Polycarbonate and Acrylic are both well known as transparent plastics. They have wide applicability in a number of industries and can often be used in conjunction with one another to take advantage of various material properties. But which one is right for your prototype project? To answer the question let’s focus on some of the major qualities of each plastic:
1. Polycarbonate (PC): Polycarbonate is well known and widely used for several prominent reasons. First, it has extremely high impact strength for a plastic material. This makes it an ideal choice for use as a composite material in bulletproof glass and/or for riot gear (plastic shields) used by police to combat a riotous crowd. Polycarbonate also has very high transmissivity. That is, it allows very effectively for the passage of light. Combining its impact strength and high transmissivity makes polycarbonate an ideal material for commercial greenhouses used in northern climates. For example, in Canada you get a lot of snow. Farmers wanting to grow crops in the winter and/or early in the spring would find a polycarbonate greenhouse very useful because it allows the sun to reach the plants while at the same time meeting the load requirements for a roof subject to large winter storms and snow loads.
Polycarbonate Greenhouse from LittleGreenhouse.com
2. Acrylic (PMMA): Acrylic is also well known for two principal characteristics. First, like polycarbonate, acrylic has very high transmissivity (it allows for the passage of light). Second, acrylic is extremely scratch resistant. Because of these two qualities acrylic is frequently the plastic of choice for optical devices. Another characteristic that makes acrylic a great choice for optical devices is that relative to glass acrylic is much less damaging to skin or eye tissue when it is fractured. This is actually a characteristic common to most plastics (not just acrylic), but it is extremely relevant in the case of acrylic because it is more frequently being chosen as an alternative to glass for optical applications.
Lens CNC Machined From Acrylic Plastic
Although Polycarbonate and Acrylic have certain applications to which they are both particularly well suited, they can also be used in conjunction with one another. An example might be a storefront window in which both the characteristics of PC and PMMA are important. Scratch resistance is important because the window is exposed to pedestrians that may or may not touch the window (necessitating an outer layer made from Acrylic) while higher than normal impact resistance and/or strength is also required because display windows are large and require certain wind resistance (necessitating an inner layer made from Polycarbonate). Different plastics can be used in conjunction with one another and/or as a composite to achieve unique material properties that fit your particular application. If you’re trying to develop a prototype from plastic material Creative Mechanisms can help. We have 30 years of experience in prototype development specializing specifically in plastic materials. Contact us today or visit our web page specifically dedicated to plastic materials to learn more about the right plastic for your job.