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How to Etch into / lucite / plexiglass

On my current project at college, I am putting text into public places. One of the ideas I had was to use clear, fluorescent perspex as the edges of it kind of 'light up' - this sounds a bit weird, but if you've seen this color of perspex you would know what I mean! Anyway, I was wondering if there was some sort of way of etching maybe 2 or 3mm into the surface using some sort of acid? I have tried engraving and drilling, but this is very untidy. I was hoping to use a screen printing kind of method in a similar way to etching onto copper where black ink forms the barrier and acid etches through the bare parts. Is this possible? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!


Lucy Barker
Student - Leeds, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

A. One solvent for perspex is MEK / methyl ethyl ketone, but as with most polymer/solvent reactions, the polymer will dissolve and form an increasingly viscous goo and leave a tacky surface underneath it. I would suggest you persevere with the engraving, but perhaps try a CNC milling machine. Not only will you then get engineering experience, but also machine programming! I have never done what you want to do, but I suspect if you use the solvent approach you may lose the effect due to internal reflection. In any case, a machined edge will give you a much better effect and look much neater.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

A. Lucy,

You may not know it, but acrylics are very corrosion resistant materials INDEED ... and I doubt that in a million years you'll find an acid that will deep etch into it without any problems. Yes, nitric (full strength) will slowly attack it but SLOWLY.

May I suggest you go to the Gurus ... namely I.C.I. ... who might have more useful suggestions than mine. After all, they invented Perspex. The other thing is to go to any local acrylic fabricators.... but you've probably already done this.... and see if they can have some ideas.

Of course solvents will attack it ...some, like the mega aromatic hydrocarbons ... but again it's a SLOW process and the delineation would be lousy as, unlike acids hitting a circuit board, they will 'soften' in all directions.

Have you thought of heat? A 'branding iron' so to speak ... but that will displace the sides, hence also nbg. Anyhow, you'd have to 'polish' off the displaced areas.

P.S. You spelt color wrongly, it should surely be COLOUR in the UK or was it the's (stupid) spell check?

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [deceased]
R.I.P. old friend (It is our sad duty to
advise that Freeman passed away 4/21/12)


Ed. note: That's MISTER's (stupid) spell check to you, Freeman.

I am currently doing a project (I'm in Metal design) and I'm wanting to use fluorescent perspex however I'm having great difficulty sourcing some. No companies in Ireland make it and I can't find any that are willing to supply it even off cuts. If you could let me know of somebody who could send me some by way of small sheet or off cuts Please let me know!

Aoife Greene
- Beaulieu Cross, Drogheda, Co.Louth, Ireland

Ed. note: The following page from Lucite-Perspex shows four distributors in Ireland:

If that doesn't work out, and you want to try making your own fluorescent tinted clear castings, you could try Transparent Dyes [affil links] by Environmental Technology

I want to know if Tetrahydrofuran (THF) can be stored in a perspex container. i.e., will THF eat Perspex? You see, I want to conduct an experiment with THF and I want to see the reaction process and I don't want to use Glass vessels.

Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath
- Kharagpur, W. Bengal, India

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