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What Are Acrylic Mirrors and Why Should I Use Them?

What is an acrylic convex mirror, or more importantly, should I use an acrylic mirror?  We get these questions every so oftern.  Acrylic is so widely used in commercial applications that we tend to take it for granted.  You might know it under a brand name like "Plexiglass," but acrylic fibers (the base of acrylic glass) is found in so many places. 

For instance, shoes and boots, track suites, gloves, carpets and furnishings, and more containt acrylic fibers.  Little fibers are cut and then spun into a yarn.  In this article we will cover:

  • A brief history of acrylic
  • benefits of acrylic
  • how acrylic mirrors are made
  • why use acrylic as a lens types
  • acrylic mirrors offered by MirrorPros.com

The History of Acrylic

Who do you think of when you think of an innovative American company famous for their glues and plastics?  I'm not sure about you, but the name "Dupont" comes to mind.  Dupont created the first acrylic fibers back in 1941 under the brand name "Orion," but it was not commercially available until the 1950.

The first use of acrylic was for outdoor purposes.  The qualities of acrylic made it great because of its molding ability, weather resistances, and durability for outdoor use.  Today, acrylic is mostly used in fabrics, to include clothing, furnishings, and carpet.  Acrylic is really a broadly used term to define a fiber manufactured where the fiber forming substance is any long chain of synthetic polymers, and must be atleast 85% by weight composed of acrylonitrile units.  In simpler terms, acrylic is a polymer created when extremely large carbon molecules combine in a chemical process.

*this is an imag of acrylic fibers

 

From the fibers, it may be spun into a yarn:

Benefits of Acrylic

When acrylic is finished in sheet form, it looks a lot like glass.  On the surface, you could easily mistake a peice of acrylic for a peice of glass because of the clarity, brilliance, and transluncense.  With any substance there are pros and cons for their use in certain situations, but for security and safety mirrors, acrylic sheets are a marraige made in heaven.  

 

  • Easily forms to shapes and is easy to mold.   This is evident when you see our full line of full dome acrylic acrylic mirrors.  The acrylic sheets are heated over a mold that is the shape and measurements of the specific mirror we are trying to create.  You cannot get glass dome mirrors because it will not mold to the necessary shape.
  • Acrylic is durable which makes it great for applications such as safety mirrors that might be subject to breakage.
  • Other polymers and plastics are more suseptible to the damage of the sun from heat and UV light, as well as from other elements like rain.  Acrylic stands up to both rain and sun extremely well.
  • Acrylic is also very good at avoiding the yellowing you often see in lesser plastics.  Even when a product works great, that ugly yellow diminishes the product in our minds.
  • As if this weren't enough, acrylic is transparent.  While plate glass tends to have a green tint, acrylic sheets are totally clear.
  • Lighter than glass, most brands are 1/2 lighter than glass.

To be fair, there are also some disadvantages of acrylic when compared to glass.

  • Price fluxiates due to petroleum prices.  Sometimes it can be more expensive than glass.
  • When exposed to direct flame it will melt-glass will not.

How Acrylic Security Mirrors are Made:

As I mentioned above, Acrylic is pliable and may be molded to specific shapes.  There are several methods to shape acrylic sheets, but here we will focus on "thermoforming" which is the most popular way mirrored acrylic sheets are formed.  In a nutshell, acrylic sheets are heated in an oven between 275-350 degrees.  At approximately 325 degrees, it is placed over a specialized mold with the ability vacum out the air between the sheet and the mold.  This suction of air seals the sheets to the form providing a blemish free, perfect surface.

Most mirror companies are "assemblers" which means they do not actually produce the acrylic sheets.  As a matter of fact, most mirror assemblers receive the acrylic sheets already "mirrored."  The mirrored effect is usually done by spraying a dark colored paint on the back side of the mirror sheet.  Sheets are typically shipped with a protective sheet on the reflective side.

Once the acrylic sheet has been molded, a backing and/or mounting brackets are installed.

Why Use Acrylic Mirrors?

 This article has pointed out some basic benifits of using acrylic over other materials such as glass, or even other plastics.  With acrylic mirrors, the reflective surface is just about as clear as glass would be.  We have never met a user who noticed a difference between a mounted convex mirror made out of glass or acrylic.

The benefit of using a convex lens type is the larger surface area provides the view with a larger reflective view.  For example, a full dome acrylic mirror will provide a 360 degree view of an area.  For comparison sakes, a 36'' flat mirror will not provide a 360 degree, while a full dome mirror will.  Even a circular convex mirror will provide a larger veiwing area than a circular flat mirror.

The fact that acrylic security mirrors are half the weight of glass convex mirrors.  That may not sound like a big deal, but when mounting a mirror to an over-head location, like a ceiling, it make a huge difference.  Not only is it physically harder to mount a heavier mirror, the mounting harder will be significanly more expensive.

An often overlooked, but just as important reason to use acrylic is the fact that breakage could occur, and if it does, you don't want shards of glass.  Although people can cut themselves on acrylic, it is not nearly as sharp as glass.  With that said, if there is the potential for breakage, we recommend our indestructible security mirror, the Durmir, which offers many of the same benefits as acrylic but is much more durable.

Reason to Use Acrylic Security Mirrors:

  • Lower cost
  • Good for outdoor use
  • Light weight
  • Less prone to break than glass

Acrylic Convex and Dome Mirrors Offered by MirrorPros

  • Convex Mirrors - we offer two acrylic mirrors to choose from, in a varity of sizes:
    • economical acrylic convex mirror - this is a security mirror with no backing.  For indoor use only.  Mounts the same way as mirrors with a backing.
    • convex mirror with hardboard backing - treated hardboard backing is weather resistant and suitable for outdoor or indoor use.   Specialty paint on treated hardboard makes it impervious to rain.
    • convex mirror with ABS backing - ABS is a tough, rugged plastic material that protects the lens from the elements and damage.  Suitable for outdoor and indoor use.
    • steel backing convex mirror - for areas where vandalizm may occur and/or extreme weather.  The heavy-duty galvanized steel protects the lens from the elements.
  • Dome Mirrors - full dome, half dome, and quarter dome available
    • economical dome security mirror - available in full dome, quarter dome, and half dome
    • treated hardboard backing dome mirrors - available in full 360 degree dome, 180 degree dome (half dome) and corner domes (quarter domes).
    • dome mirrors with steel backing - galvanized steel backing available with full size, half dome, and quarter dome sizes

 

We hope this article gave you a little insight into acrylic mirrors and situations where they would be a good choice for your security or safety needs.  Please contact us with any questions you may have regarding these, or any products carried by MirrorPros.com.