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Thread: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

  1. #1
    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    A good question.... while on this topic, we will talk briefly about cementing acrylic as well.

    Which do we use for aquariums and why? What is the difference?

    To keep it simple, they are manufactured differently.

    Extruded Acrylic is made using an extrusion/die method. This way is the cheapest way to make an acrylic sheet.
    This is a fast, horizontal production of extruding acrylic.

    How extruded acrylic is made is by doing the following:

    Resin pellets are fed into an extruder. Which heats them until they turn into a molten liquid.
    This liquid is then forced through a die which forms a molten sheet. It then air cools, and is done. VERY fast, very cheap to do.

    Cell cast is made by one of three ways...

    The first way is by liquid cooling. Acrylic syrup is poured into a mold made from two tempered glass sheets. The syrup is poured into to this mold, and how ever far apart those two sheets are, is how thick the acrylic will be. The mold is then submerged in a cool liquid, which maintains the proper temperature for the acrylic to cure properly. This makes sure the acrylic does not cure too quickly.

    The second way is the same as the first, but instead of cooling it in liquid, it is cooled in an oven that blows hot air over the mold, which gets cooler and cooler with time. This also stops it from cooling too quickly.

    The third way is also the same as the first... but or the cooling process, the mold has special chambers filled with water that cool the acrylic slowly.

    All cell cast is made the same, except the way it is cooled changes.


    So the differences here are the way they are cooled, and the starting material for each. Cell cast acrylic is already a syrup before it hits the mold. so it is already bound at a molecular level. Extruded is not.

    The end result...

    Cell cast is the harder acrylic, with far better physical and optical properties than that of extruded.

    Extruded is a "soft" acrylic, and is limited in the sizes it can come in.

    ALL aquariums need to be made from cell cast. Extruded is too soft. Although small sumps, and small tanks up to about 10" tall, and not very long, is fine with extruded from my experience.

    When it comes to cementing the acrylic, there is 2 main methods but which method comes down to the thickness of the acrylic being used.

    For 12mm or thinner, the typical method is called the capillary method. This is when 2 pieces of acrylic are pressed together and the cement is applied to the seam. The cement is wicked into the seam when this is done. Usually using a simple angle can be used and taped in place to hold both pieces of acrylic. I have many videos on this.

    The thicker than 12mm we turn to the pin method. This is because on thicker acrylic, the cement can not wick all the way through. So by holding the acrylic up by the thickness of a pin placed in between the panels, we can squirt the cement in place, allow it to soften the acrylic and then remove the pins and clamp the pieces together. This method gives the best results but can prove difficult as the pins allow the panels to move around. A simple angel does not work, however 2 pieces of plywood(each piece the same thickness as the acrylic) cut in the shape of a square with one corner cut off with act as a support. To make this work though, the inside panel needs to be shorter than the outside panel of the plywood by the thickness of the acrylic. This is then place on the outside of the acrylic. Difficult to explain without photos, but i will have a video out shortly. To hold this in place, another small piece of plywood can be screwed on and used as a swing arm.
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  2. #2
    DIYFK member Scryptik's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey Click here to enlarge
    A good question.... while on this topic, we will talk briefly about cementing acrylic as well.

    Which do we use for aquariums and why? What is the difference?

    To keep it simple, they are manufactured differently.

    Extruded Acrylic is made using an extrusion/die method. This way is the cheapest way to make an acrylic sheet.
    This is a fast, horizontal production of extruding acrylic.

    How extruded acrylic is made is by doing the following:

    Resin pellets are fed into an extruder. Which heats them until they turn into a molten liquid.
    This liquid is then forced through a die which forms a molten sheet. It then air cools, and is done. VERY fast, very cheap to do.

    Cell cast is made by one of three ways...

    The first way is by liquid cooling. Acrylic syrup is poured into a mold made from two tempered glass sheets. The syrup is poured into to this mold, and how ever far apart those two sheets are, is how thick the acrylic will be. The mold is then submerged in a cool liquid, which maintains the proper temperature for the acrylic to cure properly. This makes sure the acrylic does not cure too quickly.

    The second way is the same as the first, but instead of cooling it in liquid, it is cooled in an oven that blows hot air over the mold, which gets cooler and cooler with time. This also stops it from cooling too quickly.

