Had it not been for chance, the wide range of ideas for PLEXIGLAS® may never have existed: In the 1930s, the chemists at Röhm & Haas were researching how to create a type of transparent rubber. One day, they left an experimental compound on the windowsill. The next day, instead of finding rubber, the perplexed scientists discovered a new type of plastic: acrylic glass, or to use the chemically correct term polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). The new material was named “PLEXIGLAS” and registered as a brand on August 9, 1933.
From Darmstadt across the whole world
85 years later, we encounter creative applications of PLEXIGLAS® everywhere we go, be it at home, at work, in shops or restaurants, on cars or in buildings. The plastic is not just attractive to manufacturers of a multitude of products, however – it has always been an inspiration for ideas and creativity. The brand was part of many fields of application from the start and has opened up new paths. For instance, PLEXIGLAS® stood for innovative design even in the 1950s with applications such as the legendary radio record player combination Phonosuper SK4, which was dubbed “Snow White’s coffin” due to its PLEXIGLAS® cover and which was a sensation at the time. In the field of architecture, the brand acrylic glass set new standards with the construction of the roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich in the early 1970s: The famous tent roof is made of PLEXIGLAS® sheets. Today, PLEXIGLAS® is part of the reason why smartphones and other mobile devices are becoming thinner and thinner, and gives windows, doors and even household appliances an elegant appearance.
Material of the future
These are just a few examples of how PLEXIGLAS® has initiated, supported and promoted the development of products. The brand product owes its success to its very special properties: PLEXIGLAS® is available in a wide range of colors with different surfaces, is easy to shape and can be cut to size. The brand acrylic glass is also UV-resistant, conducts light and is easy to clean. PLEXIGLAS® continues to evolve and new developments are always an inspiration for applications that are sometimes quite different to the original purpose. A great example of this is PLEXIGLAS® LED. It was developed in the early 2000s and is particularly suited to the brand-new at the time, energy-saving light-emitting diodes. As these emit strong point lighting, they require a cover which conducts the light to where it should actually shine. For instance, light designers have created impressive, homogeneously illuminated light panels utilizing the light conducting properties of PLEXIGLAS® LED.
An innovativer partner
“PLEXIGLAS® is the original. We invented it and we see ourselves as the partner of choice for customers who want to develop something new.“
Head of the Acrylic Products division at Evonik
Like the LEDs, many other things exist today which would have been inconceivable 85 years ago. And the applications of tomorrow are also coming into being thanks to the inspirational power and nearly endless possibilities of PLEXIGLAS®. For example, cabin windows for aviation could become much larger in the future, thus giving all passengers a great view above the clouds. “Although it will still take some time for panorama airplanes to become a reality, we see ourselves as an innovative partner to our customers and as such, we are already preparing for the trend towards larger cabin windows,” says Martin Krämer, Head of the Acrylic Products division at Evonik, which produces sheets, tubes and rods made of PLEXIGLAS® and is one of the leading manufacturers of aviation materials. As of this year, the division therefore produces the material needed for cabin windows in the world’s largest formats. “PLEXIGLAS® is ideal for aviation because of its relatively low weight and high break resistance,” says Krämer. “The larger sheet sizes open up completely new design possibilities for manufacturers when it comes to cockpit windshields and cabin windows.”
Combining design and functionality
“PLEXIGLAS® has long been an inspirational material for designers and is firmly established in many areas of application. In others, it contributes to shaping innovations.”
Head of the Product Molding Compounds segment at Evonik
New possibilities for designers also arise in the automotive industry when combustion engines are replaced by electric drives.
These require less cooling, which makes large radiator grills superfluous. As a result, there is room for other design elements, such as large panels, at the front of the vehicle. But the materials used for this part of the vehicle need to withstand high mechanical stresses such as rockfall and comply with safety standards.
Evonik has therefore developed a PLEXIGLAS® special molding compound, which boasts high durability as well as an aesthetically pleasing high-gloss, jet-black surface. “This is an example of how PLEXIGLAS® combines design and functionality and thereby contributes to shaping innovations,” says Siamak Djafarian, Head of the Product Molding Compounds segment at Evonik, which produces the PLEXIGLAS® molding compounds. In the future, we will continue to encounter PLEXIGLAS® all around us in our everyday lives, in even more creative applications for which designers and engineers utilize the inspiring properties of the brand acrylic glass to make their ideas a reality.