Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate: a Quantitative and Qualitative Comparison

Acrylic often compared to Polycarbonate, which is an other transparent plastic, that is sometimes used for bearing loads. Polycarbonate is sometimes called Lexan®, which is a trademark by GE Plastics. An other popular brand name for Polycarbonate is Makrolon®, owned by Bayer. Acrylic on the other hand is often called Plexiglas. Plexiglas ® is a trademark by Roehm and Hass.


Popular Uses for Acrylic (Plexiglas):

  • Motorcycle helmet visors
  • Helicopter Windows, Submarine Windows
  • Spectator protection in ice hockey
  • Police riot control vehicles modifications
  • Swimming Pool Windows
  • Aquariums and Terariums (including large public aquarium walls and tunnels)


Popular Uses for Polycarbonate (Lexan):

  • Compact discs, DVDs
  • Lighting lenses, sun-glass/eyeglass lenses, safety glasses, automotive headlamp lenses, camper windows
  • Drinking bottles
  • Computers: Apple, Inc.’s MacBook, iMac, and Mac mini
  • Cases
  • Riot shields, visors
  • Instrument panels
  • Bullet-proof Glass


Key characteristics, Acrylic compared to Polycarbonate:

  • More likely to chip
  • less impact resistance then Polycarbonate, but still 10-24 times more resistant than float glass
  • more resistant against evenly distributed loads then Polycarbonate
  • Less likely to scratch.
  • Does NOT yellow after time.
  • Better clarity. Acrylic can be restored to optical clarity by polishing.


Key characteristics, Polycarbonate compared to Acrylic:

  • Impact/chip resistance is much higher with Polycarbonate. (about 30 times more resistant than glass)
  • More likely to scratch.
  • Substantially more expensive. (roughly 2 to 3 times)
  • Used for more industry applications
  • Bulletproof when thick enough.
  • More bendable under normal temperatures (0-20°C)
  • Yellows over time due to ultraviolet rays
  • Easier to work with (cut, less likely to break)
  • Poorer clarity, diffuses light
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    Polycarbonate – Lexan Acrylic – Plexiglas GS
Density g/cm³ 1.2 1.19
Max weight gain during immersion % 0.35 2.1
Tensile strength σΜ at 23°C MPa 60-70 80
Flexural strength σbB MPa 90 115
Impact strength acU (Charpy) kJ/m2 35 15
Flexural strength σbB MPa 90 115
Optical Light Transmission % 89 92
Forming Temperature °C  185…205 160…175
Vicat B Temperature °C  145 115
Velocity of Sound m/min 2270 2750
Attenuation at 5MHz dB/cm 24.9 6.4
Fire Rating German DIN 4102 B2 B2 (*2)

Sources:

Lexan 9030 Sheet Product Datasheet

Plexiglas GS Product Description

(*2): Makrolon AR – Bayer Sheet Europe, October 2004

 

Created: 9 July 2014

Last Modified: 14 July 2014

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