Why should I use ACRYLITE® acrylic sheet in place of standard glass?

Introduction

Glass is tried and true - it has been around for hundreds of years. Using glass has made it possible to bring the warmth of daylight into our homes and buildings while keeping the bitterness of weather outside. We owe much thanks to this hard working material.

While properties like transparency, stiffness, and strength have helped to make glass successful, it has been limited by other properties. Its brittleness and heavy weight as well as the difficulty of cutting, shaping, coloring and decorating glass have imposed limitations on designers, builder and architects, alike. Fortunately, there is an alternative - acrylic sheet. Acrylic is much tougher than glass, at half the weight, it's easy to fabricate and form into a variety of shapes, it comes in hundreds of colors and is readily decorated. It provides a new level of flexibility and allows ideas to take shape. It sets designers free!

Why use ACRYLITE® acrylic sheet in place of glass? Because acrylic sheet offers a number of significant advantages:

Caring Performance

Acrylic is often used where safety and ease of handling are concerns. It is many times more impact resistant than conventional plate glass and has similar impact strength compared to tempered glass. If it does break, acrylic sheet will usually crack or fracture into large pieces with edges that are much less sharp than those of broken glass. In addition to its excellent impact strength, acrylic sheet of the same size and thickness is half the weight of glass.

High impact strength and light weight make acrylic sheet the choice of people who care!

Impact and Weight: Acrylic vs. Glass

MaterialFalling ball impact strength (ft-lbs)Weight (lbs/ft2)
0.250" thick plate glass 1.0 2.9
0.250" thick tempered glass 15.5-29.1 2.9
0.250" acrylic sheet 18.1 1.5

Warmth

Acrylic feels warm to the touch, not cold like glass, because it is a better heat insulator. Compared to glass it has a lower coefficient of thermal conductivity.

Typical values for the Coefficient of Thermal Conductivity

Acrylic: 1.3 BTU/(hr-ft2)(F/inch)
Glass: 5.3 BTU/(hr-ft2)(F/inch)

Beauty and Elegance

Acrylic has crystal clarity, pure water-white edges and unmatched light transmission. The dull grey or green edges of glass cannot match the sparkle and elegance of acrylic. Unlike glass, colorless acrylic sheet has essentially zero absorption of visible light.

Typical Values for Visible Light Absorption

ThicknessAcrylic sheetPlate glass
0.118" 0% 2%
0.177" 0% 3%
0.236" 0% 4%
0.375" 0% 6%
0.500" 0% 8%
0.750" 0% 11%

Creative Design Flexibility

ACRYLITE® acrylic sheet is available in a nearly unlimited array of standard, custom and designer colors. Smooth and etched surface finishes can be combined with eye grabbing colors to produce thousands of unique and exotic looks. Roehm America LLC can custom match almost any color in ACRYLITE® GP acrylic sheet when modest minimum order quantities are met.

Acrylic can be cold formed into modest radii or thermoformed into flowing curves and shapes. Acrylic's excellent thermoforming properties will help ideas take shape.

Custom sizes and unusual shapes need not be a concern. Acrylic sheet is readily cut, routed or machined into intricate shapes and sizes using typical woodworking equipment. Roehm America LLC can provide expert advice on appropriate blades, tooling and procedures to insure success.

Acrylic is easily decorated. It can be painted, engraved or hot stamped.

There is no need to accept the limits of glass, with acrylic, ideas are set free!

Design Flexibility Comparison

AcrylicGlass
Color Availability Excellent Poor
Cold Forming Capability Fair Not Possible
Thermoforming Capability Very Good Very Poor
Cut to Size Capability Excellent Fair to Nearly Impossible*
Cutting Shapes Excellent Poor to Nearly Impossible*
Decorating Excellent Fair

*Tempered glass cannot be cut to size or into shapes after tempering

Where can acrylic be used in place of glass?
Acrylic is used in hundreds of different applications. Some of the more common applications where acrylic is used in place of glass are listed below along with the benefits of acrylic.

