Plastics are used in three areas, the marquee, the "screen" laid over a monitor, and as a protective covering on your control panel. When purchasing your plastic, you may wish to consider buying UV protected plastics to protect your artwork from fading over time. "Brand" names are often used instead of the actual "type" of plastic. The "types" of plastic commonly used are:
- The most common type of plastic is acrylic. It's commonly referred to by its trade name, plexiglass. Acrylic does not have very good impact resistance, so if that is a concern, you may wish to choose polycarbonate for applications that you require more protection for.
- Polycarbonate is known by many different trade names, but one of the more popular is Lexan. It's tougher than acrylic, so again, if that is a concern, you may wish to choose polycarbonate for such applications. The biggest benefit to Polycarbonate is that it is almost impossible to crack with cutting tools, making it much more forgiving when drilling and shaping. The down side is that it is typically more expensive, and it is less scratch resistant than Acrylic.
There are some techniques recommended to achieve good results with less effort. The woodworking tools you already have or are going to purchase will work fine. When drilling, the material has a tendency to grab the bit and pull it in, possibly cracking it. If using a spade bit or hole saw, one solution is to drill the material in reverse. A forstner bit is preferable when cutting plastic, as the cutting edge is normally flat and creates more of a scraping action less prone to digging in. Whichever bit you choose, use a slow speed. If you're drilling more than one hole at a time, a few drops of detergent in water will act as a lubricant and coolant to help achieve good results.
When cutting acrylic, ideal results are attained using a router. Slower speed is not necessary, since the router moves fast enough that the digging in common with hole cutting bits are not an issue. It is recommended to keep the protective coating on your plastic until you are done machining it to protect the surface.