Acrylic Vs PVC Plastic – An Ultimate Comparison

Plastics form a very important part of our daily lives. We are going to have a look at two of the most commonly used plastics, acrylic and PVC, and how they compare.

What Is Acrylic

This is a type of plastic material that is very light in weight and transparent. We can also refer to it as Polymeric Methyl Methacrylate (PMMA).

Acrylic Structure
Acrylic Structure

We can get acrylic from natural gas (C5O2H8) although in the solid state we use it, it is chemically inactive. This means that it does not react with the very many chemicals that you can expose it to. It

It is biocompatible and you can use it as a substitute for glass. Handling it is quite easy and it is very tough therefore you it cannot be easily broken.

What Is PVC Plastic

PVC Structure
PVC Structure

Also called Polyvinyl chloride in full, it is a thermoplastic polymer that you can get from polyethylene carbon atoms. It is a high-strength material although it does not have sufficient resistance to heat.

However, it is very durable and you can make high-quality equipment using it. Such equipment includes cable insulation, medical devices, and many others.

How Acrylic Plastic Compares To PVC Plastic

· Composition

Acrylic Plastic

When we talk about acrylic plastic, we are referring to a polymer composed of acrylic acid or acrylates. We know polymers as repeated strand sections, which in this circumstance are repeated strands of acrylates.

The chemical formula of acrylic acid is CH2 CHCOO. This means that it is a compound of carbon having carboxylic acid.

PVC Plastic

PVC plastic is made up of two major components: ethylene (C2H4) and chlorine. We can get ethylene from petroleum and chlorine is a product from salt water electrolysis.

The total composition of chlorine in the PVC is about 57% of its total mass. Carbon accounts for 38% while hydrogen takes up the remaining 5%.

· Manufacturing Process

Acrylic Plastic

The manufacturing process of acrylic plastic involves the reaction of a monomer and a catalyst. An example of a monomer you can use is methyl methacrylate, mixing it with organic peroxide as your catalyst.

Acrylic Sheet Manufacturing
Acrylic Sheet Manufacturing

PVC Plastic

We can manufacture PVC using a process known as vinyl chloride monomer polymerization. There are some common polymerization methods that you can employ which include bulk, suspension, and emulsion.

However, suspension polymerization is utilized the most. You first take your raw material (vinyl chloride monomer) and liquefy it under high pressure.

You then place the molten monomer inside a polymerization reactor containing suspending agents and water. You can then add an initiator into the reactor which will aid in the production of your PVC.

You should carry out this process at a temperature range of about 40°C to 60°C under pressure. Water in this setup assists in neutralizing the heat produced during the polymerization process.

PVC Sheet
PVC Sheet

· Properties

Acrylic Plastic

  • Resistant to temperature: this plastic can withstand extreme temperature variations. You can comfortably subject it to any form of heat treatment and bonding through diffusion.
  • Impact resistance: in as much acrylic is very light in weight, it can absorb a great deal of shock and does not break easily. With half the weight of your ordinary glass, it can give you about seventeen times the glass’s impact resistance.
  • Optical clarity: you can get some of the best optical properties in acrylic plastic compared to PVC. With high clarity and transparency, you can use it as a material for your lenses.
  • Chemical resistance: it has a high resistance to various chemicals. It is commonly used to make medical manifolds due to this property.
  • Stiff and strong: acrylic is a very strong thermoplastic material that is impact-resistant. Its strength is about 10 to 20 times that of your regular glass.

PVC Plastic

  • Durable: this plastic is highly resistant to all weather conditions, corrosion, and any form of abrasion. This is why it should be your preferred choice when you want to get products for long-term outdoor applications.
  • Resistant to chemicals: it exhibits excellent resilience when you expose it to chemicals such as dilute acids or bases. They do quite well in environments having any form of inorganic chemicals.
  • Cost-effective: when we compare it with acrylic plastic, you can get a very good cost-performance ratio from it. Due to its superior physical and mechanical properties, you will rarely carry out any maintenance for a very long time.
  • Di-electric strength: PVC has a very high meaning you can use it as a form of insulation. This is very important especially if you’re dealing with electrical applications.
  • Flame retardant: this plastic contains a very high percentage of chlorine in its composition. This gives them a good fire performance property.

