Polycarbonate or Perspex protection screens, what’s the difference?

Polycarbonate perspex protection screen

Unless you are a company that regularly uses perspex (acrylic) or polycarbonate screens you generally wouldn’t mind which screen is in front of you. However with the current health situation going on, many companies have turned to using protective screens to keep their employees and customers safe.

These screens have popped up all around us, you’ll see them at checkout points in your local supermarket, keeping employees and customers apart, at self checkout points, you’re also in your own little bubble now. They are appearing in taxis, casinos, open planned offices, banks, airports, the list is growing daily. Gone are the days where you wished some people respected your personal space, now you have nothing but space and wouldn’t mind someone standing too close to you.

With both polycarbonate and perspex protective screens popping up everywhere, do we know the difference between the materials that they are made of? This article provides some information on the difference between acrylic and polycarbonate, plus what the pros and cons of each are. Every industry has different needs, therefore it’s good to know what you really need and what suits your business.

Strength

Both materials, acrylic and polycarbonate, are much lighter and a lot stronger than a sheet of glass. However, polycarbonate is the stronger material of the two. When comparing the same sheet size of glass, acrylic and polycarbonate, acrylic is about 10 times as strong as glass and polycarbonate is 250 times as strong. Although polycarbonate is more impact resistant, you’d think it would be a lot more rigid. This is not the case, acrylic is very rigid whereas polycarbonate can be bought in flexible grades and is less likely to crack under stress, unlike acrylic.

Clarity

Acrylic offers better clarity and lets more light in, with light transmittance of 92%. Polycarbonate on the other hand transmits 88% of light. Both materials are used for glazing, however acrylic can be restored by being polished, whereas polycarbonate can’t be polished and scratches remain in the material. Therefore it’s best to avoid touching the screen with anything made from abrasive binding materials.

Temperature

Of the two materials, polycarbonate is the most resistant when it comes to temperature. It can handle temperatures as high as 115 degrees Celsius, it is also highly resistant to chemicals such as gasoline and acids and is non-flammable. Acrylic works between -35 and 87 degrees celsius, there are chances of it expanding and contracting in different temperatures.

Cut and Drill

Both materials can be cut with conventional tools such as saws or routers, acrylic is the easier one to cut through as polycarbonate tends to fight the initial push of a saw or router at the start of the cut.
When drilling, it is easier to drill polycarbonate plastic compared to acrylic as polycarbonate won’t crack, even if it’s close to the edge of the piece of plastic. Acrylic will crack if drilled close to an edge or with a drill bit not designed for plastic.

Flexibility and durability

Polycarbonate plastic can be cold formed and bent without having to heat it. Acrylic works better when heating and bending it.
Both materials are weather resistant, they expand with temperature changes without long-term or permanent shrinkage. As mentioned above, polycarbonate is more heat resistant though.

Cost

Acrylic is cheaper than polycarbonate, which tends to cost 35% more.

Which is better?

From the above mentioned headings it’s clear to see that both materials have their pros and cons. In the end what matters most is what you’ll be needing the screens for, this will influence the decision as to which material is better to choose.

About Driver Bubble™

The Driver Bubble™ is a simple, intuitive screen that fits into most vehicles and helps shield passengers and drivers alike. Born out of Amsterdam, the company designs and builds protective screens for the global taxi, rideshare and transportation industry.