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Unread 07-10-2006, 01:02 AM   #1
Nara Shikamaru
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Guide/tutorial to some plastics and materials

I just want to clear up a few things on this thread, because I know they get confusing to a lot of people so I'd like to help set things straight.

I've build combat robots as a hobby for many years now and I know about most of these materials.

Clear Plastics:

Acrylic is Plexiglass.
Plexiglass is the name brand of sheets of Acrylic used to replace glass windows, hence the name. It's no different then how a lot of people call tissues Kleenex a lot of time. Kleenex = brand name, tissues = generic name for the item.

Also acrylic can be bonded chemically with CA (cyanoacrylite) glue, aka most superglues, to create (supposedly) seamless clear bonds.

On a similar note:

Polycarbonate is Lexan.
Lexan is GE's brand name for polycarbonate. It's a clear impact resistant plastic which is also used for window replacement.

The differences between acrylic and polycarbonate are this. Polycarbonate is a lot stronger. While in the cosplay field that usually won't matter much, it can. Acrylic tends to crack/fracture like glass does. It can leave some sharp edges and potentially break if you drop it depending on how heavy it is. While polycarbonate won't crack or shatter it's typically a lot more expensive. However if you plan to drill through acrylic be very careful as it will chip or break if you do it to fast.

How to tell the difference:

The best way is to read, wherever you're getting it from will probably say. If you're buying it from the window section of Home Depot or Lowe’s I believe typically acrylic is covered in a clear blue film while polycarbonate is in a clear green film.

If you have some clear plastic and you aren't sure what kind it is there's an easy way to distinguish the two. Take a file or some cutting tool and rough up the end a bit. If it's acrylic it should give off a pretty strong odor similar to the places in malls that do fake nails, because yes, those are made of acrylic.

Resins

There are two main types of resins. Epoxy resin and Polyurethane resin. These can both be used by themselves or with fiberglass cloth.

Polyurethane resin is pretty harsh stuff. It gives off strong chemicals and should be used in a place with proper ventilation. It comes in a big metal can similar to paint thinner and has a small tube of catalyst which is used for hardening. The little tubes of MEKP (Methyl Ethyl Ketone Peroxide) can be bought separately. Each brand will give their own ratios of resin to MEKP but it's typically about 8 drops per ounce of resin. The good part about this type of resin is it dries fast and the ratio is more of an art than a science as the catalyst only creates a chemical reaction that causes heat to cure the resin. If you're a little off in your mixture it will still harden it just might do it too fast or take a long time. This stuff will eat away pink insulation foam, so don't use it on it unless you seal it with something first.

Epoxy resin on the other hand is much nicer to work with. It doesn't have much of a smell at all. It won't eat away at foam. The downside is it typically dries a lot slower than polyurethane resin. Also it typically comes in a part A and part B. If you don't mix them evenly it can end up tacky or take a long(er) time to dry.

Other plastics:

There are a lot of other plastics you can use for various things. I'd recommend reading around on distributor’s websites to get more information.
Some of them include:

Polystyrene - Most commonly found as extruded polystyrene, aka pink insulation foam. This is pretty good stuff to work with but the vapors given off when melted or even sanded vigorously aren't healthy, so work in a well ventilated place.

Carbon Fiber - Sold in thin sheets, this is a laminate material often used for it's strength and light weight or because the weave looks nice. You can also lay your own in a similar fashion to fiberglass but I imagine it would be hard to get the weave to look nice.

Polyethylene - This might be outside the scope of most builders on here but it's a nice material to work with. It's easily machined, as a nice smooth slippery texture, and can be dyed with fabric dye. It's commonly found as HDPE (High Density PolyEthylene) or UHMW (Ultra-High Molecular Weight polyethylene). I belive this is the material commonly used for cutting boards so that's what the texture is like.

Where to Buy:

Most of these materials can be bought at local hardware stores, such as Lowe's or Home Depot, but there are a lot of online resources as well. One word of caution though is to watch out for shipping costs on really big or really long pieces.

Tap Plastics
McMaster-Carr
MSC Direct

There are a lot of others too but those are the 3 I most often use. If you're lucky enough to have a Tap Plastics store near you I hear they are really helpful there. I unfortunately live on in New Hampshire.