Applications

Acrylic Plastic

  • Aquariums: to build such fish tanks, you will need a clear and strong material resistant to shattering. Glass was the preferred option but acrylic has become popular since it is stronger and costs half of the glass value.
  • Fluorescent Light: you can make fluorescent light lenses covering these light bulbs from acrylic. They can filter out the blue light from the fluorescent and soften the general lighting to give you some optical comfort.
  • Military Applications: military aircraft have their cockpit windows made from acrylic as well as submarine windows. With its excellent strength under pressure, it is well-suited to deep sea operations and breaking sound barriers in fighter jets.
  • Fiber-optic Wiring: since it is transparent, it allows transmission of light while offering protection to your fiber lining. You can easily bend or stretch it during installation therefore making it very flexible and better than glass.
  • Sports Equipment: this material has gained popularity in the making of handles for tennis rackets, parts of performance shoes, and many others. The main reason is that it is very light in weight but very strong.

PVC Plastic

  • Wiring and cables: because it has an excellent tolerance to variations in temperature, you can use it in wiring and cabling applications. They can withstand many environmental stresses including corrosion and are therefore better than cast metal piping.
  • Packaging: you can use it for package wrapping since it is very lightweight and very durable. You can shrink-wrap your goods using clear vinyl or blister-package them using a rigid PVC film.
  • Building and construction: since it is durable and resistant to corrosion and moisture, you can use it for plumbing and other building applications. You can easily clean it without the need to constantly repaint it.
  • Window Frames: since it is easily affordable and durable, you can use it to make window frames or even sidings. With vinyl windows, you can achieve very high heat insulation rates compared to aluminum windows.
  • Healthcare: you may have wondered what that strong plastic used for IV bags and blood collection bags is. It’s PVC and it is preferred due to its strength and flexibility.
  • Household Goods: some of the common household goods made of PVC include shower curtains and raincoats. They are usually water resistant, and durable and their cost is very affordable.

· Advantages

Acrylic Pipe
Acrylic Pipe

Acrylic Plastic

  • You can easily machine it and carry out very many other processes without compromising its structural integrity.
  • It is biocompatible and can be used in many medical applications
  • It is very light in weight compared to glass.
  • Clear and very transparent and can allow more light to pass through it compared to other PVC or glass
  • It is resistant to a lot of chemicals although it does not perform well with hydrocarbons
  • It is cheaper to acquire. This is very affordable compared to PVC
  • Acrylic can withstand prolonged exposure to UV light and, therefore, can work well under direct sunlight

PVC Plastic

  • Has excellent insulation properties and vapor barrier properties
  • Flexible PVC has a high impact strength with rigid PCV having very high stiffness
  • It is highly resistant to chemicals such as acids and bases.
  • Possess a high dimensional stability
  • PVC is versatile and non-flammable
  • It has a good impact strength

· Disadvantages

Acrylic Plastic

  • Acrylic is easily susceptible to scratches therefore you have to properly maintain it.
  • They are not heat resistant hence you cannot use them in safety applications

PVC Plastic

  • Their properties may fluctuate because of the constant migration of plasticizers in them
  • Rigid PCVs may become brittle when exposed to temperatures below 5° Such polymers do not have impact modifiers or any form of processing aid
  • Flexible PVCs are prone to degradation from chlorinated hydrocarbons and nitro-compounds
  • Their continuous service temperature is very low, around 50°C

· Strength And Durability

Acrylic is the strongest of the two. It is shatterproof and you can subject it to extreme temperatures and UV light without considerable effects on its structure.

In as much as PVC offers high resistance to weather, heat, and impact, its strength is unstable in extreme conditions.

· Cost

When we analyze the two from a cost perspective, PVC is arguably cheaper than acrylic plastic. PVC is readily available and you can easily access it since its production is widespread.

The manufacturing process of acrylic plastic is a bit complicated meaning that the production cost incurred is high. However, the cost should not let you overrule other beneficial factors such as durability, clarity, and chemical resistance.

· Appearance

You can find PVC in the form of a shiny plastic-like material that is opaque. On the other hand, is transparent with clarity similar to that of glass.

Due to its clear nature, acrylic has good light transmission and appears shiny on the surface. Due to its opaque nature, you can find it in a variety of colors for your application.

Conclusion

You now have a better understanding of the distinction between acrylic and PVC plastic. You can easily machine these two and therefore your choice of either depends on your application requirements.

Settling for the right plastic between these two can prove to be an intricate process but is very important for the end product of your project. You can get the required pointers and guides from what we have discussed above.

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