    The third way is also the same as the first... but or the cooling process, the mold has special chambers filled with water that cool the acrylic slowly.

    All cell cast is made the same, except the way it is cooled changes.


    So the differences here are the way they are cooled, and the starting material for each. Cell cast acrylic is already a syrup before it hits the mold. so it is already bound at a molecular level. Extruded is not.

    The end result...

    Cell cast is the harder acrylic, with far better physical and optical properties than that of extruded.

    Extruded is a "soft" acrylic, and is limited in the sizes it can come in.

    ALL aquariums need to be made from cell cast. Extruded is too soft. Although small sumps, and small tanks up to about 10" tall, and not very long, is fine with extruded from my experience.

    When it comes to cementing the acrylic, there is 2 main methods but which method comes down to the thickness of the acrylic being used.

    For 12mm or thinner, the typical method is called the capillary method. This is when 2 pieces of acrylic are pressed together and the cement is applied to the seam. The cement is wicked into the seam when this is done. Usually using a simple angle can be used and taped in place to hold both pieces of acrylic. I have many videos on this.

    The thicker than 12mm we turn to the pin method. This is because on thicker acrylic, the cement can not wick all the way through. So by holding the acrylic up by the thickness of a pin placed in between the panels, we can squirt the cement in place, allow it to soften the acrylic and then remove the pins and clamp the pieces together. This method gives the best results but can prove difficult as the pins allow the panels to move around. A simple angel does not work, however 2 pieces of plywood(each piece the same thickness as the acrylic) cut in the shape of a square with one corner cut off with act as a support. To make this work though, the inside panel needs to be shorter than the outside panel of the plywood by the thickness of the acrylic. This is then place on the outside of the acrylic. Difficult to explain without photos, but i will have a video out shortly. To hold this in place, another small piece of plywood can be screwed on and used as a swing arm.
    Explained very well there Joey I had no clue they were produced so differemtly which would explain the cost difference. Need pics of that mold for the acrylic though .... now if I could get the wife to realize why I want some life would be perfect Click here to enlarge


  3. #3
    DIYFK member DavidNZ's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Great info! always wondered the exact differences!
    110L Turtle tank with 1 Red Eared Slider named Speedy. (Soon to be 400L tank!)
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    DIYFK member mccubbja's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Thanks Joey, always helpful!

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    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Always a pleasure gentlemen.
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    DIYFK member Scryptik's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey
    Always a pleasure gentlemen.
    Ummm OK now I am confused am I a gentleman or a caveman


  7. #7
    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Scryptik
    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey
    Always a pleasure gentlemen.
    Ummm OK now I am confused am I a gentleman or a caveman
    which ever you prefer!
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  8. #8
    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Scryptik
    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey
    Always a pleasure gentlemen.
    Ummm OK now I am confused am I a gentleman or a caveman
    how much money you got?
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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Joey as always thanks for the clear and precise answer and now I know what to look for when I start looking for acrylic. BTW, Is there a way to test or see which style it is from looking or examining the product?
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  10. #10
    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by megaphoenix
    Joey as always thanks for the clear and precise answer and now I know what to look for when I start looking for acrylic. BTW, Is there a way to test or see which style it is from looking or examining the product?

    Yes, a couple ways...

    first way is easiest.

    If it is extruded, its protective wrap is plastic. usually blue, but can be any color.

    If its cell cast, it usually has a paper wrap on it.

    Cell cast will generally say GP on the wrap somewhere, while extruded will say FF on the wrap somewhere.

    Next option takes experience. You can tell by the look of it. You generally need them side by side though. Cell cast has the better optical properties... but not by much. Extruded can also be scratched much easier. i use a nail to scratch them, when i forget. Cell cast is not easy to scratch a groove into, extruded is.

    Another visual difference is by taking a look at one of the cut edges. A cell cast edge that has been cut is much smoother with less saw teeth grooves, then extruded.

    Finally, when you cut them. extruded doesnt cut well. it tends to melt, and leave a horrible edge while cutting. cell cast is a big difference. It generally never melts, but takes longer to cut.

    Hope that helps.
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  11. #11
    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    that helps a lot Joey.
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    DIYFK member daddybird21's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    This explains it all for me now. Thank you joey

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    DIYFK member VeeDub's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Thanks Joey, I'm glad I came across this info before ordering acrylic!

