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Polycarbonate (Lexan) vs Acrylic (Lucite)

  
  
  
  
  
  

Sheet grade polycarbonate (aka Lexan or Makrolon) and acrylic sheet (aka Lucite) are two of the most frequently used see-through plastics.  

Each of the two have benefits and drawbacks.  Acrylic is shinier and polycarb is stronger.  Acrylic is less expensive but easier to crack.  Polycarb is more impact resisant but easier to scratch.  They are both stronger and lighter than untempered glass; acrylic is 4x to 8x stronger than glass, while polycarb is about 200x stronger.

A video produced by the motorcycle windshield company National Cycle illustrates some of these differences by showing the effect of various projectiles and weapons on both acrylic and polycarb windshields.

 

By the time you finish watching a faceless guy in the video hit the windshields with everything from a slingshot to a baseball bat (and a hammer, shotgun and semi-automatic pistol) you'll get the idea that polycarb bends (and scratches) but doesn't break; and that acrylic stays stiff and shiny but cracks and shatters under impact.

 Another way to show the differences is to list some of the common uses for each of these two materials.

Common Uses for Acrylic Sheet:

  • Fish tanks and aquariums
  • Animal and reptile enclosures
  • Retail product displays
  • Storm window linings (interior layer)
  • Hockey rink glass 

Popular Uses for Polycarbonate (Lexan):

  • Race car windows
  • Transparent visors for hockey and football players 
  • Window well covers
  • Re-usable drinking bottles 
  • Computers: Apple, Inc.’s MacBook, iMac, and Mac mini
  • Machine guarding glass
  • Laminated layers of polycarbonate can be engineered to stop various size bullets

Comments

Great to see different uses of Acrylic Sheet and Polycarbonate. Enjoyed watching the video. Thanks
Posted @ Wednesday, July 06, 2011 1:32 PM by Laser machines
which one yellows the fastest
Posted @ Friday, April 27, 2012 12:56 PM by Elaine Heise
I've never seen good data on this. Some people say acrylic and some people say polycarbonate. 
I am sure that different types of polycarb and different types of acrylic yellow at different rates. 
The only way to minimize yellowing is to purchase a product that's got a uv-stabilizer added to the resin when it gets processed in sheet, rod or tube. 
Posted @ Friday, April 27, 2012 1:25 PM by Drew Schwartz
Is polycarb available in different tints?
Posted @ Tuesday, July 31, 2012 5:00 PM by c bean
Sure, single-ply polycarbonate sheet (as shown in the video) is available in gray and bronze tints.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 31, 2012 5:06 PM by Drew Schwartz
Acrylic sheets , polycarbonate sheets are of multi use . These are used in many ways in home improvement . If you are in need of such products plastic craft can help you a lot .
Posted @ Saturday, March 23, 2013 3:06 AM by Plastic-Craft
Awesome. Now I already know the difference between the two. Thanks so much for sharing this information. Keep it up.
Posted @ Friday, April 12, 2013 2:40 AM by Alexis McRae
Which is more heat resistant, poly or acrylic? Can either protect a table top from hot items such as a hot pot coming from the stove. Considering using !/4" thick for this purpose.
Posted @ Monday, September 30, 2013 2:07 PM by Mike
Polycarbonate is more heat resistant than acrylic. Polycarbonate is good for use to about 250 degrees F and acrylic is good to about 175 degrees F. So I wouldn't recommend either one for a hot item directly off the stove. 
 
Posted @ Tuesday, October 01, 2013 2:30 PM by Drew Schwartz
Can polycarbonate be joined, or welded, like acrylic?
Posted @ Saturday, October 26, 2013 9:12 PM by don
Sure, you can solvent adhesive bond both acrylic and polycarbonate. You can even hot air plastic weld polycarbonate, which you can't do with acrylic.
Posted @ Monday, October 28, 2013 6:24 PM by Drew Schwartz
Very informative and well written post! Quite interesting and nice topic chosen for the post.
Posted @ Monday, December 09, 2013 3:51 AM by Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate molds are used for chocolate - why not use acrylic especially since it has a better sheen?
Posted @ Saturday, January 11, 2014 2:57 PM by Bill
Nothing mentioned about use of polycarbonate in eyeglass lenses, which I'd imagine accounts for quite a bit of it's consumer consumption. 
Mine have myriad scratches. Would like to polish this out. I think I had them made with with either scratch-resistant or UV filtering coating. If scratches are mainly in coating, how can it be removed? Can someone address this topic?
Posted @ Friday, February 21, 2014 8:02 AM by Michael Storer
Thanks for your question about scratched polycarbonate lenses. 
The two products that you might try to get some of the scratches out are: 
• Novus formulas 1,2 and 3www.novuspolish.com which we sell 
• Brilliantizewww.brillianize, which we don't sell but is available at many auto supply retail stores 
But since most polycarbonate coatings are properietary products, you will also want to check with the manufacturer of the lenses for a recommendation from them also. 
Posted @ Friday, February 21, 2014 2:55 PM by Drew Schwartz
You've mentioned some valuable points but I would give the upperhand to polycarbonate sheets as the better material. As mentioned by: http://acrilex.com/polycarbonate/, it is 100 times stronger than glass and ways less than acrylic, much more flexible, and lasts longer.
Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 3:29 PM by Don Lewis
Really great post,Polycarbonate is very light weight material and is lighter than glass.i like it very much. 
 
