Plexiglass vs Glass – A Complete Comparison

Plexiglass and glass are popular materials you can use to make many items. However, these materials have unique properties and features.

In this guide, we will help you choose the perfect material for your project. We will explore fundamental aspects of Plexiglass and glass.

What is Plexiglass?

Plexiglass is a synthetic thermoplastic material designed using a polymer known as poly methyl methacrylate and is petroleum-based.

This material is also referred to as acrylic glass and is typically produced as sheets. The material is strong, and shatter resistant while being lightweight which makes it useful in various application

Plexiglass
Plexiglass

What is Glass?

Glass is a versatile and widely used material that is transparent, chemically inert, and very brittle. This material is usually formed through an accelerated cooling of molten raw materials.

Some types of glasses naturally form such as volcanic glass but are typically manufactured from silica compounds such as sand and soda lime among others.

Glass Panel
Glass Panel

Comparing Plexiglass to Glass

Although plexiglass can be used as an alternative for glass and vice versa some key differences make them suited for different applications. Some of the differences between the two materials are;

· Material Composition

One of the key differences is the composition of these materials. These materials are designed using different raw materials that possess varying properties making them better suited for some applications. The material composition for these materials includes;

Plexiglass is synthesized from a polymer referred to as Poly methyl methacrylate. This synthetic compound is derived from the polymerization process of methyl methacrylate. The resulting material is strong and lightweight.

Glass is created using various compounds that are oxygen-based with the most typically utilized compound being silica. Silicon dioxide or silica is the key compound that makes up sand making sand the most commonly used material for designing glass.

The composition of glass varies with the type of glass, other compounds typically included are limestone and soda ash among others. These and several other materials are purposefully included to improve certain properties of the material.

· Properties

It is important to note that some properties may differ with varying composition of the materials. Chemicals can be used to reinforce some properties or add beneficial features to the material. The general properties of these materials are;

Properties of plexiglass

  • Plexiglass is synthesized with an elevated resistance to impact
  • This material has enhanced optical clarity
  • The material is incredibly lightweight
  • This alternative material is designed to be shatter-resistant
  • Plexiglass is reinforced with resistance to both Ultra Violet rays and weathering
  • The material also serves are a great electrical insulator

Properties of glass

  • The crystalline structure of glass makes it generally a poor electrical conductor
  • This material is hard and brittle
  • When processed the material appears transparent or translucent
  • Glass has an elevated thermal expansion coefficient
  • It possesses a reduced efficiency of thermal conductivity
  • The material has a generally increased refractive index
  • It has superior optical properties
  • Glass also offers resistance to corrosive chemicals except concentrated acids and hydrofluoric acid

· Advantages

There are several benefits you can derive from using either material. The materials each have their benefits that make them suitable for various applications, these advantages include;

Glass Window Panel
Glass Window Panel

Advantages of plexiglass

  • It is cheaper and easier to produce and process plexiglass compared to glass
  • Compared to other synthetic materials Plexiglass has an increased stability which limits its impact on the environment.
  • The material comes in various colors and easily be customized to better suit your application and or preferences
  • The material is very strong making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings. This material is also shatter-resistant.
  • Designed with resistance to ultraviolet rays and weathering the material is not only durable but can function even in harsh weather conditions without cracking.

Advantages of glass

  • Given its transparent nature glass allows light to pass through which is ideal for applications that require visual connection
  • The material is waterproof and is designed with a smooth surface that makes cleaning easy
  • Glass offers abrasion resistance and is relatively stable when subjected to a broad range of temperatures.
  • This material can be customized to better suit your preference or application requirements
  • You can opt for reinforced glass that is designed to be more energy efficient or laminated to make it increase its impact resistance
  • Glass has acoustic insulation properties which increase its range of applications
  • The material can completely be recycled which makes it highly sustainable.

· Limitations

There are a few limitations that you may encounter when using either one of these materials. These limitations include;

Limitation of plexiglass

  • This material is relatively soft and therefore more prone to scratching than overtime reduces its clarity
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun may lead to the material yellowing due to degradation caused by the UV rays
  • The thermoplastic material has very little thermal resistance and can ignite when subjected to high temperatures.
  • This material has very little chemical resistance
  • It costs you more to purchase plexiglass.

Limitation of glass

  • The material is very brittle which causes it to easily break under pressure
  • This material has no resistance to impact and will easily shatter when force is applied
  • Producing and processing the material is energy consuming which increases the cost of production.
  • The material has limited resistance to abrasions and chemicals compared to other materials.
  • This material is a lot heavier compared to its alternative
  • Its thermal and acoustic insulation properties are also limited in comparison with other materials used for those properties

· Applications

Both glass and plexiglass can be customized to suit your application requirements. With their different beneficial properties, these materials have a wide range of uses. Applications for these materials include;

Plexiglass Aquarium
Plexiglass Aquarium

Uses of plexiglass

  • Windows and skylights
  • Protective barriers
  • Displays
  • Medical equipment
  • Aquariums and submarines
  • Automobile lenses
  • Signage and lighting covers
  • Furniture
  • Greenhouses and solar panels

Uses of glass

  • Windows and doors
  • Tableware
  • Packaging
  • Medical equipment
  • Fiber optics
  • Art
  • Building facades
  • Solar panels
  • Automotive and transport
  • Optical devices

Conclusion

Both glass and plexiglass have various properties that make them suitable for different applications. Plexiglass is typically used as an alternative to glass but may not be suitable for all kinds of applications. It is therefore best to consider all the requirements of your applications as well as the properties of each material before selecting the most suitable one.

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