Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic: The Complete Guide

Polycarbonate and acrylic are popular thermoplastics in modern plastic fabrication industry. Although polycarbonate and acrylic are closely related, you should know the physical and chemical properties. This way, you will definitely choose an appropriate material for your applications.

What Is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate refers to a transparent thermoplastic that has functional groups linked together using carbonate groups. It is made resistant to fracture and impact by its high strength and gives manufacturers and designers chances for freedom of design. It can maintain strength and coloring over time even when subjected to stressful conditions.

What Is Acrylic?

Acrylic refers to a transparent thermoplastic homopolymer a versatile plastic material with several benefits and purposes and is available in several opacities and colors. It tends to be commonly sold in sheets of various thicknesses, rods or tubes, and other styles like mirrored, non-glare, and frosted.

What Is Acrylic_
Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic Strength

Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic Strength

The strength of polycarbonate and acrylic compares in the following ways:

  • Polycarbonate tends to be more robust as compared to acrylic. Polycarbonate tends to offer ten times more resistance to impact than acrylic.
  • Acrylic tends to be more rigid as compared to polycarbonate as it can only be bent using heat. This is because polycarbonate can be made with various levels of flexibility and can be bent well even without using heat.
  • When compared to polycarbonate, acrylic tends to easily crack when the two are subjected to the same level of strength.

Light Transmission Of Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic

Light transmission of polycarbonate and acrylic compares in the following ways:

  • Acrylic tends to have a surface that is much brighter than polycarbonate thus permitting for more light penetration.
  • It is possible to polish acrylic to restore its clarity while that is not possible in polycarbonate.
Light Transmission Of Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic
Cleaning Polycarbonate Vs Cleaning Acrylic

Cleaning Polycarbonate Vs Cleaning Acrylic

Cleaning polycarbonate vs cleaning acrylic compares in the following ways:

  • Polycarbonate and acrylic can be cleaned naturally and comfortably using a piece of cloth or microfiber mase from ten percent cotton.
  • Acrylic cleaning needs the use of an acrylic cleaner or warm soapy water.
  • Polycarbonate on the other hand is more resistant to chemicals and requires to be cleaned using harsher cleaners that constitute components like ammonia.
  • However, it is important to avoid using solvents when cleaning both polycarbonate and acrylic

Working Temperature Range Of Acrylic Vs Polycarbonate

The working temperature of acrylic tends to range from -30 degrees to 90 degrees Celsius. It tends to contract and expand whenever there are changes in temperature although it does not shrink permanently over time. On the other hand, polycarbonate on the other hand can handle temperatures up to a working temperature of 115 degrees Celsius.

Working Temperature Range Of Acrylic Vs Polycarbonate
Durability Of Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic

Durability Of Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic

Both acrylic and polycarbonate tend to be able tolerant to all weather conditions and do not encounter any permanent shrinkage in case of temperature variations. Acrylic and polycarbonate may get scratches but not easily thus they should not come to contact with abrasives. Also, acrylic tends to easily succumb to impact and thus chips faster in comparison with polycarbonate. However, acrylic does not yellow for a long time. In addition, both polycarbonate and acrylic are not scratched easily.

Injection Molding Acrylic Vs Injection Molding Polycarbonate

Injection molding acrylic tends to be a versatile process that ensures that a range of products is made from acrylic material. It ensures there is excellent optical clarity, resistance to sunlight, perfect weatheability, excellent dimensional stability, and excellent resistance to most of the aqueous solutions.

Injection molding polycarbonate ensures that objects are produced by inserting molten polycarbonate into a mold. Normally, the melt temperature of the polycarbonate material ranges between 270 to 320 degrees Celsius and may decompose at high temperatures resulting in defects like blackspots and bubbles.

Injection Molding Acrylic Vs Injection Molding Polycarbonate
Thermoforming Polycarbonate Vs Thermoforming Acrylic

Thermoforming Polycarbonate Vs Thermoforming Acrylic

Thermoforming acrylic entails the process of heating acrylic sheet materials that are thin until it reaches a pliable temperature. Once this is done, the hot plastic sheet will be manipulated into a three-dimensional shape which is trimmed to form a finished product. Mostly, thermoforming acrylics are used for large products.

On the other hand, thermoforming polycarbonate is a process of heating a polycarbonate sheet to a given temperature mostly below its melting point. This heating occurs up to a point of changing to soft or glossy nature and then stretched later to the mold’s contours.

Polishing Polycarbonate Vs Polishing Acrylic

It is possible to polish acrylic to obtain a surface that is shiny and smooth. However, it is important to note that this is not the case for polycarbonate as it cannot be polished. Polishing ensures that the surface of acrylic has a quality resulting finish with edges that are clear like the uncut surface.

