Our sales representatives constantly get questions about the different types of clear plastic sheets we carry, and we can’t blame our customers. It’s confusing! First, there are different types of materials. Then, you add in different trade names and manufacturers, and what you thought was going to be an easy task of purchasing plastic, suddenly, became overwhelming. This post is going to simplify the differences in acrylic and Polycarbonate.
Acrylic plastic is a lightweight, shatter resistant, transparent plastic that is often used as an alternative to glass.
Trademark names: Lucite, Plexiglas, Acrylite
- Accent walls, dividers
- Point-of-purchase displays
- Light covers
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Polycarbonates are tough, transparent, engineering thermoplastics with high molecular weight and extraordinary impact resistance. They have good electrical and insulating characteristics and are normally not affected by greases, oils or acids. Polycarbonate products also have a low moisture absorption rate and good chemical resistance which makes it an extremely versatile engineering material and allows for its use in a multitude of industrial applications
Trademark names: Lexan, Palram, Monogal
- safety and vandal-resistant windows for schools, banks, gas stations, and public buildings
- windshields (automotive, boat, and RV)
- outdoor signs
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This is a side by side comparison of the two materials. We always recommend speaking with a professional before you purchase a material, but this chart is a great place to start.
|Strength||17 times impact resistance of glass||250 times impact resistance of glass|
|Clarity||92% light transmittance – Better clarity than glass||88% light transmittance|
|Cutting||Can be cut with conventional tools – Easier to cut, but there is a higher risk of cracking material. Especially, when working with thinner sheets.||Can be cut with conventional tools – Fights the initial push of a saw or router, but it’s highly unlikely to shatter.|
|Drilling||Will crack if it is near the edge. Need a plastic specific drill bit.||Typically does not crack when drilling near the edge. Can use regular drill bits.|
|Gluing||Cleaner glue joint than Polycarbonate||Can be glued, but the joint will not be as clean as acrylic|
|Bending||Heat bending||Cold bending/ cold forming|
|Polishing||Can be polished||Cannot be polished, only buffed|
|Chemical Resistance||Low – should only be cleaned with plastic cleaners||Higher than acrylic- can be cleaned with products containing ammonia. Resistant to gasoline and acids.|
|Cost||Less expensive than Polycarbonate||More expensive material – cost difference can range based on thickness|