Thanks......
Posted @ Wednesday, February 26, 2014 3:51 AM by Steve Lindsay
Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here Thanks..Also visit my page Industrial Roofing
Posted @ Thursday, March 06, 2014 5:07 AM by Industrial Roofing
I am contemplating substituting one of these products for glass in our greenhouse, which would you choose and how long would I expect it to last without turning yellow? The greenhouse is attached to our house and it can get very hot in there, especially in the summer time -- please advise
Posted @ Sunday, March 16, 2014 2:50 PM by Diane
Great information. I am trying to decide on either acrylic or polycarbonate "ghost" chairs. Does anyone have information that can help?
Posted @ Wednesday, April 02, 2014 6:45 AM by Barbara
Answer to Diane 
Definitely go for polycarbonate in case you would like to make a greenhouse, as it is much tougher than acrylic. Here you can see an example of greenhouse made from polycarbonate.http://www.mistomasplastic.com/reference/  
Also consider corrugated polycarbonate as it is a little bit cheaper than multiwall.  
Posted @ Sunday, May 04, 2014 3:09 PM by Michael
Wow! What a great post.I just found this blog. I'll definitely be back.
Posted @ Sunday, November 16, 2014 11:56 PM by Corporate Video Production London
Great informational site; I wish more products had as clearly stated information in comparing common products. I'm looking to enclose my screened in porch, not a lot of direct sun light, need clearity and decent strength, about 4x8' sheets, more of a 3 season porch but will occassionly use in winter. mounted on 6x6' beams/posts. Thanks
Posted @ Monday, November 17, 2014 8:08 AM by Jason
We are doing the same thing as Jason's post. A company we talked with suggested the Lexan "glass" be used vs tempered glass to avoid breakage and easier change over from summer screens to winter windows. We get lots of sun exposure as our porch faces southwest. If I am reading this correctly, however, the Lexan will scratch and yellow over time unless tinted? Someone have thoughts on this? Thanks.
Posted @ Thursday, November 20, 2014 10:15 AM by Terry
Generally speaking, polycarb (of which Lexan is the best known brand name) scratches easier. They are little scratches like you see in a pair of plastic sunglasses, which are typically polycarbonate. Polycarbonate does tend to yellow slightly more than acrylic over time (like 5 to 8 years) in direct sunlight.
Posted @ Thursday, November 20, 2014 12:32 PM by Drew Schwartz
I have a requirement for "Polycarbonate sheet(Type 121N)Color, Natural per ASTM 13935 Is this a good spec? If so where can I obtain a.060 4'x 8'sheet?
Posted @ Monday, December 15, 2014 1:35 PM by Jim Murphy
I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read! I definitely enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog.
Posted @ Friday, December 19, 2014 1:01 PM by bestairriflereview
Thanks for sharing great knowledge of sharing the difference between Polycarbonate sheets(Lexan) and Acrylic Lucite, it really help it lot, to go with the best one.
Posted @ Monday, January 12, 2015 1:49 AM by kapoorplastics
I am considering acrylic vs polycarbonate for a turntable platter on a record player. Is one more likely than the other to stay flat over time...5-10 years. It's obviously important for the record to sit flat.
Posted @ Tuesday, January 13, 2015 7:54 AM by dave
Acrylic is stiffer than polycarbonate, so it will lie flatter than polycarbonate.
Posted @ Tuesday, January 13, 2015 9:26 AM by Drew Schwartz
Wanting to put this over a an end table and coffee table. Still undecided which would be better. This is the game room and it will have the kids athletic sports pictures under it. I think stronger will be better, but don't want many scratches so the pictures are visible. Suggestions, please
Posted @ Thursday, January 22, 2015 11:18 AM by Jane
WHIOCH IS BETTER FOR GHOST CHAIR. ACRYLIC OR POLYCARBONATE
Posted @ Friday, January 30, 2015 3:54 PM by LINDA
Hi! 
Thx for all the great posts here. 
I would like to build a shower with Lexan as it is much cheaper than glass. 
Is that a good idea?
Posted @ Tuesday, February 03, 2015 2:45 PM by Philipp
No reason not to build a shower enclosure out of Lexan polycarbonate. One potential disadvantage is that the Lexan is more flexible than glass so the polycarbonate panels are not going to be as stiff as the same thickness glass panels.
Posted @ Saturday, February 14, 2015 4:45 PM by Drew Schwartz
Condidering the use of Lexan polycarbonate product for outdoor business signs. Will this product serve well in fluctuating temps (GA) and direct sunlight? How quickly does yellowing set in? We experienced warping with Acrylic, will this happen with Lexan? Thanks
Posted @ Tuesday, February 17, 2015 11:10 AM by Lin
Lin, 
Polycarbonate is used all the time for outdoor signs. 
In North America we usually use single ply polycarbonate for our outdoor signage. 
I am told that in Europe it is not uncommon to see multi-wall polycarbonate used for outdoor signs. 
White polycarbonate that is used for outdoor signs in the U.S. is readily available, in a variety of thicknesses, as sunlight stabilized, so color shift from UV is not a problem with that material. 
Drew
Posted @ Tuesday, February 17, 2015 2:10 PM by Drew
We start making clear acrylic trays for hotels. We're told to use a dipping process on top of the acrylic to protect the acrylic from scratches. 
Which is costly. Any suggestions?
Posted @ Wednesday, February 18, 2015 7:11 AM by Mysnook1
The sealant which is easy to crack is useless for roof. RV Roof Replacement survives in all type of weather and does not crack. For durability you can trust.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 25, 2015 11:37 PM by Liza
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