Polishing Polycarbonate Vs Polishing Acrylic
Bending Polycarbonate Vs Bending Acrylic

Bending Polycarbonate Vs Bending Acrylic

Acrylic tends to be stiffer and thus it is only possible to ben it using heat. Polycarbonate on the other hand tends to be more flexible and thus it is possible to bend it comfortably without using heat. It tends to be easier to ben acrylic as compared to polycarbonate due to its nature.

Bonding Acrylic Vs Bonding Polycarbonate

Acrylic tends to have weaker bonds as compared to polycarbonate. This makes it easier to bend acrylic and make different desired shapes.

On the other hand, polycarbonate has strong bonds and thus it is about hard on bonding it to form different shapes. However, it is possible to bond polycarbonate even without using heat. When bonding acrylic and polycarbonate, acrylic tends to obtain a cleaner glue joint as compared to the former. You can also learn more about plastic bonding.

Bonding Acrylic Vs Bonding Polycarbonate

Fire Rating Of Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic

Polycarbonate tends to have the lowest flammability as compared to acrylic. Acrylic on the other hand burns slowly and thus should be kept far from direct flames.

UV Resistance: Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic

Acrylic tends to have a light transmission rate of about ninety-two percent while polycarbonate has a light transmittance of eighty-eight percent. This is typical because polycarbonate tends to serve as a material that is highly UV resistant and thus commonly used for roofing.

UV Resistance_ Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic
Scratch Resistance_ Acrylic Vs Polycarbonate

Scratch Resistance: Acrylic Vs Polycarbonate

Both acrylic and polyester can be prone to scratches although not easily and therefore you should avoid using abrasive materials on them. Acrylic tends to easily succumb to any imposed impact and obtain scratches faster as compared to polycarbonate. In addition, it is essential to note that both acrylic and polycarbonate are not easy to scratch.

Benefits Of Polycarbonate Vs. Benefits Of Acrylic

Benefits Of Polycarbonate
Benefits Of Acrylic

Some of the benefits of polycarbonate include:

  • Fire-resistant: polycarbonate tends to be resistant to fire and has a fire rating of B1 thus does not burn even with an open flame.
  • Resistant to vandalism: it is unbreakable and proof of vandalism thus making it a perfect choice for glazing.
  • Insulating: it can hold heat well and thus well suited for use in greenhouses.
  • Easy to process: polycarbonate tends to be easy to process as it is a very strong material that encounters minimum breakage. It is possible to process it in various ways as it can be milled, sawn, drilled, engraved, bent, and glued.

Some of the benefits of acrylic include:

  • Strong: acrylic tends to be about thirty times as strong as glass because it is formed from plastics that have great flexibility. This makes sure that it only has a small risk of breakage when being molded.
  • Light is weight: it tends to be very light and this makes it suited for use in several applications.
  • Easy to shape and fabricate: acrylic is easy to be molded into several shapes once heated as it becomes malleable. It is possible to form acrylic into any shape desired virtually.

Disadvantages Of Polycarbonate Vs. Disadvantages Of Acrylic

Disadvantages Of Polycarbonate Vs. Disadvantages Of Acrylic

Some of the disadvantages of polycarbonate include:

  • Sensitive to scratches: polycarbonate is not resistant to scratches although this can be solved through various surface finishing options.
  • Polycarbonate sheets can expand: polycarbonate tends to have a degree of expansion of about 0.065 mm per meter per degree Celsius. However, this tends not to be a major problem so long as you ensure the mounting holes are sufficient to the prevention of possible expansion mis-faults.
  • Easy to dent: polycarbonate tends to obtain dents easily when subjected to external forces and thus it is important to exercise caution when handling the material.

Some of the disadvantages of acrylic include:

  • More liable to scratches: acrylic tends to be prone to scratches thus it is essential to make sure that you clean it in the right way.
  • Not heat resistant: acrylic is not resistant to heat as it becomes malleable when exposed to very high temperatures. Therefore, it is important to ensure that acrylic is used in the right environmental conditions as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • More likely to crack when drilled: when subjected to drilling, acrylic will often crack easily as compared to other types of material. Thus, caution should be exercised in the drilling process.

Machining Polycarbonate Vs. Acrylic

Milling Polycarbonate Vs Milling Acrylic

Polycarbonates are preferred when it comes to milling compared to acrylics. Polycarbonates have a high melting point compared to acrylics thus making them ideal for milling. Although, you should ensure that the cutting tool is sharp enough to have clean cuts and also make the process smooth.

With acrylic, you must be careful when milling because it is not very heat tolerant.  Use a sharp cutting tool for a smooth finish and also to avoid acrylic from melting during milling.

Drilling Polycarbonate Vs Drilling Acrylic

Polycarbonates withstand drilling compared to acrylic. Acrylics can easily break during drilling because they are not as sturdy as polycarbonates. Acrylics can easily break especially when drilled near the edge.

It is recommendable to ask the manufacturer or the vendor to drill both the polycarbonate and acrylic according to the measurements that you need. This is because wrong drilling methods can lead to the whole material being destroyed.

