Polymethyl methacrylate

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Polymethyl methacrylate 2016-12-06T05:35:20+00:00

Polymethyl methacrylate

Acrylic brooches, back carved, 1940s Acrylic egg made by Objex Ltd. 1970s Acrylic dentures, British Army 1940s

Acrylic lampshade, 1970s Thermoformed acrylic trays, 1950s Acrylic paperweight, back carved and painted

This material is commonly known as acrylic but is also known under tradenames such as Perspex, Lucite, Plexiglass and Diakon. It was introduced by ICI in the early 1930s as a cast sheet material, Perspex. It was initially available only as sheet and cast rod which were fabricated into a wide variety of items by machining, thermoforming and engraving.

It is a hard, water-white material which takes a good gloss. Its high light transmission and ability to ‘pipe’ light make it ideal for illuminated signs for advertising and display. A full colour range is possible.The ability to polymerise methyl methacrylate in simple moulds using a polymer / monomer slurry made it ideal for producing dentures and for embedding objects for display. Acrylic baths were introduced into Australia in 1947 but it was a further 10 years before they appeared in the UK.

Polymethyl methacrylate moulding materials were introduced later, an important early use was in the two-tone coloured GPO telephone which replaced the black bakelite version in the early 1960s.