Choosing the right type of plastic sheets is the difference between a durable, long-lasting and efficient result. Acrylic vs polycarbonate sheets are two very different materials produced using a variety of methods that change the flexibility and shape of the sheet.

While acrylic sheets are the more popular choice, its polycarbonate alternative has excellent moulding and heat-resistant properties. Let’s delve into the differences between these two options!

What Are Acrylic Sheets?

Acrylic is a type of plastic, often a clear sheet, with a variety of benefits and colour options. Its malleable state makes it easy to manufacture and thermoform, making it an extremely popular material. If there’s a particular shape or thickness you require, most manufacturers can create a bespoke product for you.

There are two types of acrylic: cast and extruded. Each has their advantages depending on the application and material, but cast acrylic is thought to be the more popular choice.

Cast Acrylic

Cast acrylic is often more expensive and that’s because it offers a high level of durability. Despite its resistance to many chemicals, cast acrylic doesn’t compromise on optical clarity or thermal efficiency by being thicker or darker. It even has a clearer image when printed on.

This form of acrylic also has a nicer finish with a smoother, flatter surface. As we head into the next century, contemporary architecture and industrial applications see a frequent use of cast acrylic.

Extruded Acrylic

If you’re looking for a readymade plastic sheet or a malleable option, extruded acrylic is the best choice. It’s much easier to fabricate because of its flexible properties, staying in shape when exposed to heat or bent after production. While extruded acrylic is often thinner than its competitor, it won’t easily snap, even in harsh weather conditions.

This form of acrylic is easily flame polished and bonds well with solvent-based adhesives, making it the quicker option. That being said, it’s often used for exterior secondary glazing and office partitioning, which are often urgent projects to complete.

What Are Polycarbonate Sheets?

Polycarbonate sheets are a thermoplastic often found in transparent sheets. They provide excellent durability against damage and are waterproof. It won’t crack under pressure or absorb moisture, keeping your sheets shining and smooth for many years to come.

These types of sheets aren’t commonly found indoors as they thrive more outdoors as roofing, which is great for properties subjected to harsh weather conditions. For example, polycarbonate sheets can keep you safe in the event of a fire because of their flame and chemical-resistant properties.

What are Acrylic Sheets Made From?

Acrylic is a vinyl polymer, also known as acrylates, made specifically from a synthetic polymer called acrylonitrile. However, the two types of acrylics are made slightly differently. In our previous article, you will find Sheet Plastics ultimate guide to acrylic sheets where we discuss more about its fabrication process and factors.

How is Cast Acrylic Made?

Cast acrylic is made from a batch-cell production where MMA (methyl methacrylate) is injected into a glass mould before being placed in warm water. As the temperature changes, the polymers change form into a sheet of tough acrylic.

How Is Extruded Acrylic Made?

Whereas, extruded acrylic is made using a continuous production process. PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) is a synthetic polymer derived from MMA. The polymer is fed into an extrusion barrel, run by a screw auger conveyor, where the hot temperature melts the pellets. The molten liquid is then pressed into a sheet where it is solidified by cooling rollers.

What Are Polycarbonate Sheets Made From?

Polycarbonate sheets are made through a reaction called bisphenol A. They are produced using an interfacial process with a combination of phenol condensation, acidic acetone, and carbonyl chloride, creating a polyester plastic.

Using a thermoforming process, polycarbonate sheets can be easily moulded and sized to your specifications. It’s even possible to continuously reheat and reshape it without reducing the quality of the material, but can also be recycled if you no longer need it.

Previously, we have created an extremely informative polycarbonate sheet guide that discusses more about its many uses, advantages, and fabrication process.

Acrylic vs Polycarbonate Sheet Applications

Acrylic sheets have very different uses in comparison to polycarbonate sheets. Before starting your project, it’s important to choose the right material as you may find the applications are contrasting. With that being said, let’s look into the acrylic sheet applications vs polycarbonate uses.

Acrylic Sheet Applications

Polycarbonate Sheet Application

  • Automotives/aircrafts
  • Bulletproof barriers
  • CDs/DVDs
  • Construction
  • Electronics
  • Lighting
  • Machine guards
  • Roofing
  • Safety goggles/visors
  • Sneeze guards


Acrylic vs Polycarbonate Sheet Benefits

If you require a durable material over a flexible one, or a bulletproof sheet rather than a heat-resistance sheet, it’s paramount you select the right option for your project. While some acrylic sheets can be used outdoors and vice versa for its competitor, the benefits don’t quite align, which may produce more wear and tear later on.

Acrylic Sheet Benefits

  • Bright and clear text/imagery
  • Durable
  • Easy fabrication
  • Lightweight
  • Long-lasting
  • Low maintenance
  • Maintains colour over time
  • Transparent
  • Variety of colours and finishes
  • Weather-resistant

Polycarbonate Sheet Benefits

  • Bulletproof
  • Easy to mould
  • Ease of installation
  • Fire-resistant
  • Hardwearing
  • Impact-resistant
  • Reuseable
  • Thermally-efficient
  • UV-resistant
  • Waterproof

Acrylic vs Polycarbonate Sheets Cost

While the differences between acrylic and polycarbonate are extremely contrasting, we try to set our prices fairly based on the applications and benefits. Clear sheets are the most popular option and cost the least, whereas our coloured and textured sheets follow a difficult production process and will cost more.

Acrylic Sheet Cost

Our clear acrylic sheets cost starts at 8p to £1.15 depending on the amount of sheets you require and their benefits. Whereas, our anti-reflective and coloured acrylic sheets cost more as they require a different process to fabricate.

The minimum length and width is 50 mm x 50 mm, whereas the maximum is 3040 mm x 2040 mm. If your specifications are in a different measurement, we can also calculate centimetres and metres. Our thickness range is much larger than the polycarbonate sheets, ranging from 2 mm to 30 mm.

Polycarbonate Cost

Our polycarbonate sheets cost starts from 6p, but ranges based on how many sheets you need and their properties. A thicker, more durable sheet will cost more. For example, our opal and tinted sheets require a lot more expertise to manufacture and cost up to £716.94.

Our minimum length and width is 50 mm x 50 mm and the maximum is 3040 mm x 2040 mm. We can also calculate in centimetres and metres. Whereas, the thickness ranges from 2 mm and 12 mm.


Durable Plastic Sheets at Sheet Plastics

At Sheet Plastics, we provide a range of plastic sheets suitable for any application. Whether you require a fluorescent acrylic sheet for a display case or a clear polycarbonate one for your greenhouse roof, we have the right option for you.

With your newly-broadened understanding of acrylic sheets vs polycarbonate sheets, we hope you are equipped with the knowledge of choosing the right sheet for your project. However, if you require further information about our products, we encourage you to contact us today.