Transparent plexiglass vs. glass
What do we need to have while installing our plexiglass items? We certainly need a UV light-hardened glue which will ensure the full transparency of our items. Such a glue does not harden until it is irradiated with UV light, so this makes it easy for us to position and bond our plexiglass elements quite freely. Plexiglass plates can be bonded with other elements even at a right angle provided that special glues are used.
Plexiglass—a lasting solution
Transparent plexiglass is resistant to weathering and UV radiation and, as a result, can be used outdoors (in gardens, for instance). It does not turn yellow or deform even when exposed to sunlight for many years. Neither hail nor snow can damage plexiglass. Transparent plexiglass is completely colourless (it allows c. 92% of light to pass through) and looks exactly like a window pane but, at the same time, it is approximately two times lighter and by far more resistant to mechanical damage than glass due to its high resistance to tension and compression.
Molten polycarbonate instead of plexiglass?
What could we replace transparent plexiglass with? The answer is: colourless molten polycarbonate or PVC plates. Thanks to its mechanical properties, the former is much better than the latter. First, let us explain what molten polycarbonate is and how it is obtained. It is a thermosoftening plastic formed through injection or extrusion at very high temperatures of up to 300 degrees Celsius. Molten polycarbonate is characterised by its high mechanical resistance as well as high transparency and light transmission (c. 90%, i.e. slightly lower than in the case of transparent plexiglass).
Polycarbonate almost as resilient as aluminium
Polycarbonate is more resilient than polyglass as the former is almost as hard and resistant to compression as aluminium is. At the same time, polycarbonate can be used at much higher temperatures. However, it is more expensive than plexiglass. Molten polycarbonate can be used wherever there is a need for high light transmission and mechanical resistance, e.g. shop windows, doors, bus stop panes or even Formula 1 driver helmets and astronaut helmets. Polycarbonate is resistant to high differential pressure. Also, it is used by CD manufacturers. For economic reasons, however, it is no longer used to produce soft drink bottles.
Polycarbonate plates—various thicknesses and dimensions
Polycarbonate can be used at temperatures ranging from -40 to +120 degrees Celsius (it begins to soften at temperatures exceeding 140 degrees). This is why it is chosen instead of plexiglass when the work environment is harsh. For example, a plexiglass plate used as the roof of a terrace or a winter garden would have to be even twice as thick as a polycarbonate roof of the same kind in order to be equally resistant to weathering. Moreover, polycarbonate plates are slow-burning, heat-insulating and extremely resilient. They can be of any colour or colourless. Their producers can cut and bond them without any limitations.
Polycarbonate and plexiglass items from trusty producers
Both polycarbonate and plexiglass plates made to some standardised measure can be bought from DIY shops, but if we expect to get a top-quality customised product, we should contact a specialist firm selling such plates. A reputable producer can surely guarantee that their custom-made products will meet our expectations (dimensions, durability, colour, etc.) and preserve their properties for a long time.
Polycarbonate and plexiglass plates—cutting and drilling
Admittedly, firms producing polycarbonate and plexiglass plates inform their clients that it is possible to cut their products and drill in them, but in order to do so, they need to have proper tools and a knack in manual jobs. Circular saws with fine teeth or hand-operated saws will do. Drilling in such plates should not be done too close to their edges (40 mm is the minimum distance from an edge). Drills for metal must be used.
Polycarbonate and plexiglass—where to use them
Plexiglass can be used wherever there is a need for very high impact strength, while polycarbonate is better when it comes to making bus stop shelters or shop windows, which are vulnerable to vandalism. Nevertheless, a made-to-measure plexiglass product will make a perfect and relatively cheap interior door pane. Plexiglass is also used to produce various types of tubes, couplers and elbows. It is very popular with advertising agencies and marketing companies as well (stands, small plates and large signboards, restaurant menu covers, display cabinet screens, notice-board casings, display units, 3D lettering, illuminated boards, multimedia advertisements, ballot boxes, money boxes, lecterns and leaflet stands).
Polycarbonate—better in the construction industry
Because of its higher prices and higher resilience, molten polycarbonate is mainly—but not solely—used in the construction industry; for instance, polycarbonate panes can be found in motor vehicles as they are very hard to break. Roofs of winter gardens, terraces and carports are also made of polycarbonate, which is resistant to weathering, moisture and ultraviolet radiation. This plastic does not turn yellow even when used for many years. Polycarbonate plates do not deform at temperatures ranging from -40 to +120 degrees Celsius. This plastic begins to soften at a temperature of c. 140 degrees, though.
Plexiglass—easy to machine and cut
Plexiglass is relatively easy to machine. Specialist firms use lasers to cut it; at home, we can cut plexiglass plates, if there is such a need at all, using hand-operated saws with fine teeth, bearing in mind that our plates have to be placed horizontally on a hard basis while being cut. We could also use power tools but we must not forget to use discs with fine teeth. We should not drill in plexiglass plates too close to their edges (40 mm is the minimum distance from an edge). Plexiglass is also considered to be an eco-friendly plastic which is quite easy to recycle.
How to glue plexiglass elements
Bonding plexiglass elements will not be problematic even for people who do not have a knack in manual jobs; all they need to do is use a proper glue. Recommended by specialists, UV light-hardened glues dedicated to bonding plastics can be bought from firms offering made-to-measure plexiglass items. Using such special glues, you should succeed in bonding two or more plexiglass elements even at a right angle.