Commercial and Residential Glass Installer and Manufacturer Resource

9 Uses for Acrylic & Polycarbonate Sheet Glass Substitute

Feb 28, 2023 11:11:28 AM / by Greg Martell

Polycarbonate sheet glass substitute cnc machine

Have you ever gone to your glass vendor, explained your project, and been told to look at a plastic glass substitute instead?

For all its benefits, sometimes glass isn’t the right material for a job. Regular single-pane glass is heavy and fragile. It’s expensive to temper or laminate it for additional strength. 

Like William of Ockham said, “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.” Or, paraphrased – the simplest answer is usually the best one.

If glass is too heavy, expensive, or weak for your project, don’t over-engineer it. Sometimes it pays to go simple and substitute in cost-effective acrylic or polycarbonate sheets.


Acrylic & Polycarb Sheet Uses

Acrylic and polycarbonate are quickly becoming the go-to alternatives for glass in a variety of applications. This is because both materials offer numerous advantages over traditional glass:

  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Shatterproof

What Is Acrylic?

Acrylic is a hard, clear plastic. Known commonly by one of its brand names – Plexiglas – it’s sometimes referred to by its chemical name: polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).

Acrylic is a thermoplastic, meaning it’s meltable and recyclable. It’s also formable when heated.

What Is Polycarbonate?

Another thermoplastic, polycarbonate is formable when heated and recyclable – but, unlike acrylic, it’s also formable at room temperature. Manufacturers use press brakes to re-form polycarbonate sheets and heat them to a low temperature to set the shape.

Polycarbonate (PC) is often referred to by one of its brand names – Lexan.

Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate

Despite sharing many similarities, polycarbonate and acrylic have many differentiating traits to consider






 17x stronger than glass

 250x stronger than glass


 50% the weight of glass

 50% the weight of glass


 Clear and polishable

 Slight tint, not polishable

 Surface damage resistance 

 Susceptible to chips and  cracks upon impact

 Susceptible to scratches

 UV resistance

 UV resistant, does not  discolor

 No UV resistance without  added coating; yellow after  prolonged sun exposure

 Weather resistance

 May crack under cold  temperatures

 Suitable for all weather


 Easier to form into custom  shapes

 Best suited for fabrication  due to thickness 





9 Uses for Acrylic & Polycarbonate

Because they share a lot of the same characteristics, acrylic and polycarbonate are interchangeable in some situations. However, there’s a reason these two highly similar products exist: to meet specific needs. 

In general, PC is favored for its impact resistance. Acrylic shines in its transparency.

As the stronger of the two glass alternatives, Lexan polycarbonate sheets are ideal for:

1. Bulletproof windows

2. Roofing

3. Greenhouse panels

4. Outdoor equipment windshields 

Because of their similarities, Plexiglas and Lexan can be used for some of the same jobs, such as:

5. Windows

6. Partitions

7. Sneeze guards 

Plexiglas is a suitable glass alternative for:

8. Display cases

9. Picture frame glass


1. Bulletproof Windows

Polycarbonate sheets are used for bulletproof windows because they’re extremely strong and impact resistant. They can withstand multiple hits from high-velocity bullets and other projectiles, making them ideal for security applications. 


2. Roofing

Polycarbonate sheeting is ideal for patio and deck roofs, awnings, and pergolas. Its impact resistance guards against falling branches, hail, and other windswept projectiles. Its weather resistance holds up to both heat and cold.


3. Greenhouse Panels

Because they’re lightweight, durable, and able to withstand harsh weather conditions while also allowing natural light through, clear polycarbonate sheets make great greenhouse panels. 

Building a greenhouse with PC also costs less. In addition to savings on the sheets versus glass alternatives, the framing materials used can be lighter and less expensive.


4. Outdoor Equipment Windshields 

Lexan is a better choice than glass for windshields on outdoor equipment because it’s lightweight, shatterproof, and highly impact resistant. Unlike glass, polycarbonate won’t shatter if hit by a hard or high-speed object. 


5. Windows

Acrylic and polycarbonate sheets are used as windows because they offer excellent protection from the elements while also allowing natural light through them. Additionally, they’re lightweight and durable materials that can be easily cut into custom shapes or sizes without compromising the integrity of the window frame. 

Remember: Acrylic/PMMA/Plexiglas has built-in UV resistance. Polycarbonate/PC/Lexan can be coated for UV protection, but isn’t UV resistant on its own.


6. Partitions

Polycarbonate and acrylic are better choices than glass for partitions because they’re shatterproof and highly impact resistant, making them much safer to use.


7. Sneeze Guards

Because they’re much lighter than glass and are impact- and shatter-resistant, acrylic and polycarbonate is preferred in restaurants and other settings requiring sneeze guards. They’re also more cost-effective than glass, and cheaper to replace.


8. Display Cases

Acrylic is an ideal material for custom retail display cases due to its lightweight, shatterproof, and transparent properties. Acrylic itself has a high clarity rating, meaning that items stored within the display case are viewable without obstruction. It softens light reflections, as well. Whereas glass display cases become mirror-like when lit, acrylic display cases have softer reflections and less glare. It also doesn’t yellow with age like Lexan. 

Its shatterproof nature means there’s no risk of broken glass getting into merchandise or injuring customers. Furthermore, acrylic sheets are easier to cut into custom shapes and sizes than traditional glass due to their thermoplastic properties. 

Plexiglas’ transparency also ensures that items stored within the display case are easily visible from outside, which helps to attract customers' attention. Additionally, acrylic provides better 


9. Picture Frame Glass

Custom Plexiglas is the new preferred choice over glass to protect framed art and photographs. In this particular application, acrylic is more expensive up-front. However, its light weight reduces shipping costs and makes it easier to hang.

Its optical clarity is better than glass, and it's safer in the event a frame falls.


Custom Acrylic & Polycarbonate Glass Substitute

As glass substitutes, acrylic, and polycarbonate sheets continue to find new markets for their diverse applications. Both types of sheeting are lightweight, making them easier to install than traditional glass. 

Key takeaways:

  • Select Acrylic/PMMA/Plexiglas for projects where clarity outweighs strength requirements.
  • Choose Polycarbonate/PC/Lexan when impact- and weather-resistance are the main objectives.


What’s Your Next Glass Substitute Project?

Are you ready to start sketching out your next Lexan or Plexiglas project? Head here to learn more about communicating your ideas clearly with your commercial glass partner: 

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Topics: Acrylic, Glass Alternative, Polycarbonate

Written by Greg Martell