Why Choose Polycarbonate Instead of Glass?

While glass has long been the standard material for windows, lenses, and other items where high transparency is necessary, polycarbonate has been replacing glass in numerous uses. What makes it a better choice and should you choose polycarbonate over glass for your next project? Our thermoforming company in North Carolina is looking at what polycarbonate is and how it's used as well as the benefits and drawbacks it has over glass.

What Is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate is a naturally transparent thermoplastic with a chemical makeup that contains carbonates. Because it's a thermoplastic, it can be heated to a liquid state and molded into shape without affecting the chemical makeup of the polymer. Polycarbonate is a hard, rigid material that often comes in large sheets which can be shaped, coated, tinted, and customized in a variety of ways, making it a very versatile material.

Benefits of Choosing Polycarbonate Over Glass

The numberone reason to choose polycarbonate over glass is impact resistance. This material can withstand impacts up to 200 times greater than glass, so it's significantly less likely to crack or shatter. Additional features of polycarbonate include:

  • UV Protection: While glass can be coated with UV protection, polycarbonate blocks almost 100 percent of UV rays, making it a popular option for windows and windscreens.
  • Lightweight: Whether you need large panels or lenses used in protective eyewear, polycarbonate is much lighter than glass making it easier to install or maneuver on large jobs and much more comfortable for eyewear.
  • Insulating: Polycarbonate doesn't allow for much thermal transfer, so if you need windows in a greenhouse or pool area, this material will keep summer heat and winter chill out of the area.
  • Non-Conductive: Polycarbonate doesn't conduct electricity and offers excellent electrical insulation and heat resistance.

Its properties make it generally easy to work with and manufacture, and it's also significantly less expensive than glass both as a raw material and less labor-intensive to manufacture. This keeps production costs down and increases profits or allows savings to be passed to the consumer.

Advantages of Glass Over Polycarbonate

While polycarbonate allows high levels of light transmission, glass does have a higher visual clarity. To the naked eye, the difference isn't noticeable, which is why polycarbonate is often used to make eyeglasses, windows, and protective lenses. The other drawback to polycarbonate over glass is that polycarbonate is more easily scratched. However, anti-scratch coatings can be applied to make it significantly more scratch-resistant.

Uses for Polycarbonate

Today, nearly anywhere glass was once used, polycarbonate has replaced it to make a product lighter, more impact-resistant, and safer for the user. Polycarbonate is used in the following ways:

  • Eyeglasses
  • Protective eyewear such as swim goggles or safety glasses
  • Microscope slides
  • Greenhouse panels
  • Computer monitors and cell phone screens
  • Shatter-resistant windows and protective, "bulletproof" shields
  • Riot shields

Get a Free Quote for Polycarbonate Thermoforming Today

If you're considering using polycarbonate for your next project, we offer thermoforming and injection molding services that will ensure you get the exact products or components you need at a low per-unit price and with a fast turnaround time. We work with businesses and companies across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states, including  North CarolinaSouth CarolinaPennsylvaniaMarylandTennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.

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