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NCA news Archives - NCA Ltd | Precision Engineered Plastics & Acrylics | Chromatography columns

NCA news

what is normalising acrylic

What is Normalising Acrylic?

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we share into our latest developments, projects and  insights from our plastic engineering company. As often occurs in discussions with clients, we provide a comprehensive overview of our services and solutions to meet the demands of each project. Part of our commitment to providing the highest quality of product and service within our manufacturing capability is to offer our own tailor made solutions to the needs of each client. In today’s blog we discuss a question and topic that arises often, the annealing or normalising of acrylic and what this process means for your project.

Firstly, what is annealing or normalising of acrylic? Normalising and annealing of acrylic are another way to refer to the process of heat treatment that is applied to the acrylic. It is a vital part of the process which ensures that the high tolerance loads are maintained during the machining, binding and polishing of acrylic which prevents cracking and crazing. Crazing refers to the phenomenon that produces a network of fine cracks on the surface of a material, for example in a glaze layer. Crazing frequently precedes fracture in some glassy thermoplastic polymers. As it only takes place under tensile stress, the plane of the crazing corresponds to the stress direction

Normalising and annealing are both two parts of the a process that work in tandem to produce the finished result. Firstly, normalising gives the plastic a uniform structure which gives assurances as to the plastic’s mechanical properties. Annealing is the second part of the process which changes the microstructure and properties of the plastic. Reducing internal stresses and hardness, annealing ensures better mechanical and thermal properties.

Heat treating also can help to eliminate internal stresses for better mechanical and thermal properties. Without this important process, it is almost impossible to produce accurate plastic components to precise tolerances.

Our expertise within the fabrication of plastics allows our team to heat treat plastics to the highest of standards required for your project which can be adjusted depending on the properties of the plastic such as its thickness, applications and the properties of the plastics themselves. 

The most cost effective process to heat treat plastics is through either casting or extrusion. However, both processes can cause materials to be highly stressed and create a surface skin which can pull and distort components during and after the manufacturing processes. In order to avoid such issues and prolong the lifespan of the finished components, NCA Ltd hear treat our machined component parts thus preventing both internal stress and the formation of a surface skin. 

The impact of heat treatment on materials such as acrylic (PMMA) can cause material shrinkage of around 2% and 4%. This is a result of the material relaxing and releasing the internal stresses that have developed during the casting or extrusion processes.

At NCA Ltd we work closely with each client to develop components that not only can be produced on budget and on time, but also give a reliable and long performance with minimal stresses. Designed and fabricated to the requirements of each project, we seek to offer long term solutions to your challenges. For more information on any of our acrylic engineering services and to request a quotation, contact 01928 79020 or via  nca@ncaltd.co.uk 

USP 87 and USP 88 (Class VI) Certification

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we offer the latest insights, updates and developments at NCA Ltd. This week, we are delighted to announce that our material NORLITE has been certified for  USP 87 and USP 88 (Class VI). Our Acrylic (PMMA) has now been re-approved for medical device application and supports the market interest in our manufacturing capability.

What is USP Class VI Testing?

USP Class testing is one of the most common methods of testing to determine bio-compatibility of materials. There are six classes, VI being the most rigorous. Class VI testing is aimed to certify that there are no harmful reactions or long-term bodily effects caused by chemicals that leach out of plastic materials. USP Class testing is frequently conducted on plastic materials that are used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. 

USP Class VI Testing Methods

USP Class VI testing is conducted by producing an extract of the product with different extraction fluids, such as polyethylene glycol and vegetable oil, and injecting it in specimen (rabbits and mice) in vivo (alive), to observe the biological response to the extract. Testing is commonly done as per USP <88>, which requires three types of testing: systemic injection, intracutaneous, and implantation.

Systemic Injection Test (Acute Systemic Toxicity): Test specimen are injected with the extract intravenously and observed for 72 hours. The specimen are monitored for any abnormal toxic reactivity. The scientist determines the test as pass/fail.

Intracutaneous Test: The purpose of this test is to check for any local skin reactions. Test Specimen are injected with the extract intracutaneously and observed for 72 hours. The reactions are scored and averaged.

