How To Drill Acrylic Sheets

To drill acrylic without the risk of finishing with cracked acrylic, there are a few steps you should follow. Even though acrylic is around 17 times stronger than glass and far more durable: you need to take care of your acrylic sheets to prevent them from cracking and splitting. Fortunately, in this blog written by Sheet Plastics, we have compiled a list of suggestions to help you learn how to drill acrylic properly. 

The Properties of Acrylic

Acrylic is a remarkably strong thermoplastic which can withstand heat, impact, and shattering. Despite its status as plastic, acrylic sheets boast high clarity comparable to glass, only at a far cheaper price point. This makes acrylic an efficient material for windows, display cases, and greenhouse glazing. Not only is acrylic UV-resistant, and thus repels discolouration and provides fantastic thermal insulation, but acrylic is highly versatile, and can be bent, molded, shaped, and drilled. 

Your project may require you to drill acrylic. So, it is vital to note that despite these highly desirable qualities, drilling acrylic can pose a risk to the condition of your plastic. 

What can go wrong?

Despite its high durability and versatility, if drilled incorrectly, you could accidentally finish with snapped or cracked acrylic. Cheap tools can also result in cracked acrylic, so it is integral to invest in good equipment before taking the plunge. Furthermore, brand-new and sharp drill bits can tear your acrylic, which can cause it to crack. You should take great caution when you drill acrylic to ensure your acrylic comes out just as clear and high quality as it went in. 

What tools should I use?

Before you drill acrylic, you should have the right equipment. As we stated above, brand-new drill bits may not be suitable to drill acrylic sheets, as they could inadvertently cause irreversible damage. Here at Sheet Plastics, we recommend you use a minorly worn HSS Drill Bit. 

  • HSS Drill Bit
    HSS is an acronym for High-Speed Steel. The properties which make HSS Drill Bits an ideal choice to drill acrylic are their suitability for harder materials such as metal, wood, and acrylic, as well as their ability to withstand the heat generated from fast-speed operation. HSS Drill Bits are superior to ordinary carbide drill bits and can last for at least 150 holes and to a maximum of 450 before they become too worn to function effectively. 
  • Clamps
    One of the most important pieces of equipment you could use to drill acrylic is a clamp. Clamps will help to secure the sheet in place so it doesn’t move while you drill and result in cracked acrylic. Additionally, the clamps can prevent warping or spinning during drilling that may occur due to the heat generated and the speed of the drill bits. By clamping your acrylic sheet in place, you’ll get a much cleaner end product. 
  • Marker pen
    A marker pen will help you to stay on track and drill exactly where you intended to, rather than doing so by eye and possibly misplacing the hole and creating uneven lines. Additionally, you’ll lessen your chance of encountering cracked acrylic, as you can ensure the distance from the edge of your sheet to the borehole is far enough to avoid damaging your acrylic. We recommend a distance of a minimum of 15mm from the edge of your acrylic to be safe. Using a marker pen to determine a clear point will help you retain the distance and achieve an accurate result.
  • Masking tape
    Masking tape will help to provide an extra barrier while you drill acrylic, which will prevent the teeth from damaging their surface. 
  • Safety goggles
    Safety is always integral when you drill acrylic, the dust can severely damage your eyes if you don’t protect them, so wearing safety goggles is key. 

How to drill acrylic sheets

Once you have all the recommended equipment on hand, it's time to start drilling. Some tips that we at Sheet Plastics have compiled to achieve the best results include: 

  • Keeping the film on the plastic
    By keeping on the film we include in all of our acrylic sheets for sale, you reduce the possibility of creating avoidable scratches on the surface of the acrylic. If you do create scratches on your acrylic, don’t panic! Because we’ve also written a guide which covers how to remove them!
  • Drill acrylic considering its thickness
    All acrylics can be drilled irrespective of their thickness, but as we mentioned above, being mindful of the distance you should allow between your borehole and the edge of your acrylic sheet will greatly reduce the chances of cracking and splitting.
  • Use a low-speed setting on your drill
    If you drill acrylic at high speed, you increase the risk of mistakes like warping and splitting. When the drill bit rotates slower, you have more time to react and have a better chance at drilling perfectly. The recommended process to drill acrylic is very simple! All you need to do is set your slightly-worn drill bit to low and gently press on the drill to push it through the surface. The drill should sink through the material, and if it doesn’t, a higher setting is required. You should allow the drill to continue turning while you lift it out of the hole so as not to cause unnecessary resistance. 

How can Sheet Plastics help?

Here at Sheet Plastics, we have hundreds of acrylic sheets for sale in various finishes, colours, thicknesses, and sizes. So you can find the product you’re looking for for your project. Whether you’re looking for clear, colour, or mirror acrylic, we have a selection of options available, as well as a plethora of polycarbonate, roofing, and aluminium alternatives. We also offer samples of all our products so you can try them before you buy and determine which would be best for you. 

Furthermore, if you don’t feel quite confident enough to drill acrylic yet, we can do it for you! As seen on this page, we have many configuration options available. Including polished edges, radius corners, and countersunk holes. If the product you’re looking for doesn’t have this configuration tab, please don’t hesitate to contact us and see what we can do for you! You can reach us at 01455 818605 or use the chat box to speak with us directly!