Architectural Glazing:

  • Mechanical bending
  • Thermoformability
  • Easy cut to size
  • Impact strength
  • Color availability
  • Low thermal conductivity

Fixtures, Displays and Furniture:

  • Crystal clarity
  • Sparkling water white edges
  • Unlimited colors
  • Fabrication ease
  • Decorating
  • Impact strength
  • Light weight

Framing:

  • Light weight
  • Impact strength
  • Conservation grades
  • Non-glare grades
  • Reduced breakage in shipping

Transportation Glazing:

  • Light weight
  • Impact strength
  • Thermoformability
  • Color availability

Stadium Glazing:

  • Light weight
  • Impact strength
  • Crystal clarity
  • Easy cut to size

Are there other considerations when replacing glass with acrylic?The properties of acrylic are different than glass. This leads to its exceptional impact strength and lightweight, for instance. However, in some situations these differences may require design changes or even make acrylic substitution infeasible. The checklist below highlights some important considerations when substituting acrylic for glass. Roehm America LLC's Technical Service Department can also provide assistance.

* Mechanical strength and stiffness. Acrylic has lower tensile strength and stiffness than glass. When used in glazing, the requires thickness will usually be 1.5 - 2.5 times greater than that required for plate glass to withstand the same wind loads. When used for shelving the required thickness to support the same weight will be at least 2.5 times greater than that required for plate glass; however acrylic will offer much greater impact strength. Roehm America LLC's Technical Service Department can provide design assistance.

* Expansion and contraction allowances. Acrylic expands and contracts more than glass due to temperature and humidity changes. Its coefficient of thermal expansion is about 8 times greater than that of glass. Proper allowances must be made to permit expansion and contraction. Roehm America LLC's Technical Service Department can provide assistance.

* Scratching. The surface of acrylic is not as hard as that of glass. Therefore, it is more prone to scratching and abrasion. If resistance to scratching and abrasion is important, then specify ACRYLITE® Optical abrasion resistant (MR) sheet.This revolutionary acrylic sheet has a "glass-like" coating on one or both surfaces that resists scratching. A comparison to glass and uncoated acrylic is shown below.

Typical Values for Taber Abrasion Testing
(% haze after 100 cycles)

Plate Glass 0.23%
ACRYLITE® Optical abrasion resistant (MR) acrylic sheet 1.34%
Uncoated Acrylic Sheet 26.88%

* Chemical Resistance. Acrylic is not as chemically resistant as glass. Many glass cleaners cannot be used to clean acrylic sheet. If this is a concern, then specify ACRYLITE® Optical abrasion resistant (MR) sheet. This revolutionary acrylic sheet has a "glass-like" coating on one or both surfaces that resists many chemicals. Standard glass cleaners can be used to clean the coated surfaces of ACRYLITE® Optical abrasion resistant (MR) sheet.

* Flammability. Acrylic is a combustible thermoplastic. Be sure to consider all applicable building code regulations before substituting acrylic for glass.

* Codes and Regulations. Roehm America LLC's ACRYLITE® acrylic sheet products have been tested for compliance with many codes and regulations. A few of these are listed below. Exact compliance may vary with product type and thickness. Check with Roehm America's Technical Service Department for details

ICC-ES Evaluation Report ESR-1260, classification CC2

Classifications

  • City of Los Angeles, Research Report #RR 24392
  • NY City MEA #144-80-M or 145-80-M
  • ANSI Z 97.1 for Safety Glazing Materials used in Buildings
  • Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 2-5, Safety Glazing (FMVSS205)
  • ANSI Z26.1, AS-4, 5, 6 & 7 for Safety Glazing Material for Glazing Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment Operating on Land and Highway
  • Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 302 for Flammability of Interior Materials
  • Underwriters Laboratories Recognized Component, File #E54671
  • Underwriters Laboratories Flammability Rating: 94HB in all thicknesses
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