Implantation Test: Specimens are implanted with the product material to observe the reaction of the live tissue in direct contact with the product over a span of at least 120 hours (5 days).

Why should products be USP Class VI?

Class VI testing extensively investigates the reaction in the body, skin, and living tissue to ensure safety. USP Class VI is a common standard for pharmaceutical and food industry tubing, fittings, single-use systems, and fabricated parts. Reaching this standards demonstrates NCA Ltd’s commitment to the fabrication of the highest standards and integrity. 

For more information about our services, or to speak to our team, contact  01928 790209 or email  nca@ncaltd.co.uk

Plastic Polishing Services

By | NCA news

As one of the UK’s leading acrylic engineering firms, NCA Ltd work with a range of tools and equipment to ensure that our engineered components meet both our exacting standards and those of each client. In today’s blog we focus on an element that is used within our production, acrylic polishing, and how this step within the process ensures that the final product is fit to leave our fabrication plant. We will also outline the two main types of finishing that we use in our plastic polishing services: manual and mop polishing and vapour polishing

What is acrylic polishing and why is it important? 

For  however accurate and precise fabrication methods can be, unevenness and blemishes across the surface of machined plastics can occur such as saw marks, blemishes or scratches. Of course, this is not ideal because of two main reasons. Primarily, the finish itself is not aesthetically pleasing to look at and is not uniform. And secondly, the non-uniform finish is undesirable because it can also make bonding the piece difficult.  Acrylic is polished in order to forgo such issues resulting in beautifully crisp and neat edges that can be properly and uniformly bonded. What’s more, depending on the specifications and requirements of the project, when high levels of optical clarity, vapour polishing (also know as super-finishing) is used to achieve the required level of optical clarity. 

What is mop and manual polishing?

Acrylic, like many other engineering plastics, can be mop or manually polished by hand to help improve the surface finishing, remove scratches and create an even finish on the surface improving its appearance. Before polishing is undertaken, it is vital to have a decent machined finishing on the piece to make sure that dimensions are maintained.

Mop polishing uses a variety of mops and cloths at various levels of abrasiveness and specialist abrasive solutions that work by removing a layer of the surface material to leave a polished finish. Depending on the amount of parts and the shape of the parts being polished the process can either be done by hand or through automated machines and processes. Generally speaking, small quantities and unusual shapes will be mop polished by hand whereas large, more uniform shapes will be automated. 

What is vapour polishing? 

Vapour polishing is another method of polishing plastics that, like mop and manual polishing, aims to reduce the roughness of the surface and improve the optical clarity of the plastic.  

Vapour polishing works at a microscopic level and leads to incredible optical clarity. It is done by using the volatile gas of Weldon 4 solvent which is highly reactive to the surface chemistry of polycarbonates. In a controlled environment, Weldon 4 solvent is heated to its boiling point creating vapours that are sprayed across the surface of the piece. The plastic then melts at the surface, filling in the minute scratches (the roughness), which quickly solidifies once the gas is no longer present creating an even and clear finish. 

Typically vapour polishing is used on materials which require a high level of optical transparency such as lenses leading to improvements in both the internal and external surface finishes. Vapour polishing has the advantage of being able to polish internal, detailed features such as threads, apertures, channels and sample inspection areas that would be impossible with manual polishing. 

Below is an interesting comparison of both polishing methods by one of our favourite Youtube channels ‘Applied Sciences’ who tries out a combination of different polishing techniques. 


In next week’s blog, the start of a new series, we will be exploring our machining capabilities in a range of industries starting with chemical processing. For more information on our acrylic and engineered plastic polishing, contact our team via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or 01928 790209.

our latest venture

An Exciting new Venture

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the latest from our plastic fabrication and acrylic engineering business. Over the last few months we have been busily preparing for a new venture with our latest side-project; Pet Ashes.

PetAshes is born out of our close personal ties to the veterinary profession and our love of pets (many of our team been lifelong dog and pet owners) and the difficulties and hardship when they pass. The loss of a pet is a difficult time and feelings of grief and sadness and common. PetAshes seeks to help those who have lost their pets with our handcrafted pet ash keepsakes and memorial items.

