thickness tolerance. They may be clear, translucent, solid colored or multi-colored.
Colors may be vibrant or matte. Plexiglass tubes are used in many industries. Their appropriate use is determined by their thickness, shape, color, flexibility or lack thereof and whether they are extruded or cast. For example, for applications that require the plexiglass tube to be drilled with holes or made into a pressure vessel, a customer should select cast plexiglass because it better withstands stress.
Applications that employ plexiglass tubes include: industrial goods, scientific equipment, structural supports, pet cages, candy dispensers, storage containers, jewelry and children’s toys.