Acrylic Machining vs. Polycarbonate Machining

At Plastic Design, Inc., we specialize in designing and fabricating products from acrylic and polycarbonate. We use cast rods, sheets, tubes, and custom forms to manufacture a wide range of finished products in both materials.

acrylic polycarbonate fabrication

Acrylic and polycarbonate serve as the two most frequently used clear plastics, with both materials offering distinct advantages and disadvantages. With over four decades of experience in the plastic manufacturing sector, we clearly understand these nuances and how they affect product and production performance and apply this expertise to all of our manufacturing operations—including machining.

Some industry professionals may find it difficult to choose between the two plastics for their unique machining applications. To facilitate this selection process, we put together the following blog post that provides an overview of acrylic and polycarbonate, their advantages and disadvantages, and their typical applications.

Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate

Before deciding whether acrylic or polycarbonate best suits your machining needs, it is important to understand the differences between the two plastics materials. Each exhibits particular advantageous and disadvantageous characteristics that make one or the other more appropriate to use in a given application.

The table below outlines the various characteristics—both positive and negative—of acrylic and polycarbonate.

Acrylic Polycarbonate
Description Transparent thermoplastic plastic

Also referred to by the trade name Plexiglass

Available in a wide range of colors and opacities

Naturally transparent thermoplastic

Available in several formulations, including FDA-compliant, glass-filled, enhanced bearing, and wear grades

Advantages High strength (4–8 times that of glass)

Superior clarity (making it a suitable alternative to glass)

High durability (resistant to a broad range of temperatures, weathering, and UV radiation)

Broad versatility (easily fabricated through a variety of techniques and bonded with adhesives and solvents)

Low cost (less expensive to manufacture than other materials, including polycarbonate)

Superior strength (200 times that of glass)

Superior transparency (transmits light as effectively as glass)

High durability (high impact resistance)

High mac

hinability (easily manipulated and shaped using various fabrication processes)

Minimal creep (less likely than other plastic materials to warp or deform under pressure)

Disadvantages More susceptible to cracking than polycarbonate

More susceptible to chipping than polycarbonate

Poor heat resistance (loses structural integrity at temperatures over 160 degrees Celsius and will warp or melt when exposed to open flames)

More susceptible to scratches than acrylic

More susceptible to denting under impact than acrylic (due to greater flexibility)

High costs (more expensive than acrylic)

Common Product Applications for Acrylic and Polycarbonate

acrylic machining vs polycarbonate machiningDue to their differing characteristics, acrylic and polycarbonate find use in varying product applications. Some of the most common products made from acrylic and polycarbonate include:

  • Polycarbonate:Architectural facades and features
    • Bulletproof and bullet-resistant windows
    • Clear manifolds
    • Face shields
    • Machine safety glass
    • Point-of-Purchase (POP) retail displays
    • Sight glasses

Acrylic and Polycarbonate Products from Plastic Design, Inc.

At Plastic Design, Inc., we use the most advanced manufacturing equipment to produce the highest quality acrylic, polycarbonate, and other plastic products on the market. We offer a variety of services, including CNC machining, laser cutting, routing, forming, pipe fusion, and plasma cutting, to meet the needs of a wide range of applications. From single prototypes to large-scale production runs, we fulfill customer orders with short lead times and quick turnaround.

acrylic polycarbonate machining

Some of the most common uses for acrylic or polycarbonate machining include:

  • Biomedical and pharmaceutical
  • Cleanroom
  • Storage equipment
  • Semiconductor
  • Recreational marine

In addition to our superior fabrication services, our experienced engineers and specialists are happy to provide computer-aided design assistance and on-site support. For more information about our products and services, contact us or request a quote today.