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    DIYFK member smokingdragon's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey Click here to enlarge
    A good question.... while on this topic, we will talk briefly about cementing acrylic as well.

    Which do we use for aquariums and why? What is the difference?

    To keep it simple, they are manufactured differently.

    Extruded Acrylic is made using an extrusion/die method. This way is the cheapest way to make an acrylic sheet.
    This is a fast, horizontal production of extruding acrylic.

    How extruded acrylic is made is by doing the following:

    Resin pellets are fed into an extruder. Which heats them until they turn into a molten liquid.
    This liquid is then forced through a die which forms a molten sheet. It then air cools, and is done. VERY fast, very cheap to do.

    Cell cast is made by one of three ways...

    The first way is by liquid cooling. Acrylic syrup is poured into a mold made from two tempered glass sheets. The syrup is poured into to this mold, and how ever far apart those two sheets are, is how thick the acrylic will be. The mold is then submerged in a cool liquid, which maintains the proper temperature for the acrylic to cure properly. This makes sure the acrylic does not cure too quickly.

    The second way is the same as the first, but instead of cooling it in liquid, it is cooled in an oven that blows hot air over the mold, which gets cooler and cooler with time. This also stops it from cooling too quickly.

    The third way is also the same as the first... but or the cooling process, the mold has special chambers filled with water that cool the acrylic slowly.

    All cell cast is made the same, except the way it is cooled changes.


    So the differences here are the way they are cooled, and the starting material for each. Cell cast acrylic is already a syrup before it hits the mold. so it is already bound at a molecular level. Extruded is not.

    The end result...

    Cell cast is the harder acrylic, with far better physical and optical properties than that of extruded.

    Extruded is a "soft" acrylic, and is limited in the sizes it can come in.

    ALL aquariums need to be made from cell cast. Extruded is too soft. Although small sumps, and small tanks up to about 10" tall, and not very long, is fine with extruded from my experience.

    When it comes to cementing the acrylic, there is 2 main methods but which method comes down to the thickness of the acrylic being used.

    For 12mm or thinner, the typical method is called the capillary method. This is when 2 pieces of acrylic are pressed together and the cement is applied to the seam. The cement is wicked into the seam when this is done. Usually using a simple angle can be used and taped in place to hold both pieces of acrylic. I have many videos on this.

    The thicker than 12mm we turn to the pin method. This is because on thicker acrylic, the cement can not wick all the way through. So by holding the acrylic up by the thickness of a pin placed in between the panels, we can squirt the cement in place, allow it to soften the acrylic and then remove the pins and clamp the pieces together. This method gives the best results but can prove difficult as the pins allow the panels to move around. A simple angel does not work, however 2 pieces of plywood(each piece the same thickness as the acrylic) cut in the shape of a square with one corner cut off with act as a support. To make this work though, the inside panel needs to be shorter than the outside panel of the plywood by the thickness of the acrylic. This is then place on the outside of the acrylic. Difficult to explain without photos, but i will have a video out shortly. To hold this in place, another small piece of plywood can be screwed on and used as a swing arm.

    Thank you so much UaruJoey.
    Got all the Resin pellet now. My first plan was the cheapest method. Now with your expertise and information i did not know i can use tempered glass for molding making cell cast plastic which you are super right regarding the durability. Most acrylic i bought here is the fastest and cheapest process which i believe can only make small medium tank and sump.
    Now my problem is slightly solve. The cooling part need to know how to cool it by diy cooling. cant afford to buy a machine for cooling and biggest problem for me now is wheld on or acrylic cement. I cant find one here. Using chloroform but not strong for making big tanks and concern for its durability.
    With this information you share really help me a lot.
    Can i ask one question?
    Can i recycle waste plastic make them into resin pellet? or cell cast is a different resin pellet? or they are both the same?
    Thanks.

  15. #15
    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    I am almost positive that they start out as the same pellet. Its the manufacturing process that separates the two.
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  16. #16
    Spiffyfish
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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Hey Joey i saw your thread on simply discus from the middle of last year, i know your are in Canada do you have any recommendations on where to get supplies for people in the U.S. I am on the west coast. Thanks for any help you may have.

    chris

  17. #17
    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Hi Chris, i like to recommend TAP plastics for those in the states. They have some pretty good prices, and have all the accessories and supplies you will need.
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  18. #18
    Spiffyfish
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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Thanks for the quick response Joey, i will have to give them a call and price some sheets out.

