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Acrylic stone: A favor­able alter­na­tive to ceramics

11.05.2022   |   Aaron Stoffers

Viele aneinander gereite Acrylsteinmsuter in verschiedenen Farben.

WHITEPAPER

Rub­ber and plas­tics in mod­ern agri­cul­tur­al technology

Learn how agri­cul­tur­al tech­nol­o­gy can meet most of today’s challenges

Some plas­tics are not rec­og­niz­able as plas­tics at first glance. Their appear­ance and prop­er­ties are sim­i­lar to those of oth­er mate­ri­als, which makes them attrac­tive for numer­ous appli­ca­tions. These include acrylic stone, a sol­id sur­face mate­r­i­al whose aes­thet­ics are rem­i­nis­cent of ceram­ics and have com­pa­ra­ble char­ac­ter­is­tics. For inte­ri­or con­struc­tion, espe­cial­ly in the kitchen and bath­room, acrylic stone is a favor­able alter­na­tive to ceram­ics, with some spe­cial advantages.

What is acrylic stone?

Chem­i­cal­ly, acrylic stone is a com­pos­ite mate­r­i­al made of poly­methyl methacry­late (PMMA or acrylic) and min­er­al dust. The min­er­als are embed­ded in a PMMA matrix as filler, which gives the mate­r­i­al high strength, sim­i­lar to fiber com­pos­ites. Acrylic stone has high hard­ness and abra­sion resis­tance, is non-porous and does not absorb liq­uids, so it is eas­i­ly washable.

The prop­er­ties of acrylic stone are com­pa­ra­ble to those of ceram­ics, which makes the mate­r­i­al a good alter­na­tive in san­i­tary ware. It is also fre­quent­ly used in inte­ri­or design, as it is a plas­tic that can be eas­i­ly mold­ed. In addi­tion, the aes­thet­ic prop­er­ties of acrylic stone are very flex­i­ble, depend­ing on the admixed min­er­als and pigments.

Notice

Acrylic stone is also known by oth­er names, such as min­er­al cast­ing, sol­id sur­face, arti­fi­cial stone, or even brand names, such as HI-MACS or CORIAN. 

Acrylic stone or ceramic?

For the final cus­tomer, the dif­fer­ences between acrylic stone and ceram­ic are rel­a­tive­ly minor. Ceram­ic is a bit stur­dier and more durable, but it is also much more dif­fi­cult to repair. Cracks or scratch­es in acrylic stone can be repaired with lit­tle effort. Repairs to ceram­ic, on the oth­er hand, must be car­ried out by a specialist.

The main dif­fer­ence between the two mate­ri­als con­cerns pro­cess­ing. In ceram­ic pro­duc­tion, the raw mate­r­i­al is pressed into the desired shape and then heat­ed until it hard­ens through sin­ter­ing and acquires its final prop­er­ties. This process is ener­gy inten­sive, which is reflect­ed in the high­er man­u­fac­tur­ing costs of ceram­ic items. These are usu­al­ly more expen­sive than plas­tic goods.

In addi­tion, ceram­ics are no longer formable after the sin­ter­ing process, which lim­its their appli­ca­tion sce­nar­ios. Pri­or to sin­ter­ing, the size of the fur­nace dic­tates the lim­its of the shape and struc­ture of the prod­uct to be man­u­fac­tured. What does not fit into the fur­nace can­not be man­u­fac­tured. Once sin­ter­ing is com­plete, the mate­r­i­al becomes rigid and can no longer be deformed. There­fore, ceram­ics are rather unsuit­able for com­plex struc­tures or large-area components.

The advan­tages of acrylic stone

Acrylic stone is pri­mar­i­ly a plas­tic prod­uct and can be processed more flex­i­bly. The mate­r­i­al only acquires its prop­er­ties when it has cooled down com­plete­ly. After heat­ing, it is pli­able and can be eas­i­ly formed into any shape. There­fore, it is unnec­es­sary to pro­vide equip­ment (oven or press) that can accom­mo­date the fin­ished prod­uct in its full extent. It is enough to heat the acrylic stone sheets local­ly and bring them into the desired shape.