I hope this helps inform some pople. Just remember there's pleanty of knowledge out there but sometimes you have to look.
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Last edited by Nara Shikamaru : 07-13-2006 at 10:55 PM.
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Unread 07-10-2006, 06:28 AM   #2
Phinal_Phoenix
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Nice! This will definitely help me in the future~...
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Unread 07-10-2006, 01:16 PM   #3
RevGirl
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THank you so much I was getting all these confused! ^_^
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Unread 09-28-2006, 10:28 AM   #4
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Hi, I was wondering if the plastic balls in the picture below would be too heavy for earrings. The size I want are 1'' in diameter.

http://www.tapplastics.com/shop/product.php?pid=135&
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Unread 12-06-2006, 10:31 AM   #5
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I just wanted to say this is an excellent post.
To add to it, I want to mention PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)

These are used in the construction of things like Stormtrooper armor, as they melt readily to use with vacuforming.
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Unread 12-06-2006, 01:27 PM   #6
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Rad. *bows down to the plastic master*
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Unread 12-06-2006, 03:16 PM   #7
PrincessYuni
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Wonderful Information. You, my friend, have been added to The Tutorial List.
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Unread 05-16-2007, 03:04 PM   #8
nobodysktr
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Resin

where can i buy epoxy resin? can i get it at home depot or lowes and in what department do i look? also where besides online can i get RTV or any kind of silicon mold making kit
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Unread 05-17-2007, 01:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nobodysktr View Post
where can i buy epoxy resin? can i get it at home depot or lowes and in what department do i look? also where besides online can i get RTV or any kind of silicon mold making kit
Wow brough this back from the dead.

You can buy epoxy resin at Home Depot/Lowes though depending on how much you need that could get expensive. You can check marine supply stores as there is lots of fiberglass and resin used in boat construction. Again though you'll have to check to make sure it is epoxy resin.

Silicon RTV is a little harder. If you have a TAP plastics near you they should have some mold making stuff and I've heard the people there are very friendly so they should be able to get you started easily.

Though smooth-on.com is a very widely used online supplier so if you have to resort to buying online I'd check them out.
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Unread 06-21-2007, 01:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chisainekocat View Post
Hi, I was wondering if the plastic balls in the picture below would be too heavy for earrings. The size I want are 1'' in diameter.

http://www.tapplastics.com/shop/product.php?pid=135&
I know it's a little late to reply, but resin casting with paint trays as molds will give you your size and will be lightweight ^_^
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Unread 06-21-2007, 02:15 PM   #11
vasher
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Do you know if polyester resins will eat through polyisocyanurate (man, what a mouthful) foam? My local Home Depot has been stocking that along with polyurethane/styrofoam for insulation purposes and it's supposedly a more stable compund.

I don't have any polyester resin on hand or I'd be experimenting myself. XD
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Unread 06-21-2007, 03:04 PM   #12
verdatum
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vasher View Post
Do you know if polyester resins will eat through polyisocyanurate (man, what a mouthful) foam? My local Home Depot has been stocking that along with polyurethane/styrofoam for insulation purposes and it's supposedly a more stable compund.

I don't have any polyester resin on hand or I'd be experimenting myself. XD
Neat, first I've heard of this stuff. Sounds like a very interesting product.

I did some research on fiberglast.com and it appears that the product should not melt via polyester resins (though they don't explicitly say so).

I found a couple different sources that said not to hotwire it, but it responds very well to traditional cutting tools.

--I DO have some polyester resin on hand...but no foam, or I'd be experimenting myself

Edit: Nevermind. Confirmed. Apparently this is another (more accurate) name for polyurethane foam.

"Unlike polyester foams, polyurethane foam is compatible with both polyester and epoxy resins. "

"Polyisocyanurate Foam Sheets:
Our polyurethane foam sheets have the same properties as the mix and pour foam listed above, but come in rigid sheets of varying thickness"
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Last edited by verdatum : 06-21-2007 at 03:09 PM.
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Unread 06-21-2007, 10:46 PM   #13
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Yeah while this isn't a 100% gaurenteed answer I would say that it would most likely work if it's not polystyrene.

It's the styrene monomer in the polyester resin that breaks down the foam structure of the polystyrene foam so as long as it's a compound made from diffferent base molecules (be it icynene or urethane) there shouldn't be an issue. So general common sense says it should work.

Verdatum: I don't believe it's the same as polyurethane foam. From what I've read in the past polyurethane is made from the mixture of isocyanate and some other compound. (I forget off hand) So they probably share some similar properties



Also good to note:

"Isocyanates are the leading cause of workplace-related asthma and pulmonary disorders in the United States (according to NIOSH & OSHA)."

The smoke from it is toxic, but then again so is the smoke from polystyrene foam.
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Unread 08-21-2007, 10:16 PM   #14
AnimeLore
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OK, I'm pretty sure i'm going to use epoxy resin to cast some buttons I need to make. My question is: the buttons are silver - is there some kind of pigment I can get to cast them in silver? Where can I get it? If not, will spraypaint work to paint them once theyve hardened?

Thanks!
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Unread 08-21-2007, 10:30 PM   #15
vasher
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Ahem- yes, TAP Plastics (possibly Michaels/local craft store), yes. ^^

You can get resin dyes to color your casts, or you can paint your buttons after they've hardened. I actually have a 1 oz. bottle of sparkly silver dye right in front of me, heh. Dye is nice because even if your cast gets chipped, it won't show a different color, but it's a bit more expensive than your run of the mill spray paint.
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