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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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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).

Acrylic VS Polycarbonate
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)

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