I am in the planning stage of a table project and have a question about a piece of acrylic. I intend to use a 3' x 3' square piece of acrylic that is 0.236" thick as the center. Would a 1" lip on all edges be enough to prevent this large acrylic sheet from sagging in the middle? Is there any way to calculate the thickness I need?

  • 2
    Everything sags. How much sag is a problem?
    – bib
    Sep 22, 2012 at 2:33
  • 1
    Trying to avoid a big dip. I want it to take a little pushing pressure before showing any bendage. It is difficult for someone that is not really experienced with this to give you an estimate on exactly how much is too much.
    – Dave C
    Sep 22, 2012 at 2:40
  • 1
    There won't be a load on it at all. I am making a large touch screen with it. At most, a few fingers putting pressure.
    – Dave C
    Sep 22, 2012 at 2:53
  • 1
    Hmm thanks for the feedback, I'm going to have to chew on this for awhile. The thicker the acrylic, the more expensive it gets. The place I intend to order from offers a 10/32" I guess I can bump it up to that and double the lip size. Sadly, I can't use any kind of post. If you paste your comments into an answer, I will mark it.
    – Dave C
    Sep 22, 2012 at 3:22
  • 1
    Hi @davec. Please don't make trivial edits just to bump your question. If you have substantial new information to add, please do so, but what you've done just annoys people.
    – Niall C.
    Sep 28, 2012 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


Until you get to very thick small units, or goods more rigid than plexi (such as glass, which also flexes and sags) you will have some deflection. It also depends on whether there will be any weight on it.

If 1/4 inch (with no load) is not a problem (this is a guess) then you may be ok. If you are putting a 10 lb. plaster statue on it, it will flex. If it can't flex more than .001 inch, no matter what, it won't work.

It also depends on how you affix the edges. The more captured they are, the less flex. Touching the middle of a 3x3 acrylic sheet, less than 1/4 inch thick, that is not tightly locked around the edges, will likely flex significantly.

Manufacturers may offer specs on how much their plastic flexes over certain distances.


Commenters are right: Everything sags under its own weight. The question is how much you'll tolerate.

There are simple formulas for the deflection of simple structures like this. For a uniformly loaded square plate with simply supported edges,

enter image description here.

And for a plate with clamped edges,

enter image description here,

where d is maximum deflection, W is the load, L is the length of a side, E is the elastic modulus and t is the thickness.

Your acrylic is uniformly loaded by its own weight. For now let's ignore extra deflection caused by poking fingers. Since you might attach your acrylic square to the rest of the table somehow, its actual deflection will probably be between these two numbers.

Let's do the worst case, where there is no overhang and you're supporting the acrylic right at the edges:

W = 1.18 g/cc * (36 in)^2 * 0.236 in * 9.81 m/s^2 = 58 N

L = 36 in = 0.9144 m

E = 2.6 GPa

t = 0.236 in = 6 mm

For supported edges d = 3.8 mm, for clamped edges d = 1.2 mm.

To a decent approximation, leaving a one-inch border just changes 36 in to 34 in:

W = 1.18 g/cc * (34 in)^2 * 0.236 in * 9.81 m/s^2 = 51.8 N

L = 34 in = 0.8636 m

For supported edges d = 3.0 mm, for clamped edges d = 0.9 mm.

  • 1
    +1 Very interesting. Where did the elastic modulus and the weight come from?
    – bib
    Sep 23, 2012 at 1:33
  • 1
    In this case, I asked Wolfram Alpha. Sep 23, 2012 at 3:21
  • 1
    That was a great response, thanks for taking the time to answer.
    – Dave C
    Sep 26, 2012 at 20:31
  • I don't understand the W calculation. The units seem totally wrong. A Newton is kg*m/s^2. Your calculation is in grams, not kilograms and you have inches there that never get converted apparently, etc. Jul 21, 2021 at 0:34

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