Is There A Difference Between Polycarbonate & Acrylic?

Is There A Difference Between Polycarbonate & Acrylic?

by Bryn Fest

Polycarbonate and acrylic are two of the most widely used plastics in a variety of applications. Both materials have a range of advantages as well as potential drawbacks, and it is important to understand the differences between them when it comes to choosing the right material for a specific project.

What is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate is a type of thermoplastic that has been in use since around 1953. It is an incredibly tough material that offers excellent impact strength and is resistant to scratches and other abrasions.

It has an impressive combination of stiffness and toughness that allows it to retain its shape under extreme conditions, including temperatures ranging from -40 degrees Celsius all the way up to 120 degrees Celsius depending on the grade. Polycarbonate sheets also have excellent UV resistance, making it suitable for outdoor use.

What is Acrylic?

Acrylic, also known as polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), is another type of thermoplastic that has been in use since the 1940s. Like polycarbonate, acrylic offers excellent optical clarity and impact strength, but with only about half the weight or less compared to PC.

Acrylic typically performs better than PC at low temperatures, ranging from -50 degrees Celsius all the way up to 80 degrees Celsius depending on grade. However, unlike PC which can easily be machined or welded, acrylic is difficult to work with due to its brittle nature once heated or cooled too quickly or too severely.


When it comes to cost comparison between these two types of plastic materials, acrylic generally tends to be more expensive than polycarbonate due to its higher cost of production and difficulty in working with it. However, this cost difference could vary depending on availability and size

requirements between brands and suppliers. As far as environmental friendliness goes, neither material is particularly eco-friendly in terms of manufacturing processes or end-of-life disposal options; both are petroleum-based plastics that can take hundreds of years to degrade naturally.


In terms of design considerations when choosing between these two types of plastic materials: When considering either Polycarbonate or Acrylic for your project needs there are several things you should keep in mind such as required temperature ranges/stability; environmental considerations; ease/cost/time needed for fabrication; flame resistance; scratch resistance; optical clarity; UV stability; abrasion resistance; chemical resistance; durability over time etc…

Depending on what kind of application these two materials will be used for will determine which one would be best suited for your specific project needs.


Both polycarbonate and acrylic offer excellent impact strength, but they do possess different levels of durability over time. Polycarbonate is considered to be the tougher material of the two with greater resistance to scratches and abrasions, whereas acrylic may yellow and degrade over time when exposed to UV light from the sun.

Acrylic also has a higher rate of thermal expansion than PC, which can cause distortion or cracking if not allowed for in design considerations.


Overall, both PC and acrylic can be excellent material choices depending on your specific application needs – however understanding their differences can help you make an informed decision when selecting the right material for your project!

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