The Difference Between Polycarbonate and Acrylic

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If you find yourself needing clear plastic components for a project, you may find yourself asking, “what is the difference between polycarbonate and acrylic?” Both are synthetic glass materials that offer strength and versatility, but depending on what you need, one may be better than the other. Let’s compare polycarbonate screens and the benefits of both materials.  

What is Polycarbonate? 

Before we can compare the two, it’s important to understand what polycarbonate is. This thermoplastic, engineered polymer is naturally transparent but can come in a variety of colors and transmits light similarly to glass. While it has a glass-like texture and appearance, polycarbonate is actually much stronger and scratch resistant than glass, making it a robust material for a wide range of applications.

Polycarbonates are most often used for: 

  • Plastic lenses in eyewear and other protective gear 
  • Greenhouses
  • Medical equipment
  • Exterior lighting fixtures 
  • Automotive components 

Polycarbonate screens are also very heat resistant and pliable, adding to their versatility. 

Is Polycarbonate Strong? 

Polycarbonate is very strong; in fact, it is one of the strongest commonly used plastics. But which is stronger, polycarbonate or acrylic? Both substances offer greater strength than glass, but in the end, polycarbonate comes out ahead:

  • Acrylic: 17 times more impact resistant than glass
  • Polycarbonate: 250 times more impact resistant than glass 

How to Choose Between Polycarbonate and Acrylic

While polycarbonate may be stronger than acrylic, there are benefits to both that should be considered. 

Benefits of acrylic: 

  • Less expensive than polycarbonate
  • Shinier finish and able to be polished 
  • Easier to machine than polycarbonate 
  • Offers better glue bonding 

Benefits of polycarbonate: 

  • More chemical resistant 
  • More lightweight than acrylic 
  • More flexibility and easier to drill and shape 
  • Non-flammable and resistant to high temperatures 

In general, acrylic is best used for indoor applications such as retail displays and insulations, whereas the strength of polycarbonate allows for outdoor versatility in roofing panels, windows, greenhouses, and more. 

Get the Right Materials for Your Projects with Gateway Cable Company  

Choosing the right products is one of the most important parts of any project, and Gateway Cable Company is here to help. If you’re looking for military-grade cables, wires, and more, we can provide quality materials that are ready to go the distance. Request a quote for your next project with our team.