Archive for the ‘Acrylic’ Category

It’s very common for the home project enthusiast to not know what to ask for when it comes to clear plastic for a project. Often we’ll get “I need polycarbonate or acrylic for a project” and we on the distribution side, at the sponsor of this blog, Redwood Plastics and Rubber, are left with making a decision on materials. You know that? That’s OK! We love to help but instead of picking something for you, we would instead work with you to figure out the details of your application because there are good reasons for doing so.

Firstly polycarbonate and acrylic are *not* similar materials beyond the fact that they’re hard and clear. The first difference you should probably be aware of is price. Polycarbonate is about 25% more than acrylic meaning if all things are equal you could be potentially paying too much for a plastic that isn’t optimal for your application. So when is each plastic optimal? Lets start with what each plastic does well and where it is poor.

Polycarbonate is incredibly strong which is why it’s often used as safety glass. Any application where you’re going to face impact you want polycarbonate. Additionally polycarbonate has a bluish tinge that some people find more attractive than just a pure “clear” (like acrylic has). Polycarbonate is the only version of the “twin” or “multi” wall greenhouse plastic so if you’re needed that corrugated product than you need to know it will be polycarbonate. Where polycarbonate has trouble is outdoor weathering (UV-resistance) and very poor scratch resistant. Polycarbonate will eventually scratch and it will degrade in the sun over a couple of years. There are anti-scratch and anti-UV versions of the product but this is done by a film being applied (not a chemical added) which means eventually the film will degrade and the plastic will be vulnerable.

Acrylic on the other hand has excellent scratch resistance and good resistance to UV and weathering. However, acrylic is more brittle and is not available in less expensive economy forms like twin-wall polycarbonate. Colored acrylic actually has poor availability due to so many colors, levels of transparency, etc. It is also important to know that acrylic comes in two major grades: extruded and cast. Extruded is less expensive whereas cast is stronger, clearer, and yes, more expensive. How do you know which is which? Well, if you drawing or plans you’ve looked up happen to call for 49″ x 97″ acrylic sheet than that is cast – because it’s 1″ wider and longer than the standard sheet size of 48″ x 96″. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t notice a difference.

Hopefully that helps narrow things down a bit?

Good luck with your projects and here’s to a great 2018!



Acrylic can be more complicated than many people would think. There are some assumptions people make about acrylic which actually could be detrimental to their application or cost them more money than is necessary. First of all there is the topic of “Plexiglas”. That name has been around for so long that people think it’s a material – it isn’t. It is a trademark for a line of cast acrylic. But, the name might or might not be important to your application.

See, acrylic actually comes in two forms: extruded or cast. Cast acrylic is the version that comes in the sheets that are oversized by 1″ on their length and width: 49″ x 97″ denotes a cast acrylic sheet. Extruded acrylic comes in standard 48″ x 96″ sheets like many other plastics. There is a difference in quality between the two: cast acrylic is stronger and has better optical qualities such as clarity and finish. As always, there’s a catch: cast acrylic is more expensive (perhaps 40-50% more) than extruded and is somewhat less widely available. In many cases especially for members of the public, extruded acrylic is perfectly fine for their application. However, if you’re a professional manufacturing a product that requires a flawless look, or is for the government or military, then cast is probably the way to go.

We would urge you to remember that brand names exist for many plastics and in most cases don’t specify the plastic itself. Be reasonable when it comes to brand names, be realistic with your application, and you’re on track for the most success at the least cost.

We found a great little video on YouTube by user “Make:” which in just three minutes (before credits) gives all sorts of great tips for the DIYer using acrylic in their applications. It starts off with a good point that not everyone knows: acrylic comes in both cast and extruded forms. Yes, they have differences that are important in an application. Yes, there is a difference in cost. Other important tips include how to thermoform, glue, and most importantly – drill, the plastic. Drilling is especially important as the plastic can crack easily, so using lubrication and a soft touch is essential to prevent a wasted part. It will help you answer some questions you didn’t even know to ask prior to diving in: do you have all the materials you need? How are you planning to smooth the edges of the acrylic?

