The terms Plexiglas and Lexan sound familiar to you? In reality, these trademarked names are much more commonly used than their actual names, which are acrylic panels and polycarbonate panels, respectively. Despite their similar appearance, they are often confused, yet these panels possess unique characteristics that make them suitable for specific applications.

Manufacturing, resistance, flexibility: to help you make an informed choice between polycarbonate and acrylic, let’s delve deeper into these materials.

What is Polycarbonate?

What’s particularly impressive about polycarbonate is its extreme strength and versatility while remaining flexible. Compared to glass, it boasts an impressive strength-to-weight ratio, being twice as light and up to 250 times more impact-resistant. This highly malleable material is easy to sand, cut, or bend, making it ideal for manufacturing protective products such as guards, unbreakable windows, or bulletproof screens. Additionally, polycarbonate is known for its physiological safety, making it suitable for medical equipment and prosthetics.

With UV protection, anti-graffiti coating, and moisture resistance, it can be used both indoors and outdoors for the long term. Technically, polycarbonate is available in a standard size of 48 inches x 96 inches but can be provided in other dimensions. Its color options range from translucent white to smoked gray or bronze.

What is Acrylic?

Acrylic, on the other hand, is a rigid plastic appreciated for its durability and versatility. Twice as light as glass and twenty times more impact-resistant, it is commonly used in commercial furniture, lighting, and decorations. There are two types of acrylic: cast acrylic (molded in liquid form in glass, then immersed in warm water) and extruded acrylic. Both are suitable for various applications and can be offered in different thicknesses, commonly found in sheets, rods, tubes, or rolls.

Moreover, acrylic is easy to work with, and numerous tools are available for manipulating, gluing, or enhancing its finishes. When used outdoors, acrylic is UV-resistant and maintains its appearance over time. If needed, it can even be polished to restore its shine.

Differences in the Manufacturing of Acrylic and Polycarbonate

The manufacturing processes of acrylic and polycarbonate are vastly different. Although both are transparent, they differ in the raw materials involved and the production processes.

Acrylic Manufacturing Method

Acrylic cast or extruded is obtained from small plastic products called acrylic monomers. Initially dissolved in solvents, they are then amalgamated to form a paste consisting of acrylic chains. This process allows the creation of panels of various thicknesses.

Polycarbonate Manufacturing Method

To produce polycarbonate, various industrial chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) are mixed in an environment with rigorously controlled temperatures. The mixture forms a chain of plastic particles that can be used to create the desired shape.

Acrylic and Polycarbonate: Differences in Resistance and Durability

When discussing the resistance of a material, it refers to its ability to withstand impacts, not its hardness. For example, in touch, acrylic feels very hard, but it is less impact-resistant than polycarbonate. Let’s explore what sets them apart.

Acrylic Resistance and Lifespan

Highly transparent, acrylic is a wise choice for manufacturing protective screens. Stiffer than polycarbonate, it does not scratch easily and does not yellow over time. To extend its lifespan, it can be polished to restore its brilliance. However, acrylic has lower impact resistance than polycarbonate and may chip as it ages. It’s also not recommended for use in areas close to flames, such as certain factories or kitchens, as acrylic burns for a long time.

Polycarbonate Resistance and Lifespan

More flexible than acrylic, polycarbonate is appreciated for its high impact resistance. It is commonly used in the production of vehicle windows due to its resistance to cracking and its low flammability (flame resistance up to 120 °C). Additionally, it can be thermo-molded, softening with heat and hardening upon cooling. Regarding transparency, the thicker the polycarbonate panel, the more it tends to have yellow hues. However, to preserve its properties, precautions are necessary. Avoid prolonged contact with water exceeding 60 °C, as UV rays can age it over time. Polycarbonate absorbs heat, so it’s not recommended to expose it to microwaves.

Where are Acrylic and Polycarbonate Used?

Both acrylic and polycarbonate are found in many everyday objects, including protective devices, windows, or barriers.

For the protection needs brought about by Covid-19, you’ve likely seen numerous protective barriers erected in public places. Just like the face shields worn by healthcare workers, these are often made of acrylic. Polycarbonate, with its high impact resistance, is commonly used in the construction of law enforcement’s bulletproof windows and visors, as well as riot shields. It’s also employed in vehicles like motorcycles and off-road vehicles for its shock-resistant properties, found in protection bubbles, headlights, or motorized vehicle windows. Additionally, polycarbonate is commonly integrated into the production of optical glasses and camera lenses.

Why Replace Glass with Polycarbonate Panels?

While glass has long been popular in furniture, packaging, automotive, and construction, there are occasions when more durable materials like polycarbonate are necessary. With 250 times the impact resistance of glass, polycarbonate is unaffected by moisture, making it practical for outdoor use. Polycarbonate is a good alternative to glass for:

  • Designing bottles and baby bottles, skylights, computer screens, pharmaceutical containers for laboratories,
  • Manufacturing certain transparent furniture.

But why choose polycarbonate over glass?

Firstly, for its malleability and flexibility. This product can be easily molded into curved or sophisticated shapes, making it a valuable asset in furniture or container creation. Secondly, because polycarbonate is lighter than glass, it can be transported easily with a lower environmental impact and without the risk of breakage. It also resists scratches better, making it more durable. Finally, it is easy to produce and less expensive than glass, making it an economical alternative to consider.

Why Choose Polycarbonate Panels from Industries FM?

Industries FM is a family-owned company specializing in the consultation and sale of plastic products for over thirty-five years. We have built our experience by listening to our customers’ needs, selecting the highest quality products from trusted suppliers. Our extensive range of acrylic and polycarbonate panels is suitable for various applications, from construction to the design of road signs or advertisements. Feel free to contact us for more information.

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This post was written by : Industries FM