What’s more, many pet owners are unsure as to what to do with the ashes of their pet and scattering the ashes as well as storing them can lead to feelings of guilt and further loss. Our beautiful items use only a teaspoon of ash that is encapsulated and mixed into the acrylic mixture before being cast into a range of keepsakes.

Pet ashes photo frames 

Our handcrafted photo frames use a special techniques developed by our team to encapsulate the ashes inside the frame allowing you to place a special photo inside. Available in a range of shapes, for dog owners we suggest the bone shaped ash photo frame and the classic heart shaped ash photo urn

Pet Ash Memorial Plaques

Personalised memorial plaques can be used in a similar way to our photo frames. The big difference is that these can be used outside. For example, customers of ourselves have placed these items underneath trees and in their gardens as a way to remember their dog. Each of the photo memorial plaques feature a photo inside an acrylic block and a tactile, beautiful heart in a range of colours. 

Pet Cremation Ornaments

Our pet cremation ornaments are expertly crafted into a range of shapes including a resting dog, sleeping cat and unique horse hair memento.  Much like our other memorial items, the resting dog ornament features ashes mixed into the acrylic which is then hand cast into the figure. 

For more information on any of the items featured or to request a sample pack, contact our team via hello@petashes.co.uk or on 01928 790209. 


cnc turning services

Plastic Reverse Engineering

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the latest developments from our plastic fabrication company. Based in the north west, for over 40 years our teams have produced a range of products for many industries including the pharmaceutical, food and aerospace industries. Often, many of our clients will approach us looking for a design to be created from an existing component that they have in their possession. In today’s blog we talk about the reverse engineering of plastic parts.

Plastic reverse engineering can be used in a number of ways to produce a new part from an existing component. For example, if a part is made from materials such as metal or fiberglass our engineers are able to reverse engineer the item into thermoformed plastic parts. Typically these are medium to large components that can be made lighter and/or more cost effective with a thermoformed part.

Reverse Engineering Process

With our extensive plastic engineering expertise, plastic prototyping and experience within the production of plastic pipework  we can help with the development and converting of existing components into a plastic. We help our clients to: 

  • Review the existing part for form, fit and function
  • Formulate the design concept in plastic
  • Create electronic CAD files of the plastic part
  • Complete the process by manufacturing the new part with plastic thermoforming

Reverse engineering a part or component has a number of benefits, including: 

  • Less weight and all its accompanying benefits, such as lower fuel consumption and less structural stress
  • Lower manufacturing cost
  • Higher strength-to-weight ratio
  • Greater flexibility in product design

Our dedicated team of plastic fabrication experts offer the following services that align with your corporate and project goals: 

  • Reverse engineering to transform parts to thermoformed plastic
  • 3D CAD modelling using SolidWorks software
  • Tool design
  • CNC programming 
  • Plastics engineering for thermoforming
  • Plastics design for manufacturability (DFM)

For more information on our plastic reverse engineering services,  contact our team today via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or on 01928 790209.

cnc turning services

New Pages

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the very latest in our new developments and offer a behind the scenes look into our fully-equipped workshop. As leading plastic fabricators, we offer a range of services to help our clients to find solutions to their engineering challenges. In today’s blog, we highlight three new pages (yet not new services!) that we have added to our website. 

We provide a comprehensive CNC routing, CNC Machining and CNC Turning service that are tailored to the project requirements of each client. For over 30 years, we have invested in  state-of-the-art CNC equipment that allows our team of experienced engineers to produce high quality, high volume work that is on time and on budget. We offer a complete 360 degree project management service from our fully-equipped workshop in the North-West of the UK. 

We provide a complete end-to-end service to ensure quality and success at every stage of your project. From the initial design and production of CAD drawings using the latest technologies to the production of each part, our experienced engineers and teams have the experience and technical knowledge to ensure that your project runs smoothly. Our services includes:

  • Initial planning, design and CAD creation if required
  • Project management and a dedicated account manager
  • Bespoke advice and assistance with technical development of products
  • Research and development of plastic 
  • CNC Routing, including complex shaping
  • Our skilled operators and advanced CNC machines allow our team to consistently and accurately precision engineer complex shapes and designs from a range of plastics with minimal wastage.


