The Difference Between Acrylic and Polycarbonate Roof Sheeting

When looking at polycarbonate roof sheeting vs acrylic roof sheeting, you will notice there are a number of different characteristics.

Similar in appearance and the most frequently used transparent plastic materials on the market, it’s easy to see why these two are compared to one another.

Polycarbonate Roof Sheeting

Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, but an advantage shared by both is that they weigh less than half of a sheet of glass in the same size, yet are much stronger than glass.

What is Acrylic plastic?

There are several tradenames used to market acrylic plastic. These names include:

  • Plexiglas
  • Perspex
  • Limacryl
  • Acrylite
  • Lucite
  • Vitroflex

Plexiglas in particular is used interchangeably with “acrylic plastic” because they both form an acrylic plastic. However, they do have slightly different characteristics.

Acrylic Plastic Properties

  • Thermoplastic with a working temperature of approximately 82°C
  • Durable against dents and scratches
  • Heat bent
  • Easy to cut
  • Large variety of colours available
  • Not susceptible to discolouration caused by the sun
  • Less expensive than glass
  • Can withstand 17 times more impact than glass
  • 92% light transmittance in all thicknesses
  • Shiny surface
  • Clean glue joints
  • Recyclable

Polycarbonate plastic

Sometimes referred to as Lexan or Makrolon. The most notable difference between polycarbonate and acrylic plastic is the price.

Polycarbonate roof sheeting can cost around 35% more than acrylic sheets.

Polycarbonate Plastic Properties

  • Chip and crack resistant
  • Highly resistant to acids and chemicals
  • Low flammability
  • Bullet resistant grades are available
  • Can withstand 250 times more impact than glass
  • 30 times stronger than acrylic
  • Cold formed or bent
  • Sheets can be drilled without cracking
  • Thermoplastic with a working temperature of 115°C

What are acrylic and polycarbonate sheets made of?

Both of these are referred to as polymers which is a material made from different molecules which have been linked together to form long chains.

The specific types of molecules used to produce each of these plastics result in them looking, feeling and acting differently. This is also due to the way in which the molecules are put together.

The process used to create these plastics is called polymerization.

To put it simply, polycarbonate results from the reaction between phosgene COCI2 and bisphenol A.

Acrylic is made by synthesizing methyl methacrylate which is produced from the reaction between acetone and sodium cyanide which then creates acetone cyanohydrin.

Methyl alcohol is then added to the acetone cyanohydrin to produce methyl methacrylate.

Although there is a variety of ways that acrylic and polycarbonate can be formed, these are the most commonly used methods.

The methods used differ when other factors are required such as UV-filtering, anti-static, non-glare or colour.

How are polycarbonate sheets made?

Extrusion, blow moulding, thermoforming and injection moulding are all ways in which polycarbonate roof sheeting can be processed and manufactured.

The most widely used method is extrusion.

The process begins with polycarbonate pellets being fed into an extruder. The pellets are then melted to the correct temperature.

The melted polycarbonate is then pushed through a die which has been specially shaped to produce flat sheets.

These flat sheets are shaped into various lengths, thicknesses and widths with uniform cross-sections.

The polycarbonate sheet can be produced with high or low glosses, textured or smooth surfaces, colours and in single or multiple layers during this process.

Once the sheets have been extruded, they can then be processed further in order to achieve a more specifically defined final product.

How are acrylic plastic sheets made?

Methyl methacrylate and organic peroxide are poured into a mould which is then sealed and heated.

This process is known as bulk polymerization and produces the reaction that results in the formation of acrylic plastic polymer.

The moulded acrylic sheets are then cured in up to 12 hours. However, thicker sheets can require several days to cure properly.

The moulds are cooled and when opened, produce acrylic plastic sheets with can either be used immediately or can be processed further for a better-quality final product.

Another method to create acrylic plastic sheets is called batch cell and is the most common form of bulk polymerization due to its diverse range of application.

However, bulk polymerization is a quicker and less labour-intensive method.

Types of acrylic and polycarbonate plastic

 

Polycarbonate

Acrylic

 

 

Mirrored

Mirrored

Coloured

Coloured & Fluorescent

Multiwall

UV Filtering & Transmitting

Bulletproof

Bullet resistant

Abrasion-resistant

Abrasion-resistant

Anti-static

Anti-static & Non-glare

FDA approved

Black & white

Flame retardant

Block

Tinted

Light diffusing

Clear

Clear

 

Both polycarbonate and acrylic sheets have similar options to choose from, yet they are still vastly different due to their physical and chemical make-up.

Therefore, choosing the right sheet for you depends completely on the desired application.

Acrylic sheets are best for clarity and light transmittance while polycarbonates are the best choice for high-impact resistance.

What are acrylic and polycarbonate plastics used for?

 

Polycarbonate

Acrylic

 

 

Outdoor signs

Point of purchase displays

Construction material

Animal & reptile enclosures

Data storage

Spectator protection for ice hockey rinks

Windshields

Signage

Vandal-resistant windows

Furniture

Electronic components

Residential and commercial aquariums

Reusable drinking bottles

Police vehicles for riot control

Diffusers for light pipes for LEDs

Light covers

Machinery Guards

Interior layer of storm window linings

Helmets visors

Medical technologies and implants

Skylights

Accent walls

 

Cape Roof Sheeting – Polycarbonate Roof Sheeting

We are proud suppliers of Modek roof sheeting which is the leading manufacturer of transparent polycarbonate roof sheeting in Africa.

Contact us for all your roof sheeting needs.

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