What Is Made From Acrylic Plastic?

Acrylic plastic, also called acrylic glass, Poly(methyl methacrylate) or PMMA, is a clear alternative to sheet glass. PMMA is a polymer that is impact, scratch and weather resistant and is used in a variety of situations where shatterproof or impact-resistant glass is necessary. PMMA is also used in medical implants and technological advancements.

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High Impact Uses

Because PMMA is impact and shatter resistant, it is commonly used for aquariums—if an aquarium cracks or shatters the tank is ruined and the fish are put at risk. PMMA is used in the place of glass windows and windshields in police riot vehicles, which need to be able to withstand violent circumstances. The exterior lenses in automobiles are exposed to harsh weather and car accidents, so many car companies use PMMA instead of glass lenses. Motorcycle helmet visors are made from PMMA so that in the event of an accident, glass is not shattered in the driver's face. At spectator sporting events such as hockey games, PMMA protects fans from flying hockey pucks while still allowing them to see the game. Aircraft and submarine windows are usually made from PMMA because the stretched acrylic polymer stands up to the pressurization requirements of aircraft and submersibles.

Medical Uses

PMMA is commonly used in medical technologies and implants due to its compatibility with human tissue. PMMA is used to replace intraocular lenses (lenses inside the eye) in patients who have undergone surgery to remove cataracts. Hard contact lenses are also commonly made of PMMA. PMMA is also used to replace lost bone mass and to connect bodily implants. PMMA is also widely used in minimally invasive bioplasty procedures to enhance or reconstruct the face, buttocks and extremities. PMMA is a successful additive to soft tissue fillers because it makes the filler non-absorbable. The body will not break down fillers made with PMMA, so PMMA-based fillers are considered permanent. According to MPD Acrylics, there are some concerns that PMMA may be a carcinogen and may be linked to cardiopulmonary problems due to hypertension.

Other Uses

PMMA has been used to make acrylic paints, modern furniture, instruments, picture frames, toys and CDs and DVDs. PMMA is also dissolved in the oils and fluids used in heavy equipment and machinery to keep these liquids from stiffening in the cold and is the plastic tubing used in fiber optics as well. There are even glassware sets made of PMMA that can withstand drops without breaking.