What’s the Difference between Acrylic and Polycarbonate?
Find the Best See-Through Plastic for Your Application
Acrylic (PMMA) and polycarbonate (PC) are very similar plastics in the sense that both have high clarity, meaning the material is see-through like glass. They’re both frequently used in applications requiring a see-through material which is stronger than glass, such as aquariums, storm window linings, glasses, computer screens, and more.
What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Acrylic?
Poly(methyl methacrylate), also known as acrylic, is a clear thermoplastic homopolymer often used as a more resistant alternative to glass. Acrylic is often shinier than polycarbonate, giving it a more smooth glass-like quality. It’s also affordable, making it one of the most common types of clear moldable plastics available to the general public.
Some of the benefits of using acrylic plastic include:
- Transparent properties
- Weather resistance
- Chemical resistance
- Surface Hardness
- Dimensional Stability
- Non-toxic composition
However, acrylic isn’t as strong as polycarbonate and can be prone to cracking. It tends to be more brittle, meaning that it doesn’t bend as well as polycarbonate, but rather stays stiff and cracks under stress or impact.
What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate (PC) is a naturally transparent plastic often used in injection molding processes. At room temperature, it is incredibly durable upon impact, and it’s an amorphous materials making it strong and shatter-resistant.
Some common everyday items commonly made with polycarbonate plastic include:
- Electronic components
- Construction materials
- DVDs and Blu-ray discs
- Automotive parts
- Aircraft parts
- Medical tools
- Smartphone parts
While polycarbonate is generally stronger than acrylic, it’s also more prone to developing scratches and dents the longer it’s used. Polycarbonate is also less commercially-available than acrylic, making more expensive.
Which One Should I Use?
Retlaw Industries manufactures thermoplastic parts with both acrylic and polycarbonate materials. Depending on what qualities you want your see-through plastic products to have, Retlaw can make it for you. For over 40 years, our Hartland, WI facility has produced quality injection molded products for a wide variety of industries. Contact us today to learn more, or to get a product quote.