There are many differences between acrylics and plastic but since they are both in the same polymer family, many individuals confuse the two products.
Many people use the terms plastic and acrylic interchangeably, but there are several differences between these two similar polymer products. Plastic is created from fossil fuels, while acrylic is made from renewable resources like natural gas and air. Plastic is an inexpensive material compared to acrylic; however, it does not hold up as well over time.
There are also many different kinds of plastics that can be manufactured into various shapes or molds which cannot be done with acrylics. Another difference between the two materials is that most plastic contains BPA which has been shown to cause harm to humans. Acrylic does not contain BPA because it is a newer product than plastic and was developed without use of this chemical additive.
While they may appear similar in appearance, or shapes, plastic and acrylic are much different materials. Below is an in-depth description of each of these two materials.
What Is Acrylic?
Acrylic is a man-made material that can come in a variety of different thicknesses. It is often described as being ‘softer’ than other plastics and usually produces a more matte sheen when illuminated by a light source.
Also, acrylics do not conduct electricity or heat very well which makes them ideal for applications where electrical components need to be separated from the user. Acrylic products are also much easier to clean and disinfect than plastic products making them appropriate for medical use.
In addition, acrylic has been shown to emit fewer volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into the air – primarily because it does not contain BPA or any other chemical additives that produce VOC emissions while heating up or melting down during production.
What Is Plastic?
Plastic is often confused with acrylic but it is much different in many cases. Plastic is actually an organic polymer that is not necessarily transparent. It can be very flexible, but it is also rigid in many cases. The most common type of plastic used for signs is PVC which stands for Polyvinyl Chloride or otherwise known as vinyl.
Many plastics are made to be disposable after one use. They are often molded into shape rather than poured directly into a sign shape and cooled off quickly to ensure solid quality. Additionally, the method of production significantly impacts the life expectancy of any particular piece of plastic signage (and other products). For example, injection-molded plastic has its limitations due to the nature of how it’s created – this makes it ideal for some applications where the lifespan isn’t important (such as indoor advertising within a building).
What Is Polymer?
Now that you know about plastic and acrylic, it is time to learn about polymer. Polymer is a substance composed of many repeating subunits. The molecules in polymer are typically very long and take the shape of a tube, called a ‘polymer backbone’. The actual color or what we see as the color is due to adding other chemicals to the polymer base, such as carbon black for black pigment, so it can be used in coloring plastics and other materials.
When we talk about how plastic is produced, we specifically mean that through polymers which become thermoplastic when heated, then cooling back down into a solid state again. Thermoplastics tend to be very versatile and durable and can be molded into different shapes without losing their durability, unlike regular plastic materials which break easily under high pressure or impact. This is what makes polymer unique.
When it comes to acrylic, the type of plastic substance that is sold under this name is actually a plastic polymer known as poly(methyl methacrylate), or PMMA for short. It was first developed by accident in 1928 by two scientists at the IG Farben company (which would later become Bayer), and it took until 1936 before they were able to develop ways of producing it on an industrial scale.
The main difference between regular plastics and acrylics is their transparency , making them commonly used materials in windows, lenses, domes, etc., because of how light passes through them (translucent). When mixed with carbon black pigment (or another colorant) you can achieve different colors that are opaque.