What is Lexan and why might you consider for your next glass replacement? While you might not know what Lexan is or what it’s made of, you likely have an idea of a few products it shares similarities with, and it’s even more likely you’ve used or been around something made with Lexan quite recently.
Lexan is a trademarked term for polycarbonate sheeting, one of the most widely used plastics in the world. The brand name Lexan was created in 1960 by General Electric (GE), whereas Bayer began producing the same material under the names Merlon and Makrolon in 1958. Both companies were responsible for producing the material; GE in the US and Bayer in Europe.
Whatever name it goes by, Lexan is a polycarbonate resin thermoplastic. It has a variety of applications and is notable for his superior impact resistance. Lexan is often used, like acrylic, in situations that call for more durable versions of “glass-like” surfaces.
There are many advantages to Lexan. As mentioned previously, it has impressive impact resistance. While acrylic is typically 4 to 8 times more impact resistant than glass, Lexan is more than 200 (by some estimates, 250) times stronger than glass. This superior impact resistance, in part, is due to the fact that Lexan is much more flexible than acrylic or glass, which allows it to bend rather than shatter in many cases. Because of this flexibility, Lexan can be drilled without the threat of cracking you might experience with glass or acrylic. Lexan is also resistant to temperatures up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is highly resistant to acids and other harsh chemicals. It can be cold formed or bent without heating, and it has a low level off flammability.
Lexan does have its drawbacks, however. It’s much easier to scratch and much more expensive than acrylic. It’s also not as transparent as acrylic, and it can be yellowed over time by UV rays from the sun. Because of its flexibility, it can also be dented, and because it’s highly resistant to acids and other harsh chemicals, it can be difficult to clean with abrasive cleaners.
With respect to Lexan’s pros and cons, it’s still an ideal material for a variety of applications. Common uses of Lexan include racecar windows and windshields, reusable drinking bottles, computers and phone cases, visors for sports helmets, bulletproof “glass” and DVDs, CDs and Blu-ray discs.
Lexan and acrylic are often considered for similar applications. In general, acrylic is the preferred choice for applications in which a certain look or aesthetic is important, because it offers the transparency of glass with shatter and impact resistance that is superior to glass. It’s also less expensive compared to Lexan, making it a more cost friendly choice.
Lexan is the preferred choice for applications in which protection and strength are paramount. While acrylic is shiner and stiffer, it’s much more likely to crack and shatter under impact, whereas Lexan will bend and scratch, but is less likely to shatter or crack. Though it might not be as aesthetically pleasing, it’s safer and stronger than acrylic or glass.
In short, Lexan is a hugely popular plastic with a wide range of applications.