Using plastic for your home or professional project is an easy choice. It is affordable, accessible, and durable. However, constructing a project with plastic can be challenging especially with drilling. Plastics like acrylic, plexiglass, ABS, Lexan, polycarbonate, and PVC can be easily damaged when drilling.
For these materials, you will need to have the right tools and knowledge. If you want to know how do you drill into plastic without cracking it, read on to know how to do it, avoid mistakes, and see the best products to work with.
Common Issues with Drilling Plastic
Drilling in plastics can result in damage and wastage when you’re not careful. The brittleness of the material makes it susceptible to destruction. If you will just do the traditional drilling method, it can create irregular holes and rough edges on the material. These small chips can worsen into cracks over time because of wear and tear.
Another cause of plastic cracks is when you continuously drill and don’t take the load off the material. The weight and friction of the drill can heat the plastic surface that can initiate cracking. Be careful not to create splinters since these are just as bad as cracks.
Scuffing is an issue you want to avoid as well. Even if it won’t break, it can damage how it looks. Plastic is often clear or frosted and scuff marks will not look good on any finished project.
How To Avoid These Issues
You can prevent these damages with these simple steps.
Clamp It Down
Before you start drilling, it’s best to clamp down the plastic material to a solid surface. Back it up also with plywood or timber so the drill bit enters the plywood when it gets thru the plastic. This method will reduce chipping at the plastic’s bottom surface.
Lubricate the Drilling Surface
Remember to also swipe some lubricant on the surface to minimize the heat caused by the friction of the drill. Keep it handy during drilling too to remove the debris left on the surface. Be on the lookout since the lubricant might make the shavings gummy and sticky. If this happens, stop drilling and let the plastic cool first before resuming. Mark the area as well with a measuring tape or ruler for precision since it is hard to undo a hole once you’ve started.
Use A Drill Press
When choosing the equipment, handheld drills are widely used especially for personal projects. However, using a drill press will be better suited for the job. A drill press is a machine with a rotating point that is usually clamped at a flat surface.
It can create a more precise hole and you can also program the bit’s feed rate as it needles through the plastic. This reduces the human error of going drilling too much and ruining the material. If you don’t have a drill press or handheld drill, you can create a hole using an electric knife, screwdriver, hammer, or soldering iron. Don’t just melt plastic since it has fumes that can be dangerous to your health when you breathe it in.
Drilling Speed Matters
If you want to know how to drill a hole in the plastic, remember these tips. When drilling a larger hole, your drill speed should be slower. High-speed drilling can melt off the plastic surrounding the hole.
For example, if you need a small hole with a diameter of 1/8”, you can go at the maximum speed of 3,500 rpm. As soon as the drill bit sticks out the other side of the plastic, further reduce drill speed. As you drill, put pressure on the panel to prevent plastic from lifting. Take note to drill away from the edge of the plastic sheet to prevent cracking. Remember to also use the peck drilling method for a smoother hole.
This method drills a hole little by little, removing the bit from the hole while cleaning away the shavings. This method helps in decreasing the dirt build-up and minimizing the heat that can build on the surface. Keep in mind to drill a slightly larger hole for an allowance to the screw since plastic tends to expand or contract depending on the temperature.
Choose the Right Drill Bits
Selecting the best drill bits for plastics is also important. Professionals recommend the spur points bits, also known as dowel bits. This kind of bit has a central point and spurs that keep the bit centered during drilling which creates a clean and smooth hole. If you don’t have this specific bit, choose one with a sharp point at 60 degrees angle and a back relief angle with at least 15 degrees. The cutting edge’s back relief angle makes sure that it shaves away the plastic rather than chucking it off that can create larger cracks.
The Norseman Acrylic Point Drill Set
If you are looking for drill bits for plastic, you can try the Norseman Acrylic Point Drill Set. It is made from a special Hi-Molybdenum tool steel which adds strength to the bit and makes it corrosion-resistant. The Norseman drill bits have a gold-treated body, point, and flute for enhanced lubricity. This set contains 1/8”, 5/32”, 3/16”, 7/32”, ¼”, 5/16”, and 3/8” drill bits with its exclusive Super Chip-free points. It can be used for handheld drills, drill press, and automated machines.
Pack and organize them easily since it comes with a vinyl pouch. Customers online have given it high star ratings for preventing plastic tear-outs during drilling and providing precise holes needed. They even wrote that having the Norseman 7pc Acrylic Point Drill Set in their toolbox saved them time and money on repairs.
Drilling in plastic might be tricky but can be done easily with the right tools and techniques. Since plastic materials vary in thickness and brittleness, always test in a sample piece first. We hope this article helped you in remembering the key points on how to drill a hole in the plastic.
You can also check out the recommended drill set and see if it fits your needs. Keep these tips in mind so you can continue to create and build with all kinds of plastic with no hassle.