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World First: Acrylic Sheet Bends Without Thermoforming

Image: Altuglas Arkema 4 Multi50 class trimaran
Flexibility was imparted to the PMMA-based ShieldUp Flex sheet from Altuglas without the addition of plasticizers and without altering the material’s properties.

A newly developed transparent, flexible acrylic sheet can be bent and curved manually without the use of thermoforming. The Altuglas International research team in France overcame a key technical hurdle of PMMA, which is known for its rigidity, to invent ShieldUp Flex sheet, which has been made flexible without the addition of plasticizers and without altering the material's properties. ShieldUp Flex is chemical and impact resistant, making this patented innovation the ideal solution for projects that require transparency, durability, light weight, shock resistance, and flexibility, said Altuglas in its announcement. That got the attention of boat builder Lalou Roucayrol, who designed the new Arkema 4 Multi50 class trimaran.

Arkema 4 Multi50 class trimaran
ShieldUp Flex sheet has its world premiere on the Arkema 4 Multi50 class trimaran. Image courtesy Arkema.

Roucayrol was sourcing a material that combined a number of properties, not always readily compatible, for the boat’s roof and cockpit, specifically:

  • Flawless visibility and strong shock resistance under extreme weather conditions to protect the skipper;
  • weight reduction to improve the boat’s performance; and
  • easy installation. 

ShieldUp Flex sheet satisfied all of those requirements, said Altuglas, and more. Notably, by eliminating the thermoforming step, designers were able to manually bend the cut sheet to the desired dimensions and glue it directly onto the boat. “ShieldUp Flex was the product we’d been waiting for — reduced weight, better resistance, and, above all, flexible implementation without the need for a long and painstaking thermoforming phase,” enthused Roucayrol.

Arkema 4 Multi50 class trimaran detail
ShieldUp Flex combines perfect visibility with strong shock resistance to protect the skipper of the Arkema 4 trimaran. Image courtesy Arkema.

ShieldUp Flex is having its world premiere on the Arkema 4 trimaran, and Altuglas sees smooth sailing ahead for the flexible acrylic sheet in numerous other applications. It opens up new design possibilities for 2D curved pieces, according to the company, which anticipates its use in industrial glazings, signage, lighting, interior architecture and design, as well as COVID-19-secure protective screens, in addition to traditional PMMA applications such as vehicle glazings. “There is no doubt that this kind of innovation will pave the way for new applications, be they in electronics (smart object screens) or personal protective equipment, a field that is more relevant today than ever,” added Altuglas.

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