Comparing Polycarbonate and Acrylic: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Quick Tip: Both polycarbonate and acrylic possess unique benefits and drawbacks. Polycarbonate boasts strengths in impact resistance, transparency, temperature resilience, and lightweight properties. Conversely, its downsides include higher costs, susceptibility to scratches, and sensitivity to certain chemicals. Meanwhile, acrylic offers advantages in transparency, cost-effectiveness, UV resistance, and ease of manipulation. However, its limitations encompass lower impact resistance, heat sensitivity, and proneness to scratching.


Polycarbonate and acrylic are two popular materials used in various industries for their versatility and durability. Each material has its own set of advantages and

disadvantages, so let's dive into the pros and cons of polycarbonate versus acrylic. 


Polycarbonate, often referred to as PC, is a high-performance thermoplastic known for its exceptional impact resistance. It is nearly unbreakable, making it an ideal choice for applications that require durability and strength. 


  1. Impact Resistance: Polycarbonate is highly resistant to impact, making it a suitable choice for applications that require protection against physical force. It is often used in safety goggles, riot shields, and bulletproof glass. 
  2. Transparency: Polycarbonate offers excellent clarity, allowing for maximum light transmission. It is often used for windows, skylights, and displays where optical clarity is essential. 
  3. Temperature Resistance: Polycarbonate can withstand extreme temperatures, ranging from -40 degrees Celsius to 120 degrees Celsius, without losing its physical properties. This makes it suitable for outdoor applications, such as automotive parts and outdoor signage. 
  4. Lightweight: Despite its strength, polycarbonate is lightweight compared to other materials, such as glass. This makes it easier to handle and transport, reducing the overall weight of the finished product. 


  1. Cost: Polycarbonate is generally more expensive than acrylic, which can be a limiting factor for budget-conscious projects. 
  2. Scratches: While Polycarbonate is durable, it is prone to scratching. This can reduce the overall visual appeal of the material over time.
  3. Chemical Sensitivity: Polycarbonate is sensitive to certain chemicals, such as solvents and cleaners. Exposure to these substances can cause damage or discoloration to the material.


On the other hand, acrylic, also known as polymethyl methacrylate, is a transparent thermoplastic with excellent optical properties. 


  1. Transparency: Acrylic is known for its exceptional clarity and transparency. It offers a high level of light transmission, making it an excellent choice for applications such as signage, displays, and aquariums
  2. Cost-Effective: Acrylic is generally more affordable than polycarbonate, making it a popular choice for projects with budget constraints.
  3. UV Resistance: Acrylic has good resistance to ultraviolet radiation, making it suitable for outdoor applications. It is less likely to yellow or degrade when exposed to sunlight for extended periods. 
  4. Easy to Work with: Acrylic can be easily machined, cut, and formed into various shapes and sizes. This makes it a preferred material for fabrication and customization. 


  1. Impact Resistance: Compared to polycarbonate, acrylic is more brittle and less resistant to impact. It can crack or shatter under high levels of force. 
  2. Heat Sensitivity: Acrylic has a lower heat resistance compared to polycarbonate. It can deform or melt when exposed to high temperatures, limiting its use in certain applications. 
  3. Scratching: Acrylic is prone to scratching, which can affect its appearance and clarity. However, it can be polished to restore its original shine. 


Both polycarbonate and acrylic have their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two depends on the specific requirements of the project, such as impact resistance, cost, transparency, and temperature sensitivity. It is important to carefully consider these factors before selecting the most suitable material for your application.

If you would like some guidance in deciding between the two, Clearly Plastic employees would be happy to assist you. Choosing us ensures that you will not only have access to our expert guidance but also a wide range of high-quality plastic materials tailored to your specific requirements. Choosing us also affords you the advantage of our precision cut-to-size services ensuring that you receive your materials tailored to the exact dimensions you require, enhancing convenience and efficiency for your projects.






Sources and Contributors

  1. Lizl Kruger, Manager Clearly Plastic
  2. (2024).