OK, plexiglass isn’t glass, but what exactly is it made of? We’ve all watched that movie scene where the person is going to collide with the “glass” pane the men are carrying on the sidewalk, but unexpectedly the person bounces right off! The pane was plexiglass! As it turns out, that’s acrylic. Hooray! Now all our questions are answered …right? Read more now.
Acrylic is a transparent petroleum-based thermoplastic product often manufactured in sheets as a lightweight and shatter-resistant alternative to glass. Sometimes plexiglass is referred to as acrylic glass because it’s a glasslike substance.
To get more specific, acrylic is a synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate, a plastic. It was developed in 1928, in several different laboratories by many different scientists around the same time. You might be intrigued to know that acrylic sheeting is commonly referred to as plexiglass, but Plexiglas (capital P, one S) is a registered trademark from 1933. There are a handful of other branded versions as well that you may have heard of, such as Lucite and Crylux.
Plexiglass can be used much like glass because of its sturdiness and translucence. It can be made with a variety of UV and other coatings, and many industries employ plexiglass because of its versatility.
For example, manufacturers use plexiglass for light and instrument casings in cars, and to make appliances and eyewear lenses. Manufacturers use the sheet form of plexiglass for:
- furniture and
- screens, among thousands of other things.
In the medical and dental industries, the purity and stability of plexiglass make it perfect for prosthetics and certain devices and instruments. It’s used in submarines, airplanes, lighthouses and sports arenas because of its durability. Artists use it to paint on or sculpt with. Plexiglass is so strong that it can even bear the pressure at the bottom of a 33-foot-deep aquarium.
This is truly fascinating. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the discovery and technology of this amazing substance. But unless you’re building a vehicle (seagoing or otherwise), modern art, or medical products, you might wonder, what are the more common uses of plexiglass in everyday life?
Because it’s lighter than other materials, plexiglass is cost-effective and easy to install. It’s also resistant to damage and breakage, providing a high level of protection when used in place of glass.
As you can imagine, substituting home glass window panes for plexiglass gives the home more durability. Plexiglass is also as clear as glass, so looking through acrylic windows is the same as peering through more-fragile glass panes. Plexiglass windows are also easier to maintain (since they don’t collect as much dirt), resistant to breakage, and are less likely to crack or stain in severe weather. These properties also make plexiglass the logical choice for skylights.
Plexiglass can be used to create beautiful and safer bathroom enclosures, making them more slip-resistant and shatterproof. Even when cracked, plexiglass doesn’t shatter, so more extensive fall injuries may be avoided. These properties also make plexiglass ideal for banisters and furnishings such as shelves, stools and tabletops.
In the garden, greenhouses may be constructed of plexiglass because of its sturdiness and ability to provide bright light. Due to its strength, plexiglass guards against breakage of panes, and due to not collecting much dirt, it can ensure a steady supply of sunlight with very little maintenance. The relatively low cost of plexiglass also makes it an excellent choice for greenhouses.
Speaking of green, we could all try to live a little greener. If you’re trying to do your part by installing solar on your roof, keep in mind that plexiglass is the preferred material for solar panels. It resists harsh weather better than tempered glass, is more shatter-resistant, and allows 90 percent of light to pass through the panels. When you look to purchase solar panels, choose plexiglass.
The glass experts at Glass Doctor® can advise you of the many ways you can use glass and plexiglass in and around your home. Learn how plexiglass can fix your panes. Find your nearest Glass Doctor or schedule an appointment online.