Boring Polycarbonate Vs Boring Acrylic

Polycarbonates are ideal for boring because they do not crack as easily as acrylics. It is important to ensure that you use the correct tools when boring polycarbonates and acrylics. Also, ensure for acrylics that you do not do the boring near the edges because it can easily crack.

It is also important to note that you can bore any section of polycarbonate without compromising its integrity while on the other hand, you must be careful with acrylic because it can easily break hen boring near the edges.

Turning Polycarbonate Vs Turning Acrylic

Turning polycarbonate tends to produce turning polycarbonate parts that have excellent dimensional stability, high toughness, and excellent impact strength. It ensures that polycarbonate has great electrical properties, good machinability, and high impact resistance for withstanding extreme temperatures.

In turning operation for acrylics, a single-point cutting tool tends to move along the acrylic workpiece which is rotating to eliminate unnecessary material. Turning operation in acrylics carries out facing, boring, grooving, and external thread cutting.

Applications Of Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic

Uses Of Polycarbonate
  • Making electronic parts
  • Space divider
  • Automotive parts
  • Building materials
  • Greenhouses
  • Construction
  • LED light pipes
  • Windshields
  • Bulletproof glass
  • Silicone mold casting
  • Machine guards
Uses Of Acrylic
  • Acrylic nails
  • Lenses
  • Medical devices
  • Paint
  • LCD screens
  • Enclosures
  • Windows
  • Construction
  • Magnifying glass
  • Aquarium
  • Airplane canopies
  • Swimming pools
  • Submarine windows

Form In Which Polycarbonate Vs Acrylic Exist


Both polycarbonate and acrylic can be easily bent under heat although polycarbonates are easy to work with than acrylic. Polycarbonates are better suited to be made into tubes and are more durable and stronger compared to acrylic.


Acrylic and polycarbonates can also be made into pipes. Because of their rigidity, acrylics are not usually used in making pipes. Polycarbonates are best suited because of impact resistance, durability, and strength.


Both acrylic and polycarbonates are used to make various types of sheets. Both have greater resistance, strength, and durability compared to glass. They are also weather-resistant and good when it comes to UV light protection.


Polycarbonates can also be available as pellets depending on functionality. Acrylics have less impact resistance compared to polycarbonates thus not ideal to be used as pellets. But compared to glass, both materials are the best alternative to glass.


Acrylic is a better option when it comes to films and secondary glazing. This is because it is clearer compared to both glass and polycarbonate. Another advantage of acrylic is that it is easy to polish and has a high shine compared to polycarbonate.

Coating To Apply On Polycarbonate And Acrylic

Anti-fog Coating

Just like the name, the anti-fog coating prevents the polycarbonate and acrylic from the effects of fog and from fogging.

Anti-scratch Coating

It is a coating that can be applied on acrylic and polycarbonates to prevent scratching. It is especially used for acrylic which scratches easily.

Anti-glare Coating

This is a polycarbonate and acrylic coating that is applied to prevent reflections and boost perfect optical performance.

Anti-abrasion Coating

This coating prevents the acrylic or polycarbonate sheets or material from abrasion resulting from cleaning or wear and tear as a result of cleaning agents.

People Also Ask:

Is Polycarbonate Better Than Acrylic?

Polycarbonate is better than acrylic because it lasts longer. Acrylic is more susceptible to scratching and has poor heat resistance.

Which Material Is Clear; Polycarbonate Or Acrylic?

Both polycarbonate and acrylic are clear. Their translucence can be due to deliberate coloring during formulation.

How Can You Tell Polycarbonate From Acrylic?

Polycarbonate usually has a blue edge while acrylics have a clear edge. This difference mainly results from how the two are formulated.

Does Polycarbonate Degrade On Sun?

Yes, over time, polycarbonate degrades if exposed over long periods to direct sunshine and will need to be replaced.

Is Polycarbonate Water Resistant?

Yes, polycarbonate is water-resistant.

What Is Acrylic Sheet Made Of?

Acrylic sheets are made from a polymer known as acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile is derived from coal and petroleum-based chemicals.

What Is Polycarbonate Sheet Made Of?

Polycarbonate sheets are made from thermoplastic polymers through condensation of phosgene COC12 and bisphenol-A.

How Are Acrylic Sheets Made?

Acrylic Sheets are made using a bulk polymerization process. This process involves heating a monomer and a catalyst inside a mold to form an acrylic plastic polymer.

How Do You Manufacture Polycarbonate Sheet?

Polycarbonate sheets are manufactured through a process known as thermoforming. Thermoforming involves a chemical reaction between phosgene COC12 and bisphenol A (BPA).

Is Acrylic Waterproof?

Acrylic is waterproof to some level. Over time, it can become less resistant to water especially when the acrylic is not dried well.

Related Resources:

Plastic Machining

Acrylic Fabrication

Polycarbonate Machining And Fabrication

Polycarbonate Fabrication

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