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Polishing Acrylic & Optical Distortions

Acrylic Windows with a damaged surface do not necessarily need to be replaced like float glass - they can be repaired. For instance aquarium windows, that are exposed to the public for several years, might show scuffs due to vandalism. Improper cleaning by inexperienced personnel could lead to blemishes.

Tips for detecting optical distortion

Local distortion is an easily detected visual imperfection. It is usually caused by the use of improper sanding techniques. Select a straight object at least 0.6 meters beyond the panel and move slowly side to side. Localized distortion actually results in a blind spot (like looking through a magnifying glass), which is most often caused by concentrating sanding to one small area. To remove a distortion, a large area around the distortion must be sanded and "feathered" into the panel. Use a series of sandpapers and remove materials around it to blend the surface. Work across the top of the distortion so you do not make it deeper.

Distortions are also caused by waviness of surfaces, and/or variations in the optical properties of the material itself. In either case, the results are local angular deviation and/or displacement of light rays through the panel.

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Acrylic panel used in a pool. The Colors have been changed for better contrast. The background shows tiles. The tiles are distorted by a patch that has been polished improperly by a local crafts-person. The polished patch acts like a lens.

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Typical optical quality in spherical sector windows. Curtesy of J.Stachiw - not our work