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The Differences Between Acrylic and Polycarbonate

Written by The Plastic People
08/05/2018 15:13:58

Acrylic and polycarbonate are two of the most popular clear plastics - and our bestsellers here at The Plastic People. Both materials have their different strengths and weaknesses and, in this blog, we're going to take a look at the two plastics in a side-by-side comparison.

Both acrylic and polycarbonate can be purchased directly from us and cut to any size or shape. Click here to check out our full range of bespoke plastic services. If you would like some advice about which material will be best for your home, garden or DIY project then do not hestitate to contact our customer services team. They can be reached via email at service@theplasticpeople.co.uk. 

Which plastic is stronger? 

Acrylic and Polycarbonate are both half the weight of a comparably sized piece of glass - and yet both plastics are much stronger than glass, providing much greater impact resistance. Both the materials are also shatterproof meaning that instead of shattering into lots of small and sharp pieces, acrylic and polycarbonate break into a few larger and duller shards that are easy to dispose of. This makes them safer than glass. 

If you are comparing to glass, acrylic has 10 times the impact resistance of glass. Polycarbonate has 250 times the impact resistance of glass. So, as you can see, polycarbonate is the stronger material - and this is reflected in its common applications as an all-weather glazing material and as bulletproof 'glass'. 

Acrylic is typically a more rigid plastic, whereas polycarbonate can be purchased in various flexible grades. Nevertheless, both plastics can be bent under heat if needed. Polycarbonate, too, is slightly more durable than acrylic and less likely to crack under stress. 

Which is more durable?

Both acrylic and polycarbonate are weather resistant and expand and contract with temperature changes without long-term or permanent shrinkage.

Acrylic is more likely to chip than polycarbonate because it is less impact-resistant. It does not scratch as easily, however, and will not yellow over time.

Polycarbonate has low flammability, while acrylic will burn slowly and is not recommended in areas where flames may be present.

Which plasitc is clearer? 

Both polycarbonate and acrylic are avaliable in clear-as-glass grades. In fact, acrylic actually lets more light through glass, with a tranmission rate of 92% (glass is around 90%). Polycarbonate lets slightly less natural light through at 88%. This is typically because polycarbonate is often treated to be UV-resistant as it is a common roofing material. 

With this in mind, it seems sensible that acrylic is the go-to material for secondary glazing, while polycarbonate is more commonly used for roofs of structures such as bus shelters and conversatories due to its durability. Either way, both these materials are a great alternative to glass. 

Working with Acrylic & Polycarbonate

We think that both acrylic and polycarbonate are great DIY materials for a range of home improvements and construction projects. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, these plastics do have slightly different characteristics that mean they work better in certain scenarios. 

  • Working Temperatures: Acrylic can be used at temperatures ranging from -30 degrees Fahrenheit to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. It may expand and contract with changes in temperature although it won’t permanently shrink over time. Polycarbonate can handle temperatures up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cutting: Both acrylic and polycarbonate can be cut with conventional tools such as saws or routers, though acrylic cuts easier than polycarbonate. Polycarbonate fights the initial push of a saw or router at the start of a cut. Learn more about cutting plastics by clicking here.


  • Drilling/Machining: Acrylic will crack if it is drilled near an edge or with a drill bit not designed for plastic. Polycarbonate typically does not crack when being drilled 0 even if drilled close to the edge with a standard drill bit. When ordering your plastic directly from us, we will happily add any cut-outs or drilled holes you need - simply let us know when you checkout!



  • Bending: Heat bending works better with acrylic than polycarbonate - and this something you can complete at home. Polycarbonate can be cold formed or bent without heating.



  • Cleaning: Both acrylic and polycarbonate are easy to clean. The best choice for cleaning is a micro fibre or 100% cotton cloths (no other types!).  Acrylic should only be cleaned with warm soap water or an acrylic cleaner. Polishes such as VuPlex are available to provide a shine. Click here to get yours. Chemicals should never be used on acrylic. Polycarbonate has a higher chemical resistance than acrylic; it can be cleaned by harsher cleaners containing chemicals such as ammonia. Note: Neither plastic should be cleaned with solvents.

Costs of Acrylic & Polycarbonate

Acrylic is cheaper to than Polycarbonate. The latter tends to cost about 35% more. To compare prices of these two plastics, head to our online calculator and get an instant quote today. Click here to find out more. 

For more specific information regarding plastics and which materials you should use for your projects, get in touch with our customers services team today. They can be reached 5-days-a-week at service@theplasticpeople.co.uk.

We would love to see your acrylic (perspex) and polycarbonate projects! Make sure to reach out to us and send pictures on social media. We are @barkstonplastic on Twitter and Instagram, or can be messaged on Facebook by clicking here. 


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