Acrylic or glass? That’s the questions manufacturers and designers ask across a variety of industries, including those that make furniture, vehicles, medical supplies, and farm and recreation equipment. When a transparent material is needed, the design team often has to choose between laminated or tempered glass or acrylic sheeting. If you’re choosing between these materials, our injection molding company is comparing the two on several levels to help you determine which option is best for your project.
Similarities Between Glass and Acrylic
Glass and acrylic are two extremely different materials all the way down to their chemical structure. While they are far from interchangeable, they can be used for many of the same things, though. Both are transparent materials with over 90 percent light transmittance and available in large sheets. This is why they are both used frequently used to make windows, electronics’ screens, aquariums, and vehicle windshields. Beyond those, the two materials are very different in almost every other factor.
Benefits of Using Acrylic Over Glass
If you’re choosing between acrylic and glass, let’s first look at why you may want to opt for acrylic sheets over glass:
A sheet of acrylic weighs less than half of a similarly sized sheet of glass. This makes it easier to carry, install, and transport.
Not only are the material costs of acrylic around half the cost of the same size sheet of glass, but the costs related to manufacturing custom acrylic components are much lower too. Acrylic is a thermoplastic, meaning it can be shaped and molded when heated up without losing it’s properties. This means shaping and trimming is going to be much less labor intensive than it is to cut and mold glass, minimizing the manufacturing costs, and because it’s lighter in weight, shipping will be less, too.
One of the main benefits of using thermoplastic over glass is the impact resistance. Acrylic has a much higher rating for impact resistance – roughly 17 times more – than even tempered glass and most incidents of wear and tear won’t cause it to break or crack.
When glass breaks, it tends to shatter into big, uneven pieces with sharp, dangerous edges. Even tempered glass, known as “safety glass” shatters into small pieces that are difficult to clean, and while they aren’t sharp, can still cause injury.
From shape to functionality to decoration, acrylic offers a multitude of customization options. As we mentioned, it’s easy to trim and shape through thermoforming, plus, it can be tinted with different colors while still maintaining its transparency. The qualities of acrylic itself can also be changed through coatings. For example, acrylic can be easy to scratch and will allow UV rays to pass through, but UV coatings can block them while anti-scratch coatings (hardcoating) provides extra protection.
Drawbacks of Acrylic Compared to Glass
Even though acrylic does offer several benefits, it’s important to factor in where glass may be the better option. Glass is more resistant to scratching in its natural state, whereas acrylic requires an anti-scratch coating to prevent scuffs and scrapes.
Also, recycling and sustainability is a factor to consider. While acrylic is one of the more sustainable thermoplastics, able to be melted down and made into new materials with ease, the process of recycling acrylic can release chemicals into the air. Glass recycling is less expensive, simpler, and gentler on the environment.
Where Is Acrylic Used in Place of Glass?
- “Sneeze guards” or barriers used at restaurants, in front of cash register stands, or at bank and receptionist windows;
- Recreational and farm vehicle windshields;
- Fish tanks and aquariums;
- Eyeglasses and sunglasses;
- Commercial windows and doors;
- Television and electronics’ screens;
- Windows in airplanes and submarines
- Mirrors in commercial spaces
- Signs and displays in retail and commercial spaces
Contact Advanced Plastiform, Inc. for Custom Acrylic Manufacturing
If you decide that acrylic or plexiglass in place of glass is right for you, we can help. We provide custom injection molding and thermoforming to a variety of industries across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia. and our clients depend on us for quality products at low per-unit prices with fast turnaround times.