For more information on our CNC services, contact our team today via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or on 01928 790209.

What is cast acrylic?

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the latest developments, news and updates from our plastic fabrication and acrylic engineering business. Often, when we are approached by clients they may ask various questions about our processes, procedures and the materials used. Of course, various materials and plastics have different qualities that can both lend themselves to specific operative environments as well as impact cost. In today’s blog post we offer a complete guide to acrylic in “What is cast acrylic”.

What is acrylic?

Firstly, what is acrylic? Well, depending on where you are in the world acrylic can have various names and meanings. Cast acrylic is a form of poly(methyl methacrylate) which itself is transparent thermoplastic that is often used as a lightweight and shatter proof alternative to glass. Cast acrylic is formed through a casting process where a monomer, methyl methacrylate, is mixed with initiators. A monomer is a substance that causes a reaction and polymerises into the polymer. Acrylic has many names and is also known as Lucite, Acrylite, Pexiglass and PerClax amongst others. Acrylic sheets and rods are made by casting into casts whilst acrylic tubes are done through molds that rotate using the centrifugal force to push the material into position.

What are the properties of cast acrylic?

Cast Acrylic has excellent durability and optically clear transparency and lends itself to a wide scope of uses such as in acrylic tubes and other commercial and architectural uses. Whats more, cast acrylic is much more common than you may realise and is used in mobile phone displays, cars and even furniture design. 

What is Acrylic Casting?

Acrylic casting  refers to the  technique of plastic casting where the mold is filled with liquid synthetic resin that then hardens. This means the literal pouring of liquids into sculpted molds to create a final shape.

At NCA Ltd, whilst we do not cast the acrylic used in our projects, our expertise and knowledge of the material allows our team to offer industry leading advice to each client based on their specifications and requirements. For more information about our services and how we can assist your project or to request a quote, contact our team via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or on 01928 790209. 

What are Chromatography Columns

What are Chromatography Columns?

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA blog where we bring you the latest developments from our acrylic and plastic engineering company. Central to our recent expansion and offering of both new services, we want to take the opportunity with this blog to explore one of our key products: Chromatography Columns. As a leading manufacturer of chromatography columns NCA Ltd have, for over 30 years, produced custom made Chromatography Columns for a range of industries and uses. In today’s blog, we explore the use of chromatography columns and why NCA Ltd is at the forefront of their production.

What is chromatography? 

Chromatography is a technique used in laboratories to separate a given mixture. Firstly, the mixture is dissolved into a fluid which is referred to as the mobile phase. The fluid carries the mixture through a structure that holds a different material and is known as the stationary phase. The various parts of the mixture travel at different speeds which causes them to separate based on the differential between the mobile and stationary phase. Chromatography can be used for a variety of purposes such as the purification of a material as a way to either prepare it for use in another process or to separate it for analytical purposes. 

What is a chromatography column?

A Chromatography column is a piece of technology that is used in chromatography to separate the chemical compounds within a mixture. The chromatography column contains the stationary phase of the process and allows the mobile phase to pass through. 

What is the difference between a liquid chromatography column and a gas chromatography column?

Liquid chromatography columns were originally made from glass and have since been replaced by more modern methods such as acrylic chromatography columns. In order to stop the stationary phase mixture leaking out a net inside is usually applied and is often made from stainless steel, ceramic or a polymer. Gas columns were once more popular and have since been replaced by liquid chromatography columns. Previously, gas columns were made of glass or metal and packed with particles of the solid stationary phase. The amkot difference between liquid and gas columns is that within liquid columns the mixture is passed through the process through a liquid solution whereas the sample is passed through the equipment during the gas phase in a gas column. 

Why use NCA to produce your chromatography columns?

Each of our chromatography columns is bespokely made for each client to exceptional standards. We pride ourselves on being able to work closely with each client to fulfill their brief and requirements, helping to create innovative engineered solutions. Our fully equipped workshop allows our team to work at each phase of a project and to control the quality to the highest of standards.

For more information on our services, contact our team via  nca@ncaltd.co.uk or on 01928 790209.

