There are lots of different clear plastics available on the market. Given that they can all seem similar, it’s no wonder most people think they are all one and the same and overlook the differences between them. Every kind of product in the polymer family is made with different materials and with a different manufacturing process. Most polymers will also look just like acrylic.
With that said, it’s time to look at one of the most confusing things about Plexiglas, and answer the question of just what
Plexiglas is. It looks like glass, but feels like plastic, so which is it? (Plexiglas is a brand name for acrylic. So from now we call it acrylic in this article).
Acrylic vs Plastic
Acrylic is a member of the larger plastic family of materials, but keep in mind not every plastic is an acrylic. That’s because plastic is the base category, and it includes a range of different materials. Acrylic is just one of them. It’s similar to how “fruit” is a broad category that includes things like mangos. All mangos are fruit, but not all fruits are mangos. Similarly, different kinds of plastics have their own uses and individual properties.
Acrylics are from the thermoplastic family of products. They are made from petroleum with the derivation of natural gas. It is known chemically as polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). Acrylics are used in products that demand a degree of hardness, translucence, and glossiness.
Acrylic vs Glass
Acrylic is a kind of transparent thermal plastic. It is known by different trade names, which are given by different manufacturers in order to create a unique variation of acrylic such as Plexiglas, Acrylite, Lucite, and Perspex.
Acrylic is used most commonly in sheet form as an alternative to glass. It makes a good glass alternative because it is lighter and more damage-resistant than glass, while still being clear. It is also used for coatings, among other uses.
It may not be from the same “silica-based glass family” as other glasses, but it, along with other kinds of thermoplastics, are commonly termed as a kind of glass due to their clear, glassy, non-crystalline substance. It may be referred to as “acrylic glass”.
When compared to glass, acrylic is:
Research has shown glass is up to twice as heavy as acrylic.
Collision-resistance tests show that acrylic is up to 17 times stronger than glass
The reality is that regular glass actually isn’t as clear as you might think. Glass is made with a greenish tint that is treated out. Acrylic, on the other hand, doesn’t come with this tint and is naturally transparent.
Acrylic is considered safer than glass because it doesn’t shatter. Rather, it breaks off into large chunks instead of shattering into tiny pieces like glass.
Is Acrylic a Glass or a Plastic?
At the end of the day, acrylic is classified as a kind of plastic. Just like most other plastics, acrylic is manufactured using polymerization. Acrylic products do resemble glass and they can be used in place of glass because of their durability, but that doesn’t make them glass. This is why acrylic can be unofficially classified as glass though, and given the name “acrylic glass”.