How to tell the difference between polycarbonate & plexiglass

Written by anjali amit
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How to tell the difference between polycarbonate & plexiglass
Clear Polymer Windows (windows image by pearlguy from

Plastics have become a large part of the modern world. There are many kinds of plastics, each formulated to suit different needs. Both polycarbonate and plexiglass are plastic, similar in some respects, but with a few key differences.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Strike the plastic in an inconspicuous spot with a small hammer. Polycarbonate possesses great impact resistance. The hammer blow will not make a dent. That is why it is often used to manufacture bullet proof and storm proof windows. Plexiglass (acrylic) is stronger than glass but not as strong as polycarbonate. It may shatter into large, blunt pieces.

  2. 2

    Scratch the two plastic (again in an inconspicuous spot). Plexiglass is more scratch resistant than polycarbonate. This is the reason why polycarbonate lenses do better with a scratch resistant coating.

  3. 3

    Pick the plastic up. Polycarbonate is about a third lighter than plexiglass. It is also a sixth the weight of glass, making it one of the lightest materials to work with.

  4. 4

    Inspect sheets of the two materials that have weathered the elements for a while. Polycarbonate tends to yellow over time. Plexiglass has better UV light absorbing properties and does not discolour with age.

  5. 5

    Check the light transmission properties. Light transmission is the amount of light that passes through the lens to reach the eyes. Plexiglass transmits 92 per cent of optical light, compared to 89 per cent transmitted by polycarbonate.

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