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Acrylic VS Polycarbonate

A Quantitative and Qualitative Comparison

Acrylic is often compared to polycarbonate, another transparent polymer sometimes used for bearing loads. Polycarbonate is sometimes called Lexan®, which is a trademark by Sabic. Another popular brand name for Polycarbonate is Makrolon®, owned by Bayer. Hammerglass® is another polycarbonate mainly used for security and against vandalism. Acrylic on the other hand is often called Plexiglas. Plexiglas® is a trademark by Evonik.

Comparison of Characteristics

Acrylic:

  • More likely to chip
  • Less impact-resistant than polycarbonate, yet still 10-24 times more resistant than float glass
  • More resistant against evenly-distributed loads then polycarbonate
  • Less likely to scratch.
  • Does not degrade in colour to yellow after time.
  • Better clarity. Acrylic can be restored to optical clarity by polishing.

Polycarbonate:

  • Impact/chip resistance is about 30 times more resistant than glass
  • More likely to scratch.
  • Substantially more expensive. (Roughly 2 to 3 times)
  • Used for more industrial applications
  • Bulletproof when thick enough.
  • More bendable under normal temperatures (0-20°C)
  • Goes yellow over time due to UV rays
  • Easier to work with
  • Poorer clarity, diffuses light

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
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: Plexiglass Data Sheet Lexan 9030 Data Sheet (*2): Makrolon AR - Bayer Sheet Europe, octubre de 2004
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1-0. Popular Uses for Acrylic

  • Motorcycle helmet visors
  • Helicopter/submarine windows
  • Spectator protection in ice hockey
  • Modifications on police vehicles for riot control
  • Swimming pool windows
  • Aquariums and terariums (including large public aquarium walls and tunnels).
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Acrylic is the right material for evenly distributed pressure. Image shows an underwater window by Hydrosight. Click for more examples.

plexiglass technical data sheet.pdf(92.89 kB)

2-0. Popular uses for polycarbonate

  • Compact discs, DVDs
  • Lighting lenses, sun-/eyeglass lenses, safety glasses, automotive headlamp lenses, camper windows
  • Drinking bottles
  • Computers, such as Apple
  • Cases
  • Riot shields, visors
  • Instrument panels
  • Bulletproof protection