  19. #19
    Owner UaruJoey's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    There was also somewhere here on this site where someone found some SUPER cheap cell cast acrylic in the states... i cant remember who or where it was though... perhaps some one who see's this will remember.
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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey
    There was also somewhere here on this site where someone found some SUPER cheap cell cast acrylic in the states... i cant remember who or where it was though... perhaps some one who see's this will remember.
    Are you thinkimg of the place that sold their scraps cheaply? If that's it, then I will find it.
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  21. #21
    Spiffyfish
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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    That would be great, i have never done anything like this but i like to diy things, and if it is cheaper than even buying a tank then heck im all for that. Im looking to build something in the 150 to 170 range.

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    DIYFK member youdoom's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Thx for the great info.

    Iam also thinking to use this material for my new aquarium.
    I time ago i did see u tube abouth glas vs Acrylic
    It was a very helpfull tube,iam wondering why almost never in holland people use it to build a aquarium.

  23. #23
    DIYFK member oceansedge's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by UaruJoey
    I am almost positive that they start out as the same pellet. Its the manufacturing process that separates the two.

    Cell cast actually starts as separate monomers and is polymerized while curing. That is the reason it has different properties, because the formula for the polymer is different.

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    Head Moderator AussieDIYFK's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    very helpfull info joey thanx, one day i will go acrylic exp with going 4ft tall and 12ft wide u dont see glass in that application
    aquaholic aussie is back

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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by AussieDIYFK
    very helpfull info joey thanx, one day i will go acrylic exp with going 4ft tall and 12ft wide u dont see glass in that application
    Wow, that is going to be one expensive build. I really would like to see that on video. Click here to enlarge
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  26. #26
    DIYFK member matt121966's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Second time read ..... I still don't get the difference.



    Just kidding. Great detailed explanation. Always informative.

  27. #27
    DIYFK member m930mike's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Just To Add A little More To Joey Paragraph.

    Extruded Acrylic Sheet is a more economical general purpose grade of acrylic sheet that is made utilizing an extrusion/die method to produce the sheet. This extrusion process is the most economical approach to the production of acrylic sheet. Extruded sheet however has limitations in its ability to be machined and fabricated, may have detectable "grains" in the surface of the sheet, will have lower physical properties then cast acrylic sheet and more so, it's overall optical quality is not within the standards of "cast acrylic" sheet. Also, extruded acrylic sheet is typically limited to a maximum thickness of 1/4" -so, when thicker sheet is desired, cast acrylic sheet is the only option.

    Cell-Cast Acrylic (vs. Extruded Acrylic Sheet) on the other hand has higher physical properties, vastly higher optical properties, can be produced in very large sheet sizes (72" x 120" maximum) and in a variety of colors and compositions, and can also be produced in very thick gauges.


  28. #28
    DIYFK member matt121966's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Hi Joey - do you have a glass thickness calculator ????

    I see acrylic but not glass.

    Watched your glass tank build video, would or should a glass tank have trim around the top and bottom ??? Will silicone hold without some kind of reinforcement ????

    Thanks, Matt

  29. #29
    DIYFK member CultoftheFish's Avatar


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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Hey all-

    Anyone know of an acrylic company in Minnesota? Would love to go pick up my acrylic closes company I have found so far is In Wisconsin in a town between Madison and Milwaukee. ( about 12 hours round trip not so close Click here to enlarge )
    Any help would be awesome. I live in Chaska, MN USA 55318 Looking for under 4 hours each way!

    Thanks
    Cult

  30. #30
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    Re: Cell cast VS Extruded Acrylic

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by matt121966
    Hi Joey - do you have a glass thickness calculator ????

    I see acrylic but not glass.

    Watched your glass tank build video, would or should a glass tank have trim around the top and bottom ??? Will silicone hold without some kind of reinforcement ????

    Thanks, Matt
    Not a calculator but a chart:

    http://saltaquarium.about.com/od/planas ... ulator.htm
    Working on setting up a 180 gallon SW setup.

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