Want to know the difference between acrylic and polycarbonate? These two top choices for plastic fabrication—acrylic sheets and polycarbonate panels—are ideal for use in a broad range of applications. They’re both lightweight materials (typically half the weight of comparably-sized sheets of glass), and they both offer incredible strength and flexibility.
Read on to discover some of the key similarities and differences between these two products.
Acrylic plastic is a general term for a variety of plastics marketed under trademark names including Plexiglas, Lucite, Perspex, Altuglas, Polycast and more. Most people typically associate Plexiglas with acrylic plastic, but each trademark product has slightly different characteristics.
Acrylic plastic is a polymer—a material made of various materials linked together in long chains. They’re produced in a process called polymerization, and acrylic products can look, feel and function quite differently due to differences in their molecular makeup. Generally, acrylic has a high-gloss finish. It’s transparent and often shiny, making it an ideal option for display cases.
Some of the benefits and unique properties of acrylic plastic include:
- Increased durability against scratches and dents
- Easier to machine compared to polycarbonate
- Easier to bond with glue
- Ability to be polished to remove scratches and to produce clean edges
- Inexpensive—in most cases cheaper than polycarbonate by up to 35 percent
Polycarbonate sheets are also called Lexan, a trademark name from GE plastics, or Makrolon. Like acrylic plastic, polycarbonate is a polymer. While it’s significantly more expensive than acrylic, polycarbonate offers enhanced durability. It’s 30 times stronger than acrylic and even has up to 250 times the impact resistance of glass.
One of the other important ways polycarbonate plastic differs from acrylic is in its appearance. Polycarbonate isn’t shiny, and it can’t be polished. It’s also more translucent than acrylic, which is usually transparent. Polycarbonate offers 88 percent light transmittance, which makes it ideal for greenhouse windows and other products that don’t require complete transparency.
Some of the benefits and unique properties of polycarbonate plastic include:
- Increased strength compared to acrylic
- Increased flexibility compared to acrylic and the ability to be bent at room temperature
- Nonflammable and can be exposed to high temperatures
- Ability to be drilled without cracking
- Lighter weight than acrylic
How do I choose between polycarbonate and acrylic?
Take time to compare plastics side by side to find the right material for your project. If you’re having trouble deciding between acrylic sheets and polycarbonate panels for your project, talk to plastic engineering experts to determine which option is best for you. Some of the ideal applications for each plastic type include:
- Acrylic plastic applications: Windows and glass substitutes, insulation, craft projects, retail displays
- Polycarbonate plastic applications: Roofing panels, clear molds for casting, models for high-heat applications
Want to know more about the benefits of using acrylic sheets in the plastic fabrication process? Reach out to D&D Plastics today. We have decades of experience in the plastic fabrication industry, offering a variety of design and development services that turn your concepts into reality.
This post was written by Writer