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Ultimate Plastic Guide: Knowing The Different Types of Plastic Sheet

As a plastic distribution company that’s been in the business since 1973, we know a thing or two about the many different types of plastic sheet and what sets them apart from each other. Sometimes the applications they’re used for overlap, which can make it tricky to decide which variety will perform the best for your project. Whether you want to find out which types of plastic will suit your needs best or simply want to learn more about this incredibly versatile material, you’ve come to the right place. Dive into our plastic guide to get the ultimate rundown of our most popular plastics.

Acrylic

Acrylic sheet, also known as plexiglass or brand names like Plexiglas® and Lucite, is an ideal substitute for glass in applications that require a high amount of clarity and strength. Acrylic is a thermoplastic, so it can easily be melted down and injection molded into any shape needed — and can even be reheated again later without degrading. Of all the different plastics, acrylic provides the best clarity for the longest amount of time, thanks to its resistance to scratches, abrasions and yellowing. It also protects against UV damage, which makes it a popular plastic solution for applications like advertising displays or picture framing. The only thing to keep in mind when you choose acrylic is that it can crack and chip easily during installation due to its rigidity.

There are all sorts of acrylic available to suit a variety of applications and industries.
The varieties you can find at A&C Plastics include:

Pros & Cons of Acrylic

Pros
UV-resistant
Available in a variety of colors
Lighter than glass
17x greater impact resistance than glass
Resistant to yellowing and discoloration; very clear
Easy to cut, bend and shape
Abrasion resistant
Cons
Costlier than glass
Melts when exposed to flames for long periods of time
Releases toxic fumes when melted
 
 
 
 

Acrylic Industry Solutions

As you could see from the long list of acrylic products above, acrylic comes in all sorts of colors and strengths. Check out some of the industries these plastics can be used in.

Acrylic Resources

Want to do some in-depth reading on acrylic? We have several resources that provide key examples of how acrylic can be used in a variety of projects. Perfect for lighting your inspiration!

Polycarbonate

If all the different types of plastic are superheros, polycarbonate is Superman. It’s over 250 times stronger than glass and just as clear, making it an ideal application for storefronts and any buildings or vehicles that need extremely impact resistant windows. As a thermoplastic like acrylic, polycarbonate can be heated and injection molded into any shape necessary, and then reheated later without degrading significantly. You can also cold form polycarbonate into the needed dimensions right on-site. Polycarbonate can also be treated to either transmit or protect against UV rays, so whether you need siding for your greenhouse or sturdy siding for an airplane, this plastic is up for the job. One drawback to polycarbonate is initial cost, but given how durable and long-lasting the material is, it winds up paying for itself over time. Also, while certain varieties of polycarbonate are abrasion resistant, it is somewhat easier to scratch or dent this plastic when compared to acrylic.

Polycarbonate, also known as Lexan or Makrolon, is used for many different applications and in more industries that you might imagine. Varieties of polycarbonate available at A&C Plastics include:

Pros & Cons of Polycarbonate

Pros
250x greater impact resistance than glass
Resistant to acids and chemicals
Bullet resistant grades available
Greater plasticity — can be drilled, bent and formed without cracking or breaking
Low flammability
As clear as glass
Weather resistant — great for greenhouses!
Cons
Releases toxic chemicals when burned
Not as resistant to scratches/abrasions
More expensive than glass
 
 
 
 

Polycarbonate Industry Solutions

Polycarbonate is one of our favorite types of plastic because of its versatility and strength. Just like acrylic, it can be used (and is currently being used) in industries of all kinds. Check out a few of the places you can find polycarbonate.

Polycarbonate Resources

Want to do some in-depth reading on polycarbonates? We have several resources that provide key examples of how polycarbonates can be used in a variety of projects. Perfect for lighting your inspiration!

HDPE

High-density polyethylene, or HDPE (which is much easier to pronounce) is a thermoplastic used in items ranging from hard hats to water bottles. Most other different types of plastic don’t quite match HDPE in its versatility and malleability — and did we mention it’s super eco-friendly? HDPE is one of the most widely recycled plastics on the market, meaning you can choose it with confidence knowing that it will both do its job well and be transformed into something new when the work is done.

HDPE shares qualities with acrylic and polycarbonate sheet, such as strong impact and abrasion resistance and a low coefficient of friction. These qualities also prevent it from retaining stains, sustaining moisture damage or gaining unpleasant odors over time. On the other hand, HDPE has incredible tensile strength and rigidity, setting it apart from other types of plastic.

A&C Plastics carries plenty of specialized HDPE sheet, including:

Pros & Cons of HDPE

Pros
BPA-free!
Weather resistant
Easy to clean
Moisture resistant
Strong impact resistance
Abrasion resistant
Cons
Flammable
Can crack under stress
High thermal expansion
 
 
 

HDPE Industry Solutions

Being one of the most versatile types of plastic, HDPE is used in several industries for a wide variety of applications. If you're operating in tough conditions, HDPE is the plastic that's up for the job. Here are just a few of the places HDPE is frequently found.

HDPE Resources

Even though you now have a “high density” of knowledge on HDPE, you might still be wondering if it’s the right plastic for your project. Use these resources to ensure you get a complete picture of HDPE and it’s uses.

Industrial Plastics

This final category encompasses many different types of plastic with unique characteristics that make them suited for just about any task you could throw at them. Lightweight and durable, they can be used in a wide variety of industry applications.

Check out all the great products that fall within this category below.

Pros & Cons of Industrial Plastics

Pros
Economical
Visually appealing
Certain varieties are FDA-approved
Great impact resistance
Versatile
Certain varieties accept paint and ink well
Cons
Certain varieties are susceptible to UV-degradation
High flammability
Certain varieties have high thermal expansion
 
 
 

Industrial Plastics Solutions

Being one of the most versatile types of plastic, HDPE is used in several industries for a wide variety of applications. If you're operating in tough conditions, HDPE is the plastic that's up for the job. Here are just a few of the places HDPE is frequently found.

Industrial Plastic Resources

There are many different types of plastic within the "industrial" category, which means there's plenty of learning to be done to make the best decision for your project! These articles might be just what you need.

Order Your Plastics & Continue Learning

We think we pretty much covered all the different types of plastic and the characteristics that make them so great in this plastic guide. But if there’s more you want to know, you can always head to our information center to check out our resources for a more extensive look into different industries. Or, if you know what kind of plastic you need and would like to place an order, contact us today for a custom quote.

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