Acrylic Sheets vs Polycarbonate Sheets

Acrylic and polycarbonate sheeting have a number of differing characteristics. These two types of plastics are oftentimes compared to one another because they are both transparent and are two of the most frequently utilized types of see-through plastics. Both have benefits and drawbacks. Generally speaking, acrylic sheeting is shinier and polycarbonate sheet is stronger. Acrylic and polycarbonate both weigh less than half of what a comparably sized piece of glass weighs yet they are both much stronger than glass. Both materials are also very easy to clean.

Below, we break down the pros and cons of each and provide some common applications for each type of plastic. 

Acrylic or Plexiglass Sheeting

Acrylic is oftentimes used interchangeably with Plexiglas, which is trademarked by Rohm and Hass. The generic name for Plexiglas is plexiglass.

Pros:

  • Shinier
  • Less expensive in comparison to polycarbonate
  • High level of impact resistance (17 times the impact resistance of glass)
  • Easier to cut than polycarbonate
  • Can be polished smooth if necessary
  • Provides cleaner glue joint compared to polycarbonate

Cons:

  • Very rigid
  • Cracks more easily than polycarbonate
  • Can crack easily during drilling
  • More likely to chip than polycarbonate
  • Not recommended in areas where flames may be present

Polycarbonate Sheeting

Polycarbonate is sometimes called Lexan (trademarked name by GE Plastics) or Makrolon. One of the biggest differences between acrylic and polycarbonate is the cost. Polycarbonate sheets can cost on average about 35% more than acrylic.

Pros:

  • Stronger than acrylic
  • Higher level of impact resistance (250 times the impact resistance of glass)
  • Less rigidity than acrylic and can be bought in flexible grades
  • Can handle temperatures up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Highly resistant to acids and other chemicals such as gasoline
  • Can be drilled without worry of cracking
  • Can be cold formed or bent without heating
  • Low level of flammability

Cons:

  • Easier to scratch
  • More expensive in comparison to acrylic
  • Cannot be polished
  • Low level of resistance to abrasive cleaners and surfaces
  • Can be dented easily

Common Acrylic Sheet Uses

Hockey rink glass, interior layer of storm window linings, animal and reptile enclosures, fish tanks and aquariums

Common Polycarbonate Sheet Uses

Window well covers, race car windows, reusable drinking bottles, computers, transparent visors for football and hockey helmets

Have questions about acrylic or polycarbonate? Contact us today and we will be happy to help you. Also, be sure to check out of complete acrylic and polycarbonate product lines.

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