We’ll let the video do the rest of the talking:

Acrylic sheet (sometimes called “acrylic glass”) is a well known plastic with countless applications for the “DIY” community. Everything from cold frames, to decorations, window replacements or even laser-etched business cards (look them up!). Acrylic offers several advantages other plastics, particularly see-through plastics, do not have. Acrylic’s main competitor in the world of plastics is Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate has higher impact strength than acrylic and should be selected when that is the main concern. Otherwise, acrylic will be slightly (about 15%) less expensive, have superior UV and weathering resistance and be much more scratch resistant: which is a major concern with polycarbonate.

Recently we stumbled across a website called which has an index for all sorts of really neat acrylic projects to get your creative juices flowing! You can find these projects here:


Perhaps no industrial plastic is more requested by the “do-it-yourselfer” community than acrylic. Prized for its beauty and well-known because it is used in many applications where the public would encounter the material (displays, aquariums, giftware). In short, acrylic has gained an impressive reputation. But when you work with the material, especially if you’re inexperienced, you really need to do your due diligence in learning the strengths and weaknesses of acrylic and learn how to fabricate it properly.

One of the first tips – especially if you’re just starting out – is to temper your expectations. People imagine they can create polished, flawless projects at home similar to what they have seen in existing products or on the internet. But acrylic is “fussy” to fabricate, it can crack easily if fabrication is done near the edges of the material, it can scratch and the nice, polished finish you see is done by a technique called “flame-polishing” which is a skill that needs to be developed and requires special equipment.

We will provide a couple key tips on this blog but also want to direct you to another blog that seems to be an excellent resource for general acrylic fabrication, which can be found here.

Some tips we can offer:

-ALWAYS leave the masking cover on the acrylic (this provides protection from cracking).

-Avoid fabrication such as drilling near the edges of the acrylic (best to leave a couple inches) as the material can be prone to cracking.

-Acrylic has good UV-resistance, use it outdoors in confidence.

-Cure time for glued acrylic is around 48 hours – be sure you have a way of stabilizing your project while the glue bonds.

Lastly, for some quick tips on gluing acrylic check out this Youtube video:


Recently, Redwood Plastics started a pilot project marketing offcuts on local sales directories. This has greatly increased our inquiry traffic from the “diy” community and has been an eye-opener as far as what the general public would like to do with plastic in home applications. The ingenuity of the public is still fascinating and continues to surprise us.

One issue our customers are having is a lack of knowledge about whether they should select polycarbonate or acrylic for a given application. Indeed, the two materials are very different – almost mirror images as far as properties, advantages and drawbacks go. To help we’ve created a simple comparison chart for you. Feel free to copy and save it on your computer for your own reference.

A “takeaway” point from this article we hope you will understand is that acrylic and polycarbonate have certain advantages and disadvantages. There is no “magic bullet” or material that is absolutely superior to the other. You will need to prioritize what is most important for your application and make a selection based on your own criteria. We hope it is helpful!

Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate














Acrylic is a fussy plastic, it can be difficult to work with and needs both skilled and patient hands. But the reason for its popularity is the potential of the amazing projects you can complete using the plastic. Case-in-point is this CNC engraved plaque – a 1912 Indian 8-valve board track racer motorcycle:







This piece’s artist is Dave Langkamp, a retired designer at John Deere. John has significant knowledge of 3D modeling, 3D printing and digital art applications. In this application, the acrylic is 6″ x 10″ x 1/4″ thick. The engraving was done by CNC using Dave’s own file. What makes this piece so unique is the level of fine detail (note the individual links on the drive chain). This is a great example of craftsmanship meeting the right material.

Dave has several other projects on the go at his blog, “The Tinker’s Workshop” including a 3D printed electric car and velomobile. You can check the blog out here.