You may have seen Lucite embedments in retail stores: the shiny, free-standing, crystal-like signs which hold brand name logos suspended within them. Or you may have seen Lucites as decorative gift items. Many times Lucite embedments are used by investment banking firms to acknowledge the completion of a deal, thus the name deal gifts or deal toys, and are awarded to those who have participated. It is in this last area of deal closing gifts that the most creativity and ingenuity have been employed. Some of these Lucite objects are called toys because of their great appeal.
Lucite is an acrylic product, which because of its composition, can be formed into a variety of shapes and sizes. Two ingredients are mixed to produce Lucite, one an acrylic resin powder and the other a crystal clear liquid called a monomer. The combination results in a thick, opaque liquid, which is hand poured into molds and allowed to partially set. The Lucite’s mold is made larger than the desired size of the completed object because, in the process of curing, shrinkage occurs and the sanding and polishing of the object further reduces its size.
Many types of objects can be embedded in Lucite, although there are limitations. The objects to be embedded are placed by hand into a first Lucite layer. It’s a bit like placing fruit in Jell-O. If you place the fruit in Jell-O before it is the correct consistency, the fruit will sink to the bottom. On the other hand, if you wait too long, and if the Jell-O sets up too much, all the fruit will stay on the top. Another layer of Lucite is poured over the embedded object and is again allowed to harden. Because the Lucite is opaque, it is difficult to place objects exactly as desired.
After the Lucite has hardened, the molds are placed in an oven for several hours where heat hardens the piece and pressure forces out air bubbles. The heat process changes the Lucite from an opaque white to a clear state.
Then the Lucite pieces must be sized by sanding and polishing. Sanding is done in three steps. With each step the grit on the sandpaper is finer. Polishing is particularly important because it is at this stage that the jewel-like quality of Lucite is brought about. After passing inspection, the Lucite pieces are bagged and individually boxed.
The production of Lucite embedments involves much handwork. So no two are exactly alike.
Lucite toys have come a long way since their inception shortly after the Second World War. Manufacturers and sales promotion companies have invested time, talent and money to make them more fun. For example, since electronic chips have become easily accessible, sounds can be added to Lucites with moving parts, increasing their appeal. One company recently designed the interior of a theater in Lucite. It has a fabric curtain across the proscenium arch that is on a pulley. When the curtain is pulled open, the sound chip is activated and applause is heard. Another time, an opening door was created out of Lucite; when the door is opened, a doorbell chimes.