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I am looking to bend a piece of plastic/acrylic (not really sure what I'm getting yet), for a craft project I am working on.

I watched this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkpqfcg1W_o

where they heat and bends a piece of acrylic, with a propane, or some other type of torch. To me, it seems like a really bad idea using a torch. He is also inside, which also seems like a really bad idea, unless he had a very good ventilation system...

I was thinking of using a hair-dryer, but I'm not sure if it would get hot enough, as well as doing this outside.

I was curious if this seems like a bad idea? I would assume with proper ventilation I should be fine? I also do think that the torch overheated the acrylic in the video, which would not be a problem with a hair-dryer.

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Yes, if you overheat it, most thermo-plastics will give off dangerous gases when heated above a certain temperature. For bending, you need somewhere between 100C - 170C (212°F - 338°F). Cast acrylic needs higher temperatures than extruded (due to the higher molecular weight), and thicker sheet need slightly higher temperature than thinner.

But do not go above 170C (338°F) for extruded acrylic or 190C (374°F) for casted. Just start off low and heat it slowly until the material will bend as you need it. It's only the bubbling and scorching caused by excessive heating that gives off the nasty fumes when burnt.

From my post on Lifehacks — Working with acrilyc/plexiglass, electric strip heaters are generally recommended (depending on what you are trying to do), but any electric indirect infrared source can be improvised for occasional use. BBQ starters, heat guns, hair dryers, and even light bulbs have been used, but toaster ovens are a bit more problematic.

Overall, low and slow is the key. You have to have a controllable heating source, so be careful.

  • Thank you... Is this recommended, or should I contact a fabrication shop? The ones I see want BIG money. i.e., one shop wanted a min order of 250$.... The electric strip heater was used in a video at a car shop, i'm curious if that would work better. Not sure what the difference between extruded or cast is. – XaolingBao Oct 11 '16 at 16:53
  • @XaolingBao Just go slow. The exact temperature doesn't matter. Bending and working with acrylics is common in the hobbyist world so it's not like you're dabbling in plutonium. Simple bends are not to difficult. Something more elaborate might take specialized tools or a bit more experience/finesse. Google and Youtube! are your friend here. Figure out what you want to do and then research the methods to see if you're up to it. Without knowing the project, it's difficult to say if this is a home project, but for a one-off piece I suspect that a fabrication shop might be overkill. – Robert Cartaino Oct 11 '16 at 17:03
  • I literally just want to bend a tiny side of a piece of acrylic so that I can turn it into a side panel for my computer case (and the bent part would be used to attach the screws and screw into the case...t I might just cut a hole in my side panel and place an acrylic piece in there, but that would require some hole drilling, which might be easier than bending some toxins... I really wantd to keep the old side panel as a backup (I also don't want to ruin it since it's a a case I cannot replace). Thank you. – XaolingBao Oct 11 '16 at 20:42
  • Sorry for double post, but I also was looking to properly cut part of the front of the acrylic so it would fit into my case properly, but more and more I think about it, it seems best if I just cut a hole in my current panel... Scared I will mess up though :(. – XaolingBao Oct 11 '16 at 20:47

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