Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate

Compare Acrylic and Polycarbonate to identify the best option for your project

Differences Between Acrylic and Polycarbonate

Acrylic is a transparent plastic material with outstanding strength, stiffness, and optical clarity. Acrylic sheet is easy to fabricate, bonds well with adhesives and solvents, and is easy to thermoform.

It has superior weathering properties compared to many other transparent plastics. Acrylic sheet exhibits glass-like qualities — clarity, brilliance, and transparency — but at half the weight and many times the impact resistance of glass. From durable signs and skylights to eye-catching retail store fixtures, displays, and shelves, acrylic plastics provide outstanding versatility, durability, and aesthetic qualities. 

Polycarbonate is a tough, transparent plastic material with outstanding strength, stiffness, and impact resistance. Polycarbonate’s optical clarity makes it ideal for applications such as machine guards, signs, face shields, skylights, POP displays. Polycarbonate is also widely used in architectural glazing for  medical facilities, retail and government buildings, and transportation centers at risk from breakage and vandalism.

Acrylic Material Characteristics
  • Strong and stiff
  • Easy to fabricate
  • Optically clear
  • Easy to thermoform
  • Easy to machine
  • Good dimensional stability
  • Easy to bond
  • Good weathering
Acrylic Applications:
  • Indoor and outdoor signs
  • POP displays and exhibits
  • Architectural glazing, skylights
  • LED-diffusing lighting panels
  • Transportation applications
  • Brochure holders
  • Shelves and retail fixtures
  • Transparent manifolds
Acrylic Common Brands
  • OPTIX®, Plexiglas®, ACRYLITE®
Polycarbonate Material Characteristics
  • Easy to machine
  • Strong and stiff
  • Good optical clarity (non-machine grade
    or unfilled)
  • Impact resistant
  • Easy to fabricate
  • Easy to thermoform
  • Good dimensional stability
  • Good electrical insulation
  • Easy to bond
Polycarbonate Applications:
  • Indoor and outdoor signs
  • Architectural glazing
  • POP displays and graphic holders
  • Skylights
  • Face shields
  • Machine guards
  • Sight glasses
  • Semiconductor machinery components
  • Transparent manifolds
Polycarbonate Common Brands
  • TUFFAK® (formerly called Makrolon®), Sustanat, TECANAT®

 

Typical properties of acrylic vs. polycarbonate
  UNITS ASTM TEST ACRYLIC POLCARBONATE
Specific gravity (73°F)   D792 1.19 1.20
Tensile strength (73°F) psi D638 10,000 9,500
Tensile modulus of elasticity (73°F) psi D638 400,000 345,000
Tensile elongation (73°F) % D638 4.5 135
Flexural strength (73°F) psi D790 17,000 13,500
Flexural modulus of elasticity (73°F) psi D790 480,000 345,000
Compressive strength
10% Deformation (73°F)
psi D695 17,000 12,500
Hardness
Rockwell M&R, Durometer Shore D (73°F)
scale as noted D785,
D2240
M95 M70, R118,
Shore D 80
Izod impact (notched, 73°F) ft-lbs/in D256 0.4 12.0 - 16.0
Coefficient of friction   Dynamic - -
Coefficient of linear thermal expansion in/in/°Fx10-5 D696 4.0 3.8
Heat deflection temperature @ 66 psi/264 psi °F D648 -/195 280/270
Maximum continuous service temperature in air °F   160 240
Dialectic strength V/mil D149 430 380
Water absorption (immersion 24 hours) % D570 0.20 0.15
Light transmittance (transparency/clarity) % D1003 92 86
Haze (cloudy appearance) % D1003 2 <1

Values may vary according to brand name. Please ask your Curbell Plastics representative for more specific information about an individual brand. *Double-15° notch