When to use Acrylic vs Polycarbonate

Acrylic and Polycarbonate are among the most popular Performance Plastics used today. They may look similar, but they differ in their characteristics and ideal uses.

Similarities between Acrylic and Polycarbonate

Both materials are known for being lightweight yet stronger than glass. You’ll often see them as see-through (transparent) formulations, however, they can also be tinted or come in more solid colours.

When Acrylic (Plexiglass) is best

When comparing it to glass and Polycarbonate, acrylic is often more affordable. When transparency is a critical factor in your designs, Plexiglass lets in more light (92%) than glass. It is also 17x more impact-resistant. Acrylic is easily formable by heat and glue bonds well, supporting cleaner glue joints.

However, Plexiglass is more rigid and is susceptible to cracking and chipping.

When Polycarbonate is best

While Polycarbonate is more expensive than acrylic, it beings 250x the impact resistance of glass and nearly 30x that of acrylic. It better resists cracking and chipping but can dent and scratch easier. It has a working temperature of 240 degrees, so it has a low flammability level.

However, Polycarbonate is not naturally shiny, so if that is important for your designs, you’ll need to polish the surface (which will add to your cost). It also doesn’t contain any UV protection, so it will yellow over time.

When to use Acrylic and Polycarbonate?

Acrylic is a better choice to replace glass in windows and retail displays when high impact resistance is not necessary. Polycarbonate is better for machine guards, heavy equipment parts and windows, or security glazing as it’s stronger.

Need help picking the right performance plastic for your next part or project? Contact us for a project quote today.

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