What is the difference between Cast and Extruded Acrylic?

What is the difference between Cast & Extruded Acrylic?

By | NCA news

NCA Ltd have, for over 40 years, been a specialist plastic fabrication firm. Throughout our many conversations with our clients, the differences between cast and extruded acrylic have been discussed at length. In this week’s blog post we explain both what the differences between the two are as well as the benefits of both. 


Regardless if they are formed through casting of through extrusion, acrylic polymers are materials that are the result of a chemical reaction between a monomer and a catalyst.Lighter in weight than glass and often a substitute for it, acrylic, also known as Plexiglas or Lucite, is prized for its transparency and strength.

Glass moulds are used to create Cast Acrylic and is where the liquid ingredients and mixed together – the mold giving the shape of the object. Whilst more labour intensive, thus more expensive, casting yields a harder and more uniform final product. This is because casting creates a greater chemical resistance compared to extrusion and is preferred in certain uses such as those involving fragrances, lotions or solvents. Cast acrylic is available in an almost infinite range of colours and is more pliable than extruded acrylic meaning it is both stronger and less likely to melt, bend or chip during its production. Cast acrylic is often more desirable than extruded acrylic as it is not limited in thickness making it a better option for larger structures. 

Benefits of Cast Acrylic

  • Greater range of thickness
  • Lightweight and rigid
  • Low water absorption
  • Excellent optical properties
  • Good electrical and UV resistivity
  • Resistance to long-term exposure to sunlight and weathering


Benefits of Extruded Acrylic

  • Thermoformable
  • Less expensive than glass or cast acrylic
  • Excellent optical properties
  • More impact resistant than glass
  • Good electrical and UV resistivity

Acrylic extrusion is a manufacturing technique where the acrylic monomers are first heated before being fed into barrels where the chemical process takes place. Extruded acrylic is Extrusion is a continuous manufacturing production method where acrylic monomers are first heated then fed through barrels where the chemical process occurs. 

Generally, extruded acrylic costs less than cast acrylic and is more stable meaning that the thickness across the sheets is more consistent. Because extruded acrylic is softer than cast acrylic is easier to cut, rout and can be polished more cost effectively. 

Extruded acrylic is less susceptible to dirt, lint, or particulate contamination in the production process and, because of its lower melting point, it is better suited to cementing and thermoforming than ast acrylic. 

At NCA Ltd our experienced teams of engineers can assist you in exploring which type of acrylic to use on your project. Experienced in the design and production of plastic products, our specialist team work with each client to create cost effective solutions to solve real world problems. For more information on our services and to discuss your requirements, contact our team via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or on 01928 790209.

plastic prototyping service

What is plastic prototyping?

By | NCA news

What is plastic prototyping? 

Plastic prototyping, as the name suggests,is the process of using specific techniques to create a 3D, real world physical model of a design idea or brief. Plastic prototypes are used to create a physical model that can be used before full production is started to refine the design and to test the engineering. Economical and quick to develop, plastic prototyping allows for ideas to be explored without the commitment to a full line of production or a finalised design. 

NCA Ltd offer a comprehensive plastic prototyping service from our fully-equipped modern workshop. Using the latest design and fabrication technology and equipment, our experienced teams of engineers produce high quality, cost-effective plastic prototypes design to the exact specifications and requirements of each client. Each of our prototypes are designed to withstand testing allowing you to have confidence before a=confirming the final run and investing in tooling and manufacturing.

We are proud to offer a service that blends design, production and advanced prototyping technologies to provide you with the perfect solution for your plastic prototypes and low volume needs.

The benefits for rapid plastic prototyping include

  • Physical model of the product concept
  • Testing before production
  • Resolve and find design flaws
  • Expand sizes, colours and finishes 

At NCA we have over 40 years of experience in plastic fabrication and acrylic engineering. Our in house team work with each client to assist in both the design and fabrication of products and we are proud to offer a comprehensive plastic prototyping service. 

Our design and engineering teams work with each client to advice effective solutions and assist in the engineering and design stages of the product drawing on our industry leading experience and expertise. 

For more information on our plastic prototyping service, contact our team on nca@ncaltd.co.uk or via 01928 790209.