Transparent Plastics (Part Two)

in Advanced Composite Materials


Polymerizable cements are those in which a catalyst is added to an already thick monomer-polymer syrup to promote rapid hardening. Cement PS-30® and Weld-On 40® are polymerizable cements of this type. They are suitable for cementing all types of plexiglas acrylic cast sheet and parts molded from plexiglas molding pellets. At room temperature, the cements harden (polymerize) in the container in about 45 minutes after mixing the components. They harden more rapidly at higher temperatures. The cement joints are usually hard enough for handling within 4 hours after assembly. The joints may be machined within 4 hours after assembly, but it is better to wait 24 hours.

Application of Cement

PS-30® and Weld-On 40® joints retain excellent appearance and color stability after outdoor exposure. These cements produce clear, transparent joints and should be used when the color and appearance of the joints are important. PS-30® and Weld-On 40® should be used at temperatures no lower than 65 °F. If cementing is done in a room cooler than 65 °F, it requires a longer time to harden and the joint strength is reduced.

The cement should be prepared with the correct proportions of components as given in the manufacturer’s instructions and thoroughly mixed, making sure neither the mixing container nor mixing paddle adds color or effects the hardening of the cement. Clean glass or polyethylene mixing containers are preferred. Because of their short pot life (approximately 45 minutes), Cement PS-30® and Weld-On 40® must be used quickly once the components are mixed. Time consumed in preparation shortens the effective working time, making it necessary to have everything ready to be cemented before the cements are mixed. For better handling, pour cement within 20 minutes of mixing. For maximum joint strength, the final cement joint should be free of bubbles. It is usually sufficient to allow the mixed cement to stand for 10 minutes before cementing to allow bubbles to rise to the surface. The gap joint technique can only be used with colorless plexiglas acrylic or in cases where joints are hidden. If inconspicuous joints in colored plexiglas acrylic are needed, the parts must be fitted closely, using closed V groove, butt, or arc joints.

Cement forms, or dams, may be made with masking tape as long as the adhesive surface does not contact the cement. This is easily done with a strip of cellophane tape placed over the masking tape adhesive. The tape must be chosen carefully. The adhesive on ordinary cellophane tape prevents the cure of PS-30® and Weld-On 40®. Before actual fabrication of parts, sample joints should be tried to ensure that the tape system used does not harm the cement. Since it is important for all of the cement to remain in the gap, only contact pressure should be used.

Bubbles tend to float to the top of the cement bead in a gap joint after the cement is poured. These cause no problem if the bead is machined off. A small wire (not copper) or similar object may be used to lift some bubbles out of the joint; however, the cement joint should be disturbed as little as possible.

Polymerizable cements shrink as the cement hardens. Therefore, the freshly poured cement bead should be left above the surfaces being cemented to compensate for the shrinkage. If it is necessary for appearances, the bead may be machined off after the cement has set.


Whenever possible, replace, rather than repair, extensively damaged transparent plastic. A carefully patched part is not the equal of a new section, either optically or structurally. At the first sign of crack development, drill a small hole with a # 30 or a 1⁄8-inch drill at the extreme ends of the cracks. [Figure 7-93] This serves to localize the cracks and to prevent further splitting by distributing the strain over a large area. If the cracks are small, stopping them with drilled holes usually suffices until replacement or more permanent repairs can be made.

Figure 7-93. Stop drilling of cracks.

Figure 7-93. Stop drilling of cracks. [click image to enlarge]


Plastics have many advantages over glass for aircraft use, but they lack the surface hardness of glass and care must be exercised while servicing the aircraft to avoid scratching or otherwise damaging the surface. Clean the plastic by washing it with plenty of water and mild soap, using a clean, soft, grit-free cloth, sponge, or bare hands. Do not use gasoline, alcohol, benzene, acetone, carbon tetrachloride, fire extinguisher or deicing fluids, lacquer thinners, or window cleaning sprays. These soften the plastic and cause crazing.

Plastics should not be rubbed with a dry cloth since it is likely to cause scratches and to build up an electrostatic charge that attracts dust particles to the surface. If, after removing dirt and grease, no great amount of scratching is visible, finish the plastic with a good grade of commercial wax. Apply the wax in a thin even coat and bring to a high polish by rubbing lightly with a soft cloth.


Do not attempt hand polishing or buffing until the surface is clean. A soft, open-type cotton or flannel buffing wheel is suggested. Minor scratches may be removed by vigorously rubbing the affected area by hand, using a soft clean cloth dampened with a mixture of turpentine and chalk, or by applying automobile cleanser with a damp cloth. Remove the cleaner and polish with a soft, dry cloth. Acrylic and cellulose acetate plastics are thermoplastic. Friction created by buffing or polishing too long in one spot can generate sufficient heat to soften the surface. This condition produces visual distortion and should be avoided.

Windshield Installation

Use material equivalent to that originally used by the manufacturer of the aircraft for replacement panels. There are many types of transparent plastics on the market. Their properties vary greatly, particularly expansion characteristics, brittleness under low temperatures, resistance to discoloration when exposed to sunlight, surface checking, etc. Information on these properties is in MIL-HDBK-17, Plastics for Flight Vehicles, Part II Transparent Glazing Materials, available from the Government Printing Office (GPO). These properties are considered by aircraft manufacturers in selecting materials to be used in their designs and the use of substitutes having different characteristics may result in subsequent difficulties.

Installation Procedures

When installing a replacement panel, use the same mounting method employed by the manufacturer of the aircraft. While the actual installation varies from one type of aircraft to another, consider the following major principles when installing any replacement panel.

  1. Never force a plastic panel out of shape to make it fit a frame. If a replacement panel does not fit easily into the mounting, obtain a new replacement or heat the whole panel and re-form. When possible, cut and fit a new panel at ordinary room temperature.
  2. In clamping or bolting plastic panels into their mountings, do not place the plastic under excessive compressive stress. It is easy to develop more than 1,000 psi on the plastic by overtorquing a nut and bolt. Tighten each nut to a firm fit, and then back the nut off one full turn (until they are snug and can still be rotated with the fingers).
  3. In bolted installations, use spacers, collars, shoulders, or stop-nuts to prevent tightening the bolt excessively. Whenever such devices are used by the aircraft manufacturer, retain them in the replacement installation. It is important that the original number of bolts, complete with washers, spacers, etc., be used. When rivets are used, provide adequate spacers or other satisfactory means to prevent excessive tightening of the frame to the plastic.
  4. Mount plastic panels between rubber, cork, or other gasket material to make the installation waterproof, to reduce vibration, and to help to distribute compressive stresses on the plastic.
  5. Plastics expand and contract considerably more than the metal channels in which they are mounted. Mount windshield panels to a sufficient depth in the channel to prevent it from falling out when the panel contracts at low temperatures or deforms under load. When the manufacturer’s original design permits, mount panels to a minimum depth of 11⁄8-inches, and with a clearance of 1⁄8-inch between the plastic and bottom of the channel.
  6. In installations involving bolts or rivets, make the holes through the plastic oversize by 1⁄8-inch and center so that the plastic does not bind or crack at the edge of the holes. The use of slotted holes is also recommended.