Lexan vs. Acrylic

Acrylic and Lexan, a branded name for polycarbonate sheeting, are both durable and flexible materials, often compared to one another because both are transparent and both stand as two of the most frequently utilized types of see-through plastics. Acrylic and polycarbonate both weigh half as much as glass and yet both plastics are much more shatter resistant. Both materials are also very easy to clean and possess similar flexural strengths.

That said, there are some significant differences between the two materials that make each of them better fits for specific applications. We’ve included below a breakdown of those differences so that you can make an informed decision on which plastic best suits your business’ needs.

Acrylic Sheeting

Acrylic is often used interchangeably with Plexiglas, which is trademarked by Rohm and Hass. The generic name for Plexiglas is plexiglass, and the material also goes by the trade names of Acrylite, Lucite and Perspex.

Pros of Acrylic:

  • Shinier
  • Less expensive than polycarbonate
  • High level of impact resistance (17 times the impact resistance of glass)
  • Greater resistance than polycarbonate against evenly distributed loads
  • Greater resistance than polycarbonate against scratching
  • Greater UV resistance than polycarbonate
  • Easier to cut than polycarbonate
  • Can be polished smooth if necessary
  • Provides cleaner glue joint compared to polycarbonate
  • Does not yellow over time
  • Greater clarity, clarity can be restored through polishing
  • Available in a wider variety of colors than polycarbonate

Cons of Acrylic:

  • Very rigid
  • Cracks more easily than polycarbonate
  • Can crack easily during drilling
  • More likely to chip than polycarbonate
  • Softens at 195 degrees Fahrenheit compared to polycarbonate’s 240

Lexan Polycarbonate Sheeting

Polycarbonate is sometimes called Lexan (a trademarked name by GE Plastics) or Makrolon. Though polycarbonate sheets on average cost about 35% more than acrylic, that extra investment may be worth it if you’re looking for a material with unmatched impact resistance and durability.

Pros of Lexan:

  • 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 of Lexan:

  • Easier to scratch
  • More expensive in comparison to acrylic
  • Poorer clarity, cannot be polished to restore clarity
  • Can be yellowed over time by UV rays
  • Low level of resistance to abrasive cleaners and surfaces
  • Can be dented easily

Common Acrylic Sheet Uses

  • Motorcycle helmet visors
  • Helicopter and submarine windows
  • Hockey rink glass  
  • Interior layer of storm window linings
  • Animal and reptile enclosures
  • Fish tanks and aquariums
  • Light fixtures
  • Point of purchase display and signage
  • Automotive trim

Common Lexan Polycarbonate Sheet Uses

  • Window well covers
  • Automobile windows and windshields
  • Reusable drinking bottles
  • Computers and phone cases
  • Transparent visors for football and hockey helmets
  • Molds for urethane and silicone casting
  • Machinery guards
  • LED light pipes and diffusers
  • Bullet-resistant “glass”

 

Generally speaking, acrylic sheet is more suited to uses where aesthetics are a concern. Its high clarity and ability to be produced in a wide variety of colors make it perfect for situations where you need the transparency of glass and the protection offered by acrylic’s high shatter resistance. Its lower cost - when compared to polycarbonate - also makes it an attractive option for businesses and institutions that require a protecting material but not one quite as strong as polycarbonate.

It’s that unmatched strength in the world of plastics that makes polycarbonate the proper choice if you’re looking for a material to protect your business or institution. There’s a reason why it’s become the go-to plastic for situations where safety is paramount. Polycarbonate is used in the windows of race cars, the visors of hockey and football helmets, guards for industrial machinery, and in layers as bulletproof “glass.” Though polycarbonate may not be as aesthetically pleasing as acrylic, it’s more than made up for by its unmatched strength and flexibility.

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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