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 sheet, rod, and tube | Polycarbonate sheets

Acrylic Material Characteristics

Polycarbonate Material Characteristics

• Easy to machine
• Strong and stiff
• Optically clear
• Easy to fabricate
• Easy to thermoform
• Good dimensional stability
• Easy to bond
• Good weathering
• Easy to machine
• Strong and stiff
• Good optical clarity (non-machine grade or unfilled)
• Easy to fabricate
• Easy to thermoform
• Good dimensional stability
• Easy to bond
• Impact resistant
• Good electrical insulation

Acrylic Applications

Polycarbonate Applications

• Indoor and outdoor signs
• POP displays and exhibits
• Architectural glazing
• Skylights
• Transparent manifolds
• LED-diffusing lighting panels
• Transportation applications
• Brochure holders
• Shelves and retail fixtures
• Indoor and outdoor signs
• POP displays and graphic holders
• Architectural glazing
• Skylights
• Transparent manifolds
• Face shields
• Machine guards
• Sight glasses
• Semiconductor machinery components

Acrylic Common Brands

Polycarbonate Common Brands

• OPTIX®, Plexiglas®, ACRYLITE® • TUFFAK®, Sustanat, TECANAT®

Typical Properties of Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate

Property Units ASTM Test
Acrylic Polycarbonate
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
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
Dielectric 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. 

Know what you need? Shop our Acrylic and Polycarbonate plastics online, or Contact Us with questions about these plastic materials.

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Our experienced sales and technical teams are available to assist you with material selection challenges.

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