The Many Forms of Clear Plastic

Clear plastic is a common material used in manufacturing. These transparent polymers are often used by designers and manufacturers as an alternative to traditional glass. There are many clear plastic sheet and each one has its own advantages.

At A Glance: Cost & Durability Comparison

Material Clarity Strength Relief Marks Scratching Cost
Injection Molded Plastic Slight yellowing with prolonged sunlight exposure; blue haze when removed from mold Low Yes Scratches quite easily $
Polycarbonate Slight yellowing with prolonged sunlight exposure High Yes Scratches easily $$$$
Injection Molded Acrylic No yellowing; some blue haze when removed from mold Medium Yes Limited scratching; usually can be buffed out $$
Hand-Crafted Acrylic Extremely clear; no yellowing or blue haze Medium No Limited scratching; usually can be buffed out $$$

Acrylic vs. Acrylic vs.

There are so many clear plastic options on the market that it is easy to miss the differences. Every type of clear plastic is different and each one comes with a unique price point. This resource page is designed to answer some frequently asked questions like “Is acrylic a plastic? or a glass?” What is the difference between plastic and acrylic? Acrylic is a type of plastic. However, not all plastics are acrylic. Acrylic refers to a group of petroleum-based thermoplastics that are made from natural gas. Acrylic is also known by the common name “polyacrylate”, which is one of its most popular types. This material can be made from Methyl Methacrylate or Poly Methyl Methacrylate or a combination.

What’s the deal with all the brand names?

Acrylic has many different names despite the fact that the composition of acrylic is almost identical. Plexiglas was originally the trademark name for the Rohm and Haas Company when they introduced the product to mass markets. However, many other brands have taken over the brand including Lucite du Pont and Oroglass. Altuglass, Optix and Perspex are some other brands that are common.

Acrylic injection-molded vs. Handcrafted Acrylic

Injection-molded acrylic can be made by injecting acrylic (or polymethyl methacrylate) material into a mold. This transparent thermoplastic is a great substitute for glass. It is used in the manufacture of display risers, sunglasses, bakery bins and other products. Injection molded acrylic is a better choice than polystyrene because it doesn’t have the problems of hazing and coloration. The material is stronger and leaves minimal relief marks when it’s removed from the mold. Injection molding is less labor-intensive than hand-crafting and therefore costs less.

We use hand-crafted acrylic when creating our displays. While it takes more time and costs more, the quality difference is amazing. Manufacturing is not responsible for any defects, such as common problems like mold haze or relief marks. All joints are not bonded using injection molding. Instead, they are “melted” by hand using solvents. This results in a clear, strong construction. That is why acrylic display cases made by hand are so popular.

Other types of plastic

Injection-molded polystyrene An aromatic polymer that is made from a chemically bonded monomer of styrene. Although polystyrene can be thinner and less brittle than acrylic, it is often much cheaper than other plastics. The material is created using a mold and can show relief markings or a blue haze effect if it’s removed. It is not the best product for preserving collectables or using as a showcase. This injection-molded polystyrene is used in many consumer products, including disposable razor blades and license plate frames. It also makes single-use dinnerware and CD cases.

Polycarbonate, another type of thermoplastic plastic polymer, is used in manufacturing. Although it is more expensive than acrylic or polystyrene this clear plastic is very strong. Polycarbonate is often referred to as “bulletproof glass” as it is used in armored windows on government motorcade vehicles and airplane windows. Although Lexan is the most well-known brand name for polycarbonate there are many other brands available. The material will yellow when exposed long enough to sunlight, which is a disadvantage.

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