Ideal for detail work and causes MUCH less friction that other reciprocating blade tools. Could ideally be used for the majority of cutting work that doesn't involve precise 90-degree measurement cuts. CAN be used for interior plunge cutting if a 11/16th to 1/4 inch pilot hole is drilled into the material. The blade than be untensioned and fed through the pilot hole.
In order to work with plastics you will need to purchase and use an OSB/Plywood blade (200 teeth) to prevent from cracking/splitting your sheets, which can lead to shrapnel. Higher bite angles work better for most plastics.
Fairly good tool for cutting plastics without splitting, or cracking sheets. Can melt extruded acrylic very quicky if setup improperly. Also one of the easiest tools to control the resulting mess from because all of the shaving come directly out of the bottom. DO NOT buy a new bandsaw that's cheaper than $125. These have alot of moving parts, so unless you can find an industrial-grade bandsaw at an estate or garage sale it's best to buy a quality name brand unit. Cheaper models may be finicky however and this is a very difficult tool to properly calibrate and maintain. So if you have a limited budget and little experience it may be best to opt for a TableSaw instead.
A fairly good substitute for a ScrollSaw, especially when used for interior/detail cutting or sheet trimming. Much more predictable and variable for plastic cutting than a rotary tool. Use metal smooth-cut (24tpi) blades for most cutting. For smaller cuts or low heat tolerance materials scroll-cut wood blades (10tpi upcut/downcut) are recommended. Mine is setup upside-down and attached to a shelfboard to allow me to cut sheets without having to back them with plywood (which I recommend for normal jigsaw operation but can be difficult to setup safely).
Far more controllable and precise than a hand power drill. Will allow you to use spade bits for larger holes as well as help you control your downforce. Drill Bit Set: for holes smaller than 1/4" any drill bit set seems to work fine. But for larger hole diameters a plastic specific set or a good variety of spade bits is essential. I prefer using spade bits over hole saws or larger drill bits if I'm working with plastics (except for ABS and polypropylene which get "gummy" when spade bits are used). Low grit count rotary sanding bits: These are very useful for shaping and smoothing out plastic sheet edges with either a rotary tool or a drillpress.
Hack Saw (or miter saw) Edit
While not at all usable with acrylic a hacksaw works really well with ABS, polyethylene, and thinner sheets of polycarbonate. I don't use these very often so I'm not sure which tooth counts will work best, but wood blades seem to work just fine.
Rotary Tool: While you can most likely do without this tool entirely, it's perfect for smaller shaping and etching tasks. It's not very useful for cutting most plastics though. To avoid excessive melting or blade sticking it's best to use high-speed cutting bits. Abrasive bits will not work properly with most plastic materials.
Needle Files Edit
A triangular needle file works best for flat surfaces and a round one is great for curves. Bot are used for cleaning the edges of sheet after initial cutting, and before sanding them to a finished edge.
X-acto knifes Edit
These can be use to carve softer plastics or use the dull side to deburr cut edges of plastic sheets. A good variety of blade shapes and lengths is recommended.
Deburring Tool Edit
This is a thick handles pen looking too with a curved swivel blade on the end. It's made solely for deburring the edges of cut holes and can make quick work of cleaning up rounded edges and drilled holes. They can be difficult to find because they are machining tools and not woodworking tools so don't expect to find these are Home Depot or Lowe's. Mcmaster.com or Sears are the best places to look.
Heat gun (30w minimum) Edit
USE THIS WITH LEATHER WORK GLOVES, PLIERS, AND A FILTER MASK. This tool is extremely useful and allows you to heat-warp Acrylic and lower thicknesses of Polycarbonate. Must be used outdoors since sheets can leech fumes and the tool itself can be a fire hazard. You have to be careful with it though, and refusing to wear protective gloves will lead to injury. Hot plastic gets tacky and will stick to skin or burn you really quickly. Nevermind that you're also working with a tool that operates above 350F. DO NOT USE GLOVES THAT ARE NOT LEATHER or otherwise unrated as fireproof.
Strip Heater Edit
USE THIS WITH LEATHER WORK GLOVES, PLIERS, AND A FILTER MASK. For long straight heat-warping bends this is the ideal tool. It can heat a wide area evenly and at a more predictable temperature then a heat gun.
Sandpaper (250 to 1000 grit): Edit
If you want finished edges, this will be the most effective method. Flame polishing is a difficult method to perfect and will only work with acrylic so I don't recommend it unless you have a stockpile of scrap to practice on first. When sanding plastic you don't have to progress as slowly as you would when sanding metal, so you may only need 3 sheets (400g, 800g, and 1000g) to get glossy edges.
IPS Weld-on #3 or #4: Edit
This is an extremely useful and effective plastic solvent that fuses ABS, Polycarbonate, and Acrylic together (in any pure combination of the three). Simple brush onto or apply to contact area with syringe then secure pieces together in the final form you want. #3 formula is slightly thicker and faster setting, while #4 is water-thin and sets more securely. #4 is recommended for anything you are trying to make air-tight because it's thin enough to use capillary action to fill all of the gaps between the sheets you are joining together. In order to join sheet edges securely and tightly make sure they are sanded to atleast 400grit level and are straight enough to make a scure bond. You do not have to apply any contact pressure to get a good chemical bond. Over application will lead to ugly, but working joints. Can be applied an reapplied as needed without complications. It's a good idea to use this in a ventilated area, and while it will not adhere your skin to plastic it WILL create permanent fingerprints. This is a mildly toxic substances so excessive skin contact is not a good idea. It with also work with butyrates and styrenes, but I have not tested it on polypropylene or polyethylene yet so you'll need to ask a plastics shop about compatability. I do know that it is completely incompatible with all PVC plastic blends so avoid buying ABS/PVC (Kydex T). ABS/PVC is a crappy plastic anyways. If you need a specific solvent for a material, check out the wide range of products available from IPS: http://www.ipscorp.com Both #3 and #4 (and a whole host of other plastic adhesives) are available from McMaster (page 3229). To apply Weld-on accurately and safely I recommend using 3ml luer-lock syringes with flexible PTFE tubing "needles". These can be purchased from medical supply, or through industrial supply catalogs such as McMaster (part #s 7510A651 & 75175A691)
Guide Courtesy of Captin Slug