Acrylic Plastic VS Glass: Which one is Better?

Acrylic plastic is a fantastic alternative to glass and can be used for more applications than you probably realise. But why? The simple answer to this question is that the properties of acrylic plastic are more advantageous for the average property owner than those of glass. However, there is a little more to it than that.

In this month’s article, we’ll discuss the properties of acrylic plastic and why acrylic plastic is a great alternative to glass. Additionally, we will cover the benefits of glass and why they don’t quite match up to acrylic.

Acrylic Plastic is more cost-effective

The manufacturing process of glass is far more complicated, extensive, and expensive than acrylic plastic. Glass is made from a combination of sand, soda ash and limestone, heated to roughly 1700°C and combined. It takes a great amount of energy to reach this temperature and even more to maintain it. This process considerably raises the cost of glass panes to compensate for the money it took to make them.

However, manufacturing acrylic plastic is far less costly, which results in a cheaper product. Acrylic plastic is made using a process called Bulk Polymerization. During this process, the monomer (methyl methacrylate) and the catalyst (usually organic peroxide), are poured into a mould, sealed, and heated to form the acrylic plastic polymer.

The temperature required to transform acrylic plastic into a liquid is far lower than that of glass. Acrylic turns to liquid when heated to 250°C, compared to the 1700°C glass requires.

Acrylic plastic is far cheaper than glass due to the way they’re made. So, if you’re looking for a cost-effective solution for your project, acrylic is the way to go.

Acrylic is stronger

One of the greatest benefits of glass is the number of ways it can be reinforced for enhanced strength. However, ordinary glass can smash relatively easily when impacted. Acrylic, on the other hand, is naturally up to 17 times stronger than glass of the same thickness.

Acrylic plastic is stronger than glass due to its structural makeup, which defies the brittleness that glass possesses. The enhanced strength of acrylic makes it a perfect material for windows and personal protective equipment.

Acrylic is lighter

One of the benefits of glass is that it's generally sturdy, especially when it is double-glazed or reinforced. But this sturdiness tends to demand extra weight. Glass can be incredibly heavy, and thus, difficult to install and even more difficult to keep on the wall.

Heavy wall fittings require your wall to be capable of holding it. If your walls are weak, the likelihood of any glass you install coming away from the wall and smashing is far greater. However, acrylic doesn’t have this problem.

One of the properties of acrylic plastic that make it preferable to glass is that acrylic is far lighter by comparison. This is because the long chains of polymers that formulate acrylic are less tightly packed than the molecules of glass, which causes a lower density.

Acrylic plastic has a density of roughly 1.19 grams per cubic centimetre (g/cm³), whereas ordinary glass has a starting density of 2.5 g/cm³. So, if you’re looking for a material that is easy to transport, lift, and install, you’ll encounter far fewer issues with acrylic.

Acrylic has better optical clarity

One of the most beneficial properties of acrylic plastic is its optical clarity. Interestingly, clear acrylic is easier to see through than glass, with a 92% optical clarity rate compared to 90% of glass.
Of course, the optical clarity of glass and acrylic is greatly impacted by the amount of dirt present on the surface, so it is important to keep on top of cleaning your acrylic to maintain its optical clarity over time.

Acrylic is easier to clean

Unlike glass, which requires special anti-streaking cleaning solutions, acrylic can be cleaned with a simple mixture of soap and water. Acrylic doesn’t streak or smudge as easily as glass. So it's a fantastic low-maintenance alternative that provides all the same benefits as glass, but with enhanced features.

Acrylic is more prone to retaining particles of dirt in its pores than glass due to its slightly rougher surface, but they’re much easier to clean. Glass and acrylic are classified as non-porous materials, so they will not absorb water. But both do still have microscopic bumps on the surface in which dirt can build.

All-purpose cleaners, non-abrasive soap, water, and a soft cloth are the best materials you can use to clean your acrylic without leaving smudges or streaks.

Acrylic has enhanced UV-resistance

Here at Sheet Plastics, we have an array of acrylic sheets in various colours, suitable for internal and external use. You may be concerned about the durability of the colouring in the acrylic, and how it will hold against UV exposure over extended periods.

Fortunately, we include a UV-resistant coating on all of our acrylic sheets, to protect the colouring of the acrylic and to shield your skin from the rays.

Although glass largely blocks the UVB rays from the sun (the type which causes sunburn), UVA rays (which cause premature skin ageing) can still penetrate through its surface and damage your skin.

Alternatively, acrylic has exceptionally good natural UV resistance, which will protect your skin and the colouring of your acrylic from damage. Our added UV-resistant coating only further enhances this effect, which makes acrylic perfect as an alternative to glass windows.

How can Sheet Plastics help?

So, now you know more about the properties of acrylic plastic, what’s next? Acrylic plastic offers incredible versatility and is suitable for a variety of applications, from PPE and art projects to windows and splashbacks. So you can quite literally do anything you want!

Here at Sheet Plastics, we have a vast range of acrylic plastic sheets perfect for any project that include each of the properties of acrylic plastic we listed above. We keep our prices low to ensure affordability for all our customers. So you can reap the benefits of acrylic without having to spend an arm and a leg.

Browse our range of acrylic now to find out what it can do for you. Alternatively, try before you buy and order a sample!