What is an alternative for plexiglass

Alternatives to plexiglass

The oldest thermoplastic: Plexiglas

Plexiglass is a thermoplastic, which means something like hot deformation. The technical name is polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA for short. The general, slang term is derived from this: Acrylic glass. It was invented as early as the 1920s, and a few years later Dr. Otto Röhm made it ready for series production and had it protected for Degussa under the name “Plexiglas”. Today it is manufactured by Evonik Röhm GmbH and continuously improved.

Important properties

Significant properties would be a long service life, supported by UV insensitivity. Plexiglas also copes well with weather conditions. There are also other positive properties, including those mentioned later:

  • heat deformable
  • does not splinter
  • high flexibility
  • high light transmission (92 percent)
  • Available in transparent, semi-transparent and light-tight, also in many fluorescent colors
  • can be worked just as easily as wood

Plexiglass and acrylic glass

However, as a branded product, Plexiglas also has its price. If that is too high for you, you can use acrylic glass from unknown manufacturers instead. However, in this case you have to reckon with poorer quality properties. In the case of acrylic glass, this primarily affects the longevity. We show the differences between Plexiglas and acrylic glass in general here.

Alternatives to acrylic glass and plexiglass

However, certain negative properties also make plexiglass unusable for some applications, although the basic attributes (simple processing including heat forming, for example) are valued. Under these circumstances, the following thermoplastics can be used:

  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PETP)
  • Polyoxymethylene (POM)
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
  • Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)
  • Hard tissue (HGW)

In the following we want to outline the advantages and disadvantages of the different plastics:

Polycarbonate (PC)

PC is transparent and particularly resistant to puncture attempts. In this area, other transparent thermoplastics cannot compete with polycarbonate. In addition, the plastic can be used in a wide temperature range: from minus 90 to plus 135 degrees Celsius. In addition, there are excellent dielectric properties. Similar to acrylic glass, there are also manufacturers of PC who had their products protected in the past. The best-known trade names for it are Lexan and Makrolon.

Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene can be found almost everywhere in our environment. It is the most widely used plastic of all. Basically, PE is differentiated according to its density. With high density it is called HD-PE, with low density it is called LD-PE (HD for High Density, LD for Low Density). PE is inherently non-toxic, but numerous additives are added to the plastic during manufacture in order to achieve certain properties.

This risk exists especially with PE of unknown origin, which is why PE used for children's toys or food should only be used with well-known products. Nevertheless, the life cycle assessment (production, use, reuse and recycling) of polyethylene is relatively good when compared to other plastics.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

This is exactly where one of the greatest weaknesses of PVC lies: the environmental compatibility is more massive due to the significantly higher toxicological load. However, it is particularly valued as an engineering plastic. PVC (also transparent) is durable, easy to process (glue) and extremely inexpensive. Transparent PVC panels are known as light panels.

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene has similar properties to hard PE. It is a relatively hard plastic that is very resistant to numerous chemical substances. In technical applications, however, it must be taken into account that PP becomes brittle at temperatures of 0 degrees and below.

Polystyrene (PS)

PS is also a very hard plastic, but it is inherently brittle even at normal temperatures. Therefore, it is mainly used for injection molded parts that are designed as single-use or disposable products.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PETP)

The technical properties allow applications that are impossible with other plastics. PETP is highly abrasion-resistant, can be exposed to high mechanical loads and is also chemically resistant. This is why this plastic is often used instead of non-ferrous metals, as these have similar attributes.

Polyoxymethylene (POM)

The properties of polyoxymethylene are very similar to those of PETP. In addition, there is an enormous dielectric strength. Precision plastic parts that have to be exposed to high mechanical loads can be made from POM. The chemical properties are also comparable to those of PETP.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

Above all, PTFE is a high-performance plastic. This thermoplastic is characterized by high extreme temperatures (minus 200 to plus 250 degrees Celsius) as well as high pressure and abrasion resistance. For example, glass fiber reinforcement can also improve the properties considerably. PTFE is better known to many people under the trade name of the DuPont company: Teflon.

Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)

PVDF is obtained in the melt, is almost light-tight white and very expensive. It offers safety against radiation and has good abrasion properties. Heat sensitivity (positive) and chemical properties (positive) are slightly worse than with polytetrafluoroethylene. PVDF stands for products with the names Floraflon, Solef or Kynar.

Hard tissue (HGW)

Cotton fabric soaked in phenolic resin. Very good insulating properties in relation to electricity, plus high mechanical strength. It is also resistant to numerous chemical substances such as fuels, oils and diluted alkalis.

Alternatives to acrylic glass and plexiglass for do-it-yourselfers

For the do-it-yourselfer, PVC and polycarbonate (PC) in particular are real alternatives, as they can be used in similar applications. However, the UV protection is not as high as with acrylic glass. The general longevity of acrylic glass and especially of plexiglass is usually not achieved. For very specific applications, do-it-yourselfers can of course also use other thermoplastics.

It should always be decisive what you need a thermoplastic material for. You have to consider the most important requirements of your project. PC can definitely be used if a display, shelves (furniture) or wall cladding (interior) are planned. If price plays a major role, PVC would be the right choice. However, according to modern views, you should also take into account the life cycle assessment, which is particularly bad with PVC.