Plexiglass is a versatile material that’s utilized for many different functions thanks to its durability, affordability, and transparent nature. But plexiglass looks a lot like glass, and you may not even realize how common it is. So, what are some of the most popular ways plexiglass is used?
The most popular uses of plexiglass are for windows and skylights, protective barriers, signs and displays, headlights, medical equipment, and aquariums. Plexiglass is transparent, shatter resistant, and durable, and the thicker the piece, the more it can withstand.
Let’s take a closer look at plexiglass, including what it’s made from, the most popular uses, and why it’s so often preferred over other materials.
What Is Plexiglass Made From?
Plexiglass is made from a material called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which is also commonly called acrylic or acrylic glass.
PMMA is a polymer made from methyl methacrylate monomer (MMA). The process for making plexiglass is the process of combining multiple monomer molecules to form a polymer, known as polymerization.
What Is Plexiglass Commonly Used For?
Because plexiglass is a material with a wide variety of possible uses, people in many different industries take advantage of its qualities. Here are some of the places where you’re likely to see plexiglass in use:
- Windows, as a substitute for traditional glass because plexiglass is lightweight and shatter resistant
- Protective barriers and shields, for places like retail, restaurants, and hospitals
- Signs and displays, since it’s so easy to cut and shape into a custom design
- Headlights and instrument panels in cars
- Aquariums and tanks thanks to its durability and transparency
- Medical equipment such as incubators and medial devices, as it’s clear, durable, and easy to clean
The truth is, however, that the uses of plexiglass are practically endless. If you see a thin, transparent, shatter-resistant glass-like material used somewhere, it may be plexiglass (and don’t forget, many people refer to it as acrylic glass).
Plexiglass vs. Lexan: What’s the Difference?
Although lexan is similar to plexiglass, there are some key differences that you should be aware of if you’re choosing between the two. The primary difference is that plexiglass is made from polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), while lexan is made from polycarbonate (PC).
Plexiglass is clearer than lexan, which makes it a better design choice in many situations. It’s also easier to cut and shape. However, lexan is stronger and more durable.
Plexiglass also tends to be less expensive than lexan, so where budget is an issue, plexiglass is often selected over the stronger material.
If you’re wondering which material is best for your project (and budget isn’t an issue), you should think about what the primary purpose of the material is.
For protection, such as where there’s a big risk of high, forceful impact, lexan tends to be better as it’s sturdier; for something involving art, where aesthetic is more important and the end product doesn’t serve a protective purchase, plexiglass will do a great job.
Is Plexiglass Easy to Break?
Compared to traditional glass, plexiglass is less likely to break because it’s much more impact resistant. Plexiglass is about 17 times stronger and more shatter resistant than traditional glass of the same thickness — but that doesn’t mean it’s unbreakable.
As with most materials, plexiglass can still break. Extreme impact or force may shatter plexiglass, and it can also be scratched or cracked if it’s not properly taken care of.
What Are the Benefits of Plexiglass Over Other Options?
There are several benefits to using plexiglass over other options, including the following:
Plexiglass is much lighter than traditional glass, making it easier to handle, transport, and install. This can also cut down on labor costs if you’re hiring contractors to do a job involving using plexiglass.
Plexiglass is much more shatter resistant than traditional glass, making it a safer option in situations where breakage is a concern. This doesn’t mean it’s unbreakable, but the impact would have to come with a lot more force to do any real damage.
Because plexiglass is one of the most transparent materials out there, it’s an ideal choice for windows and skylights, as it isn’t going to obstruct the view at all. This is also why people tend to use it for aquariums; it’s the perfect balance of being strong enough to protect the animals it houses while offering the owner a clear view.
Plexiglass is easy to cut and shape, making it very versatile for any design. For those looking to use it an artistic way, such as for a display and sign, this makes it a better option than other materials that might be comparatively difficult to work with.
Easy to Maintain
Plexiglass isn’t particularly high maintenance, and it’s easy to take care of. You do have to be careful not to use abrasive substances or materials on it, but the cleaning routine itself is fairly infrequent and easy to execute.
Unlike many other materials used for the same purposes as plexiglass, it’s relatively inexpensive. Lexan, for example, is a similar material that comes with a much higher price tag on it. Where budget is an issue, plexiglass is a solid choice that won’t break the bank.
UV-Resistant (in Some Cases)
Some types of plexiglass are UV-resistant, making them a good choice for outdoor applications where sunlight exposure is a concern. If this is important to you, make sure the type of plexiglass you choose is UV-resistant.
As you can see, there are many popular uses for plexiglass due to the many advantages. That said, you’ll most commonly see it used in signs and display ads, windows and skylights, as a protective barrier in retail and restaurants, on cars, and on medical equipment.
Recognizable for its transparency, durability, and customization, plexiglass is a great choice for a wide variety of uses.