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Cast and extruded acrylic are manufactured in different ways using the same components. Either will be acceptable in many use cases, however there are some important differences between the two.

Optical clarity and surface quality

Cast acrylic has better optical clarity and surface quality. It is also harder which makes it slightly more scratch resistant.


Cast acrylic will cut and machine more cleanly and is easier to glue. When used for thermoforming, extruded acrylic will expand or shrink differently relative to the extrusion direction which can make bending more complicated. Extruded acrylic is easier to flame polish because of a lower forming temperature.

Laser cutting and engraving

At the same speed and power level, cast acrylic will give cleaner edges, which makes it easier to cut. Adding a little more power will give extruded a smoother edge as if it was flame polished. Cast turns matte white when engraved which can make the engraving stand out more from the acrylic depending on the color. Extruded does not change color when engraved.

Thickness tolerance

Extruded acrylic has better thickness tolerances – usually +/- 5% or better across the sheet, while cast acrylic can be +/- 10% or more. This can cause issues in certain cases where the tolerance is important, such as installing the sheet into a pre-existing frame, or a precise model where many pieces need to fit together.

In the plastics industry, some sheet material such as acrylic is produced to a metric specification such as 3.0mm, but is marketed with an imperial measurement like 1/8". Confusing? Yep. Here is a chart to help you convert the marketed measurements to the actual measurements:




0.8mm / 0.030"


1.5mm / 0.060"


3.0mm / 0.118"


4.5mm / 0.177"


5.6mm / 0.220" or 6.0mm / 0.236"


9.0mm / 0.354"


12.0mm / 0.472"


18.0mm / 0.708"


24.0mm / 0.944"

Note that tolerances still apply to the actual thickness numbers.

General purpose acrylic sheets of the same grade from different manufacturers have very similar physical properties and are interchangeable for the majority of applications. The primary difference between brands relates to manufacturing tolerances. For example, one sheet might have a +/- 10% thickness tolerance while another might have +/- 8%. Colors may vary slightly as well. We only carry brands that meet our standards for quality, including Acrylite, Optix, Lucite, Plexiglas, Chemcast, Astariglas and Margacipta MC.

Many cutting tools will easily cut acrylic – table saws, band saws, circular saws, saber saws, jig saws etc. The most important factor in getting good results is using the right blade. A fine tooth carbide blade will work well. Blades specifically designed for plastic will give you the cleanest cuts; these can be found at many industrial supply shops. See our fabrication guide (PDF) for more information.

Clear acrylic sheet has excellent weather resistance and UV stability. It will last many years in the sun without yellowing or losing its light transmission properties. Many colored sheets will also have the same resistance to yellowing and fading. Some colors are more susceptible and this will be noted on their respective product pages.

Acrylic sheeting as a material generally does not affect most foods. However, except for special food grade sheets, it is not certified food safe and not recommended for uses where it is in contact with food. Acrylic can safely be used for presentation purposes such as displays, cases and trays as long as it is not in contact with food.

Acrylic pieces can be bonded together with liquid solvent cements such as Weld-On #3 and #4 or thickened solvents such as Weld-On #16 or Craftics #33. Please remember to read the warnings and instructions carefully when using solvent cements as the chemicals they contain are hazardous materials. See our fabrication guide (PDF) for more information.

Acrylic should be cleaned with soap or dishwashing detergent and water. Use only a soft cloth to avoid scratching the surface. Optionally, you may follow up with Brillianize or Novus #1 to reduce static and give the surface a polished feel. Don't use window cleaners as they will damage the plastic.

Compared to glass mirrors, acrylic mirrors are lighter and more shatter-resistant. It is a better choice in cases where safety is the primary concern as it breaks into large chunks rather than tiny sharp pieces. Its ease of fabrication makes it great for design projects. On the other hand, the reflection quality is lower than that of a glass mirror. Acrylic is less rigid than glass, and this tends to cause distortions in the reflected image. Choosing a thicker sheet as well as mounting to the flattest possible surface will also minimize, though not compltely eliminate the effect. The distortion is more noticeable the larger the sheet becomes, so 1/4" is recommended for large mirrors (greater than 24").

Custom cut-to-size tolerance: +/- 1/32"

Custom acrylic fabrication tolerance: +/- 1/16"