Dur­ing pro­cess­ing, the heat­ed mate­r­i­al can be “sucked” into the mold by vac­u­um, for exam­ple, and nes­tles pre­cise­ly against the neg­a­tive. This elim­i­nates the need for a two-part mold, even for com­plex shapes; a sin­gle-sided neg­a­tive mold is suf­fi­cient. This can even be made of wood or anoth­er easy-to-process mate­r­i­al, since there is lit­tle abra­sion or stress on the mold. For this rea­son, acrylic stone prod­ucts are com­par­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive to man­u­fac­ture.

In addi­tion, acrylic stone com­po­nents can be eas­i­ly assem­bled from sev­er­al com­po­nents. The com­po­nents are fused togeth­er at the con­tact points, while the result­ing joints can be com­plete­ly sealed and pol­ished. This gives the sur­face of the prod­ucts the appear­ance of being cast from a sin­gle mold.

In addi­tion to the visu­al appear­ance, joint­less pro­cess­ing also has prac­ti­cal advan­tages. As a rule, gaps and inter­stices are dif­fi­cult to clean and dis­in­fect. There­fore, acrylic stone is very pop­u­lar in the health­care sec­tor as a mate­r­i­al for fur­ni­ture and coun­ter­tops. Its seam­less sur­face is eas­i­er to keep germ-free than com­pa­ra­ble materials.

In terms of feel, acrylic stone feels sig­nif­i­cant­ly warmer than ceram­ics or deep stones such as gran­ite. The latter’s sur­face always feels quite cool to the touch, mak­ing them less suit­able for com­fort areas. Acrylic stone, on the con­trary, gives a more pleas­ant feeling.

There are also aes­thet­ic advan­tages. Since acrylic stone is not a nat­ur­al prod­uct, it offers more flex­i­bil­i­ty in visu­al design. Col­ors and pat­terns can be cho­sen from a large num­ber of avail­able vari­ants, which hard­ly dif­fer in cost. With nat­ur­al mate­ri­als, on the oth­er hand, the choice is lim­it­ed. Here, quar­ry­ing areas deter­mine the avail­abil­i­ty and price of the desired look. A rare nat­ur­al stone vari­ant, for exam­ple, is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more expen­sive and hard­er to obtain than the stan­dard options. With acrylic stone, on the oth­er hand, this fac­tor plays a sub­or­di­nate role.

Con­clu­sion

Acrylic stone is a flex­i­ble mate­r­i­al that has sim­i­lar prop­er­ties to ceram­ic or nat­ur­al stone, but is sig­nif­i­cant­ly cheap­er to pro­duce and eas­i­er to work with. Since acrylic stone is a plas­tic, the mate­r­i­al can be used very flex­i­bly and is suit­able for var­i­ous appli­ca­tions, even out­side the kitchen and bath­room. Com­pa­nies in par­tic­u­lar are dis­cov­er­ing acrylic stone more and more for them­selves, because the mate­r­i­al enables high-qual­i­ty design ele­ments and wall cladding at a com­par­a­tive­ly low price.

Whitepa­per:
Rub­ber and plas­tics in mod­ern agri­cul­tur­al technology

Learn how agri­cul­tur­al tech­nol­o­gy can meet most of today’s challenges

blog/vacuum-infusion-for-large-area-fiber-composite-components-an-alternative-to-injection-molding/

Author: Aaron Stoffers

Aaron Stof­fers stud­ied dual mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing at Hanover Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences and Arts and lat­er com­plet­ed a master’s degree in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion. Since 2019, he has been work­ing for Jaeger Mare Solu­tions as a project man­ag­er in the field of off­shore wind energy.

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