Which one is stronger material: Plexiglass or Polycarbonate?

When it comes to uses where lightweight materials are required, either Acrylic or Lexan is an excellent choice. Can you imagine a huge project that requires glass installation; the fact is that with time cracking and even breakage may occur. Apart from the risk associated with shattered glass, the cost might bring you to your knees. Well, that does not have to be the case; not with Plexiglass (Acrylic) and Polycarbonate (Lexan). With a huge range of similarities between these materials, how do you choose? A practical approach would be to use its strength. Let us analyze their various aspects of strength.

Difference in the manufacturing process

The manufacture of plexiglass, it involves a process that is known in engineering circles as bulk polymerization. The main components are a monomer (methyl methacrylate) and a catalyst (organic peroxide). A mold is used to hold a mixture of these two elements – heating follows after the mold has been tightly sealed. The reaction takes place at a stage that results in the creation of acrylic plastic. Depending on the thickness of the sheets made, curing can take anywhere between 10 hours to several days. The sheets are ready to use but further processing is required to improve the quality. 

To make Polycarbonate Sheets, various methods ranging from blow molding, injection molding, thermoforming, to extrusion can be used. Extrusion is the most widely used process which involves feeding raw resin to an extruder where they are melted; the molten polycarbonate is forcefully passed through die components according to the thickness, width and length desired. It is possible to produce sheets in various textures, colors, and layers.

Difference in features

When we compare plexiglas and polycarbonate to regular glass, let us just say that the level of disappointment with glass can be extremely high. Acrylic is, in fact, less expensive than glass so those who need to save costs would find it a better option. Can you imagine having a glass display for your business premises? There is no need to worry because you can use acrylic that not only has better clarity but also has 17 times better impact resistance than that of glass. Acrylic is also hard in acquiring dents and scratches. Those who work regularly are impressed by the fact that acrylic glass cuts easily and can be recycled. 

Polycarbonate, on the other hand, is much stronger than acrylic with an average 240 times the impact resistance of glass. Polycarbonate sheets are easy to fold and no heating is required to facilitate it. In addition to the fact that these sheets can be drilled without any worry of cracking, they can withstand temperatures of up to 240F. 

Difference in uses

The most attractive feature of acrylic is its durability. Its ability to break into dull-edged pieces instead of sharply pointed splits makes it a safe option for glass in commercial buildings. Other uses are 

  • Aquariums, 
  • Business displays, 
  • Signage, 
  • Wild animal enclosures, 
  • Motorcycle helmets, 
  • Automotive trims, 
  • Greenhouse panels 

When it comes to polycarbonate, people love it for its malleability and ability to withstand pressure. It is commonly used as 

  • Sunlight block, 
  • Fencing, 
  • Phone & computer cases, 
  • Windshields for motor vehicles, 
  • Machine guards, and 
  • Reusable water bottles

Is polycarbonate stronger than plexiglass?

When it comes to choosing between polycarbonate and acrylic based on options such as color range, clarity, mirroring ability and so on, the task is close to impossible since they are more or less alike. There is, therefore, a need to delve deeper and look more towards their chemical characteristics. The preference of one over another is purely based on where it will be used. Are you interested in a material that offers clarity and transmits light? You are better off with acrylic than polycarbonate. Considering that polycarbonate has very high impact resistance, it is the obvious pick for use where this property is preferred. Even though these plastics record a large number of similar properties, their functionality differs greatly. 

Did you ever wonder what material is used for bullet proof glass in armored vehicles? If your guess is polycarbonate, you are right. Although plexiglass is also strong, it does not measure up in this regard. 

Conclusion

What is the definition of strength that you have in mind when you go shopping for a glass alternative? It is easier when you have narrowed down your search to as few materials as possible – between acrylic and polycarbonate; they share a host of drawbacks as well as benefits. While acrylic has a better aesthetic appeal, polycarbonate stands out for its strength. You will hit polycarbonate with a ton of weight before it gives way but even the slightest scratch on it will show. Acrylic, on the other hand, is able to stay in a new state for years because it does not scratch and can be polished. Well, they are both stronger compared to regular glass (4x for acrylic and 8x for polycarbonate).

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