What’s The Difference Between Plexiglass and Acrylic?

by | Apr 24, 2021 | General | 0 comments

Which is better: plexiglass or acrylic? Neither, because they’re exactly the same. Plexiglass is simply a name people have started associating with acrylic over time due to the practical omnipresence of acrylic products from the brand Plexiglas®.

So, why is there a general misimpression that plexiglass and acrylic are different? Let’s explore this question and provide an introduction to the various types of plexiglass and acrylic materials.

What is acrylic?

“Acrylic” is the common abbreviation for polymethyl methacrylate, the chemical name of the type of thermoplastic used to make acrylic. While acrylic is often associated with being opaque, it can have optical clarity ranges all the way from 99% down to total opacity.

What is plexiglass?

Plexiglas® is a brand name first marketed by the American plastic manufacturer Rohm and Haas in the 1930s. Made using a seemingly dangerous concoction of cyanide, sulphuric acid, acetone, and methanol, acrylic is nonetheless entirely harmless once extruded and cool.

Now having reached international stardom, Plexiglas® is featured in aquariums, zoos, aircraft, and thousands of different applications. In the end, however, plexiglass is nothing but acrylic — just usually the kind that’s clear, not opaque.

Cutting plexiglass vs. cutting acrylic sheets — is there a difference?

Nope, there’s no difference between cutting acrylic sheets and plexiglass. Again, the reason is that they’re the same material.

Even though plexiglass usually has near-total optical clarity, it still cuts the same as opaque or translucent acrylic. Both types of acrylic are highly desirable in many different applications for how easy it is to cut and shape them into practically any size and configuration.

As a thermoplastic, acrylic is fully moldable when heated. You can essentially make anything out of plexiglass or acrylic, but the integrity of the plastic is greatly increased when extruded in flat sheets.

Types of acrylic and plexiglass sheets

As an incredibly versatile material, there are too many types of acrylic to provide detailed explanations of each in a short article. Here’s a brief taste, however, of the options that are available when you choose acrylic or plexiglass:

1. Colored acrylic sheets

Using a variety of dyes, it’s possible to make acrylic sheets any color under the sun. Combined with the variable opacity of acrylic, the potential results can be both practical and beautiful.

A translucent red acrylic sheet, for instance, could be the perfect cover for that LED sign above your storefront facade. Solid yellow acrylic sheets, however, might be perfect for your large-scale industrial equipment.

2. Translucent acrylic plastic sheets

The variable opacity of acrylic is truly one of this material’s best attributes. While an opaque plexiglass sheet might look oppressive in an indoor office setting, for instance, acrylic with around 80% opacity is great for providing privacy while still allowing optimal light transmission.

At Plastic Zone Inc., we can produce acrylic sheets in any size, color, or opacity. Regardless of how you’d like to use translucent acrylic in your application, we can develop a solution that encompasses your needs.

3. Opaque acrylic sheets

Sometimes nothing’s better than blocking out all the light entirely. Used mostly in exterior and industrial applications, opaque acrylic provides a perfect light barrier, protecting sensitive materials or offering privacy.

In industrial applications, opaque acrylic is an ideal material due to its resistance to temperature fluctuations and remarkable durability. Impressively resistant to impacts, acrylic also is undamaged by most abrasive chemicals — whether the acrylic is transparent, translucent, or opaque.

4. Transparent acrylic — “plexiglass”

Finally we come to the most well known type of acrylic: Plexiglas®, or “plexiglass,” as it has been colloquialized.

Usually pitched as a more durable, impact-resistant alternative to glass, plexiglass is commonly used in applications in which resistance to damage or pressure are required and near-total optical clarity is ideal.

The world of acrylic certainly doesn’t begin and end with plexiglass, but this useful material has certainly been defined by the success of the Plexiglas® brand. At Plastic Zone Inc., we embrace all types of acrylic to deliver solutions custom-tailored to each client’s needs.

Custom plexiglass solutions for any project

Now you know — there’s no difference between plexiglass and acrylic. Plexiglass is usually clear, but the two materials are made from the same type of plastic.

That doesn’t mean any two acrylic projects are alike, however. As one of the world’s most versatile plastics, it’s only natural that acrylic applications run the gamut from the simple to the complex and everything in-between.

Regardless of the scope of your acrylic or plexiglass project, our team at Plastic Zone Inc. has what it takes to deliver 100% satisfying solutions. Give us a call today to learn more about the different types of acrylic and discover how this adaptable thermoplastic might play into your next project.