Plexiglass (Acrylic) vs Lexan (Polycarbonate): A Glass Terminology Guide

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website.

The terms plexiglass and acrylic, as well as the terms lexan and polycarbonate, are often used interchangeably. For those who are about to begin working on a project, this terminology can be confusing and they might wonder about the difference between the terms—if there are any at all.

Plexiglass and acrylic are often used interchangeably, as are lexan and polycarbonate. The difference between these is one is the brand name and the other is the general term. Plexiglass is a type of acrylic, just as lexan is a brand of polycarbonate. Lexan and plexiglass are not the same product.

Let’s take a closer look at plexiglass (acrylic) vs lexan (polycarbonate), as well as the differences between the terminology and what these materials are actually best used for.

Plexiglass vs Acrylic

Manicurist workplace with plexiglass sneeze guard for social distancing

Plexiglass and acrylic are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Plexiglass is actually a brand name for a type of acrylic, which is a transparent thermoplastic material. However, because of the lack of brands in the acrylic space, plexiglass and acrylic are now generally used interchangeably. 

By technical definition, though, acrylic is a broad term that includes the plexiglass brand.

Lexan vs Polycarbonate

Lexan is a brand name for a type of polycarbonate, so technically they are the same thing. However, there can be differences in quality and performance between different brands of polycarbonate, including Lexan. People often used the word lexan to describe any type of polycarbonate, however, just like they do with plexiglass and acrylic.

Is Plexiglass Really Glass?

Although the latter half of the name might suggest that it is, no, plexiglass is not really glass. It’s a transparent thermoplastic that is often used as a lightweight and shatter-resistant alternative to glass. The main difference is that it isn’t able to resist scratches as well as glass does. 

Is Lexan Really Glass?

Much like plexiglass, lexan is not really glass, it is a glass substitute and is more prone to scratches than actual glass. If you’re looking for something that has similar properties to glass for a project, it may be a good choice, but it is not exactly the same as real glass and won’t replicate its exact look and durability.

What’s the Difference Between Plexiglass (Acrylic) and Lexan (Polycarbonate)?

There are a few notable differences between plexiglass and lexan. It’s important to consider all of these before using either in a project, as they have different qualities that make them suitable for different uses.

Chemical Composition

Plexiglass is made from a polymer called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), while lexan is made from a polymer called polycarbonate. Neither of them are made from real glass, and are known as glass substitutes.


Lexan is generally stronger and more impact-resistant than plexiglass. It is able to withstand extreme forces and is often used in applications that require a high level of safety and durability, such as bulletproof glass, safety glasses, and helmet visors.


Plexiglass has better optical clarity than Lexan, meaning it allows more light to pass through and has less distortion. This makes it a popular choice for applications that require high optical quality, such as lenses, screens, and displays. It’s also a popular choice for windows for this reason.

Scratch Resistance

Lexan is more resistant to scratches than plexiglass, making it a good choice for applications that are subject to wear and tear, such as machine guards or protective covers. However, lexan is still more prone to scratches and cloudiness than real glass itself.


Plexiglass is generally less expensive than Lexan, making it a more cost-effective option depending on how much material you need.

Which is More Durable? 

Lexan is generally considered to be more durable than plexiglass. Lexan is a highly impact-resistant material that can withstand significant force without cracking or breaking—making it easier to cut. It is often used in applications that require a high level of safety and durability, such as safety glasses, bulletproof glass, and protective barriers.

While plexiglass is also a durable material, it is not as impact-resistant as lexan. Plexiglass is more prone to cracking or shattering upon impact, which can be a safety concern if used for certain projects.

Overall, the general choice between Lexan and plexiglass depends on the specific needs of the application. If durability is the top priority, lexan may be the better choice. However, if optical clarity is more important and durability isn’t as much of a concern, plexiglass may be the better option.

Which Is More Affordable?

Multiracial coworkers with face masks inside modern office working behind safety plexiglass - Focus on right hands

Plexiglass is generally more affordable than lexan, but the cost can vary depending on the thickness, size, and quantity needed, as well as the supplier and location.

Plexiglass is a widely available and commonly used material, which can make it more affordable than lexan. It is also easier to fabricate and work with than polycarbonate, which can further reduce the overall cost of the project.

Lexan, on the other hand, is a premium material that’s often used in high-end applications that require superior strength, impact resistance, and durability. It can be more expensive than plexiglass due to its superior performance and specialized manufacturing process. This is why it’s best for shields and other things of high importance.

It’s usually used by experts, especially as it’s harder to customize, so you may need to hire a professional if you’re using lexan over plexiglass. The labor costs can also contribute to making plexiglass much more affordable, as it’s easier to DIY a project using this.

Which Material Should I Use?

The choice between Lexan and Plexiglass depends on your specific needs and the intended use of the material, as well as the project you want to use it for. It’s important to read up on the pros and cons of each. For example, lexan is much better for a protective shield, whereas plexiglass provides the best optical clarity for windows. 

Overall, the words plexiglass and acrylic, as well as the terms lexan and polycarbonate, are used interchangeably. However, plexiglass and lexan started out as brand names, whereas the terms acrylic and polycarbonate are broader material terms. Technically, plexiglass and lexan are the most popular types of each, and the terminology has just become murky over the years. 

Leave a Comment