In addition to heat bending, some thermoplastic materials can be cold bent.
Depending on the thickness of the material, most plastics can be bent in a gradual radius without negatively affecting the integrity of the material. This is often seen in architectural applications for use in skylights or transparent walkway ceilings.
A few plastics can actually be bent using a press brake, which is the same equipment used for bending metal. The thickness of the material helps determine the ability of the material to be bent in this manner.
Materials 3/16” thick or less are typically easier to bend. Polycarbonate and acrylic/PVC alloys (e.g. Kydex®) are the primary materials that lend themselves to this process.
Thicker material can sometimes be bent on a press brake, but the material may need to be heated along the bend line, prior to bending, to reduce the potential for stress fractures at the point of the bend.