Acrylic vs plexiglass vs lexan

I’m new to laser anything besides building one from a kit 50 years ago as a kid and it was just a helium neon laser.

With that said I have not tried any of the above material just been reading up on what works what doesn’t and what to avoid all together.

So I’m a bit confused maybe someone much smarter can give me a dumbed down explanation that has a min.

I’m reading Acrylic is a-ok that it works like a charm. Great and I’ve seen some great stuff.

I’m also reading that plexiglass is a no go bad bad. But my confusion is both products are chemically identical. Both are polymerization of methyl methacrylate. Acrylic is poured into a mold between two sheets of glass and compressed while plexiglass is extruded.

I never worked industrially with plexiglass but I did work in a foundry or two in the day and casting aluminum and extruding aluminum is exactly the same chemically the end product is different but they have identical properties.

Now lexan and a few other brand names I know are different they use Polycarbonate so I can completely understand how it would be different and from what i understand the window of the glowforge is made of lexan because it absorbs the rays so well.

Anyway I’m not arguing with anyone I was just hoping someone would give some reason I might understand without making me feel to awful dumb like no pictures of molecular structures after all I did say I worked in a foundry so I’m no nuclear scientist hehe.

All this is more of curiosity than anything I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel others have already figured it all out I’m just wondering is all.

Thanks Incase I forget later :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Acrylic = plexiglas = perspex = plexiglass = PMMA = Polymethyl methacrylate.

Lexan is a type of polycarbonate, and is sometimes called just “polycarbonate”.

Check out #4, especially “the list”.


Oh also, a quick search for “cast vs extruded”:

… There are three great threads right at the top of the list:




Where are you reading that? If it’s FB, I’m gonna give the general advice of - don’t believe literally anything you read there - we’ve heard some doozies.

The big ultimate bad in the lasers is chlorine - so PVC is a no go - the chlorine will gas and eat your machine.


I’ve used both the acrylic (from GF) and plexiglass from Lowe’s (both thick and thin). Both have worked extremely well for me. The plexi does smell worse than the acrylic, but with my inline fan going and a fan on my table, I really only smell it when I open the GF lid when I’m done. Like @deirdrebeth said, just stay away from anything with PVC.


I’ll admit read a bit from FB have read a bit from multiple locations. This link I am putting up seems fairly complete I guess. is this a fairly reliable list that is here? Seems a bit over cautious as well when done they leave practically nothing to laser cut lol well not really but you get the point I guess. Just dont want to start off badly havent messed with anything but thin plywood so far but I know me and wont be long and I’ll be trying it on anything I can.

anyway think this is fairly accurate internet is awesome getting info but getting correct info is a challenge at times. list of material types safe and not safe

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The link you posted seems fairly accurate to me. One thing to note is the recommendation regarding leather doesn’t seem correct to me as I don’t know what “untreated” leather means in this context.

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Yeah, that list puts some things in the “do not” category because the author didn’t like how they cut rather than they were bad for you/the laser - but overall that seems solid (and you can see that Plexi is listed with acrylic there).

No such thing as “untreated” leather - unless it’s still attached to the animal. All leather is ok, vegetable tanned leather is easier on your lungs than chrome tanned - but with good filtration both cut fine.

Glass and stone (on their no list) engrave beautifully - but they’re right they don’t cut :slight_smile:

In general I would still suggest you come here and do a search for a material rather than depending on an outside source. Get it from the horses mouth so to say :slight_smile:


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