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If you’ve spent time fabricating any sort of flat plastic sheet material, you’re probably familiar with warp. Depending on the size of the sheet and the fabrication method, warp can leave you with a useless piece of material. Here are some of the factors that can cause warp and some steps you can take to minimize warp before and during fabrication to protect your sheet material investments.
Storing material improperly is the number one cause of sheet warp. Plastic sheet will "cold form" to shapes when stored on edge or across uneven surfaces. The longer a sheet material remains in those positions, the harder it will be to recover the sheet and return it to a flat state.
Most of the raw material used to manufacture plastic sheet for the signage industry are hygroscopic (water absorbing) and will warp to some degree if exposed to moisture for extended periods of time. These issues will be common among many materials and from all manufacturers. The material is not defective, as many fabricators have claimed, and is the inherent nature of the resin used to create the sheet.
According to Lucite, an acrylic monomer supplier, acrylic sheet will warp if exposed to variable temperatures. They further state that changing humidity levels cause the greatest variation. Hence, both variability and moisture are contributors to warp.
Protective removable masking of plastic sheet or the application of adhesives can be another source of warp. Tension of the mask or adhesive when applied to the sheet can induce additional stresses on the corners of the sheet and these stresses are often relieved in the form of curling.
No one wants to waste valuable product, particularly when you’ve got an anxious customer waiting for you to finish a project. Taking a few precautions before you fabricate and using a few tips and tricks when you fabricate can help you make sure you’re getting the most out of your sheet material.
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