Drilling PLEXIGLAS®: Nine steps to the perfect drilled hole

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

PLEXIGLAS® is drilled as easily as wood a few special properties must be factored in, however. Find out which drill bits are suitable for PLEXIGLAS®, how to drill and what to look out for during the process. Before you start, prepare your workplace and lay out all necessary tools.

    • Do not remove masking film before drilling
    • Attach the PLEXIGLAS® sheet to a base
    • Use an appropriate drill bit, such as a specially ground twist bit
    • Determine the optimal rotational speed by drilling a test hole
    • Cool the drill hole with water
    • Deburr the drill hole

Materials and tools: Drilling PLEXIGLAS®

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt
  1. PLEXIGLAS® Sheet
  2. Drill bits
  3. Countersink for deburring (or, for large holes, a metal or plastic file or a draw blade)
  4. Stop Angle
  5. Folding ruler
  6. Permanent marker or grease pen
  7. Clamping strip
  8. Screw clamps
  9. Wash bottle with water for cooling
  10. Cotton cloth
  11. Drill
  12. Drill stand (optional)
  13. Wooden Base

Selection of drill and drill bit

A special drill, such as a bench drill or box column drill, is not a prerequisite for drilling PLEXIGLAS® sheets: Any commercially available drill is suitable. Rather than the drill itself, the right drill bit is decisively important for accurate results. One possibility, suitable for DIYers as well as experienced professionals, is a specially ground for acrylic drill bit. Depending on the cutting geometry, however, other drill bits may also be used. Find more details in the brochure titled Machining PLEXIGLAS®.

Spiral bit ground for PLEXIGLAS®

Special spiral drill bits are best suited for drilling PLEXIGLAS® sheets. These have a special cutting geometry: Their cutting edges are ground in such a way that the material is scraped rather than cut. This prevents cracking and breakouts.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

Spade drill bit and Forstner drill bit

Caption below image (max. 400 characters): Spade drill bits and Forstner drill bits, normally used for drilling wood, are also suitable for drilling acrylic sheets. When using bits of this kind, take care that the bits do not transport shavings out of the drill hole. To avoid this, remove shavings in regular intervals. Additionally, adequate cooling with water, for example, is necessary.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

Conical drill bit

Conical drill bits are perfect for use with thin PLEXIGLAS® sheets and PLEXIGLAS® corrugated sheets and tubes. These result in slightly conical holes, which prevent chipping on the exit side of the hole.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

Step drill bit

Thin sheets are also easily drilled with step drill bits, which ensure cylindrical boreholes that are clean and score-free (i.e., free from fine grooves).

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

Milling drill bit

Milling drill bits allow production of the elongated holes used in connector systems, for example. It is particularly important to cool adequately with water when milling with milling drill bits.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

Hole saw

For drilling holes of large diameter a hole saw with fine tooth pitch can be used with thin materials. A low rotational speed and adequate water cooling are important here. The spaces between the teeth of the hole saw should be cleaned regularly. For this type of drilling, the workpiece must be well secured.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

The drill bit you should choose depends on the thickness of the sheet and the diameter of the required drill hole. Tip: Test the drilling process on a practice piece.

When you have all the necessary tools and materials laid out, you’re ready to start. There are just a few things to keep in mind, and remember to go step by step. Find more details in the brochure titled Machining PLEXIGLAS®.


HOW-TO-VIDEO: Drilling PLEXIGLAS®


Instructions: Drilling PLEXIGLAS®

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

1

Do not remove masking film

Do not remove the masking film from the acrylic sheet.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

2

Mark out the position of the drill hole

Mark out the position of the hole using a grease pen or permanent marker. The minimum distance from the edges is 1.5 times the required diameter of the borehole. Further information on marking out the drill hole position is available in the brochure Machining PLEXIGLAS®.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

3

Clamp the sheet to the base

For accurate drilling, first, lightly secure the sheet with clamps or screw clamps to a firm, level base, of wood, for example; this could be a workbench or table. Before each drilling session clean the base so that no sharp-edged parts project from it. You may also clamp the material in a bench vice with protective jaws. Align the workpiece accurately before clamping it.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products

4

Set rotational speed

Many drills have the option to set the rotational speed. For neat results, working with a low rotational speed is recommended. As a rule of thumb: the greater the diameter of the borehole, the lower the rotational speed. Further information on cutting parameters is available in the diagram and the brochure Machining PLEXIGLAS®. You can also try out the appropriate settings on a practice piece (see also step 5).

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

5

Check rotational speed

The shavings produced while drilling indicate whether the rotational speed is correct. The images show the influence of rotational speed or cutting speed and feed rate on the quality of the drill hole, in this case with a PLEXIGLAS® sheet.

Above: optimal rotational speed and correct feed rate: smooth drill hole surface, smooth, continuous chip.
Center: rotational speed and/or feed rate too high: crumbly chip, rough drill hole.
Below: rotational speed and/or feed rate too low: overheating, drill hole shows signs of degradation, fused chip.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

6

Align drill bit

Place the drill bit on the marking indicated and drill briefly. In this way you can check the position of the borehole.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

7

Drilling

Switch on the drill before starting to drill.

Important: Shortly before drilling through the sheet, you should reduce the feed rate to prevent chipping.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

8

Airing and cooling

For material thicknesses greater than 5 mm the drill bit should be regularly cooled down to prevent overheating. This is done by raising it briefly. You should also cool the drill hole. This is best done with water, which you fill into a wash bottle. Spray water into the hole at regular intervals. This is especially important for drill bits where shavings accumulate fast, such as when using spade drill bits.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Stefan Wildhirt

9

Deburring the borehole

You should deburr the borehole on both sides, using a countersink; in this way the small notches arising during boring are prevented. For relatively large drill hole diameters you can use a scraper for deburring.


Tips and additional notes

  • Shavings or dust form during drilling; we therefore recommend that you take appropriate protective measures.
  • Remove the masking film only when all work steps are complete.
  • Do not touch the shavings or the borehole immediately after drilling as they may still be hot. Be careful when removing shavings.

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