Acrylic glass and other plastics in comparison

Acrylic glass is known as translucent and thus glass-like plastic. However, there are other plastics with the same characteristics. That's why some do-it-yourselfers are wondering where the differences between acrylic glass and other plastics are.

Not only price differences between acrylic and other plastics

Acrylic glass, colloquially also called Plexiglas, is a popular plastic in the craft as well as home improvement. But home improvement in particular, which does not regularly deal with plastics, is the first to recognize the enormous difference in the price of acrylic glass and other plastics. As a result, the question quickly arises as to where the material-related differences between the various plastics and acrylic glass actually lie.

PMMA comparable engineering plastics

Of course, this has something to do with the completely different properties of the different plastics. However, it is not always immediately apparent when plastics are very similar at first sight. Therefore, we have compared acrylic glass in this guide to plastics that can also be used for similar applications. Typical uses would be plastic panels for the roof, plastic panels for the balcony and plastic panels for projects in the house:

  • Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA, Acrylic or Plexiglas)
  • Polycarbonate (PC, Makrolon)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polystyrene (PS)

UV transmittance

When constructing a greenhouse made of double-skin sheets, not only can the properties of "acrylic glass versus glass" be clearly recognized, but also the comparison of various plastic building materials quickly provides information on the given properties. Compared to glass, acrylic glass is so highly regarded by the greenhouse because it lets the UV light through completely.

Depending on the project of advantage or disadvantage

The plants need the UV radiation that is dangerous for humans for their growth. The classic example of the results of glass greenhouse plants are tomatoes. Most know the threadbare and watery greenhouse tomatoes. These come from glass greenhouses. The acrylic glass not only leaves the UV radiation through the windows, it is also resistant to it, which in turn leads to a very good longevity, especially in the outdoor area (terrace, balcony, etc.).

Impact resistance of plastics

In addition, acrylic glass is also valued for its impact resistance. If hail hits acrylic glass, it does not break - at least it breaks splinter-free. However, the advantages of polycarbonate (PC) only really come into play here: the impact resistance of this plastic is even better than that of acrylic glass. Even hailstones caused by very large grains can keep a polycarbonate plate well. For the greenhouse, however, it is only partially suitable because polycarbonate absorbs the UV radiation.

Polycarbonate - better than its reputation

But this is in the construction of canopies or a lateral windshield again an advantage, as the stay under a polycarbonate roof is not worrying for humans. In winter gardens, however, acrylic glass must usually be used again, because in this case, too, many exotic plants are to be found in most winter gardens. However, it is significantly worse for the longevity of polycarbonate. The UV radiation is causing the material, over the years it is cloudy and milky.

Polystyrene versus acrylic glass

Polystyrene, on the other hand, is absolutely not UV-compatible. Therefore, it is only suitable for indoor use. The light transmission is about 93 percent as high as that of PMMA. In contrast to the processing of acrylic glass, which is somewhat more difficult (depending on the processing technique), even beginners can process polystyrene very well. In terms of appearance (clear, cloudy, colored, rough, textured or smooth surface, etc.) polystyrene acrylic glass does not lag behind. Due to the lack of UV protection, it is mostly used for the following applications:

  • room divider
  • light strips
  • Filling of room doors
  • showcases
  • other pieces of furniture
  • Filling of furniture doors

Tips & Tricks

But there are other important differences between the different plastics and acrylic glass. This concerns, for example, the permeability to water or gas (at the last point, thus also the air permeability) and the chemical behavior to organic and inorganic substances. You should also inform yourself about this in relation to your individual project.

PVC also differs from acrylic glass

In the case of polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC, UV radiation is also a problem at first, but can be made by an appropriate coating. But there are temperature-related problems: PVC can only be used where it does not get warmer than 45 degrees Celsius, including individual short peak values ​​of up to 65 degrees. Since the contained plasticizers evaporate over time, the longevity is also limited accordingly.