When considering the differences between plexiglass vs acrylic, the reality is, they’re very similar. But there are a few notable differences. Let’s break down what plexiglass, acrylic and a mysterious third contender, Plexiglas, are and the differences between them.
What is acrylic?
Acrylic is a transparent thermoplastic homopolymer. In other words, it’s a kind of plastic—specifically, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). Though it is often used in sheet form as an alternative to glass, it’s also used in a variety of other applications, including casting resins, inks and coatings, medical devices and more.
While glass is cheaper to purchase and more easily recycled than acrylic, acrylic is stronger, more shatter resistant and resistant to the elements and erosion than glass. Depending on how it is manufactured, it can be either more scratch resistant than glass or extremely scratch- and impact-resistant.
As a result, acrylic is used in a lot of applications in which you might otherwise expect glass to be used. For example, eyeglass lenses are commonly made from acrylic. For example, eyeglass lenses are commonly made from acrylic because acrylic can be more scratch and shatter resistant in addition to being less reflective than glass, which can reduce the amount of glare.
What is plexiglass?
Plexiglass is a kind of clear acrylic sheet, and it is specifically used as a generic term to refer to a few different products that are manufactured under different names, including Plexiglas, the original trademarked name. When acrylic was created in the early 1900s, one of the products produced with it was registered under the name Plexiglas. Today, a number of manufacturers create plexiglass acrylic products sold under brand names including Acrylite, Crylux, Lucite and Perspex.
So, what’s the difference between plexiglass vs acrylic?
If you’re considering the differences between plexiglass, Plexiglas and acrylic sheeting, the truth is, there are more similarities than differences. Typically, plexiglass and acrylic products referred to as plexiglass will have very similar qualities. Typically, the only difference is in the way in which the two products are manufactured. Acrylic sheeting is usually manufactured using one of two processes: extrusion or cell casting. Extruded acrylic is manufactured using, as the name suggests, a process of extrusion. The acrylic is continuously extruded to create sheets of acrylic.
The cell cast process, on the other hand, involves pouring unreacted acrylic between two panes of glass, creating a cell. After the reaction has completed and the acrylic has cured, the glass is separated from the acrylic and the acrylic sheet is inspected. Because the process is more time and labor extensive, cell cast acrylic tends to be more expensive, but is typically higher quality and more durable. Plexiglass products are only manufactured using the cell cast process. So, if you’re paying more for a Plexiglas product, you’re not just paying for the brand name. You’re paying for the more substantial manufacturing process and, usually, a product that is more customized to your needs.
Now that you know the differences between plexiglass vs acrylic, this should help you plan your use of either product in the future.