Acrylic is a type of plastic known for its transparency, stiffness, and ease of bonding with other materials.
Some manufacturers produce acrylic paint from it while others make a spray version of the plastic for bonding and sealing purposes.
If you’re in the market for an acrylic product, then its high price may surprise you.
You may wonder what it is about acrylic that makes it so expensive.
Why Is Acrylic So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
Acrylic sheets tend to start around $15 but can cost well over $150.
Production costs, high demand, and myriad useful features all make acrylic an expensive material to use.
Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
1. Cell Casting Takes Time
There are two different ways to make acrylic sheets.
There’s the extrusion method and the cell casting method.
The extrusion method essentially creates a long strand of acrylic.
A machine cuts the acrylic over time to create sheets.
Cell casting is a much longer process.
It involves putting acrylic between two glass panes.
There’s a gasket that keeps everything separated.
The cells then go on a vertical rack and spend some time in an autoclave.
The amount of time the acrylic spends inside the oven depends on how thick the manufacturers want the sheet of acrylic to be.
Once it’s done, then the glass panes get removed, and the sheet of acrylic gets masked for its protection.
There are a lot of benefits to using the cell casting method over the extrusion method.
However, it also has a major flaw.
It takes far longer.
With the extrusion process, manufacturers can simply cut off the acrylic they need, then start protecting and packaging it for shipment.
With cell casting, the product could spend a large amount of time in the oven.
The process of preparing each cell takes time, too.
In the business world, time is money.
Since manufacturers spend more time making their products than selling them, they have to price acrylic at a higher price point.
This ensures that they make enough revenue to cover costs during that lull when they’re making the product.
Acrylic is expensive because the process of cell casting takes a long time.
2. Cell Casting Requires More Labor
In addition to taking more time, cell casting also requires more labor than extrusion.
Acrylic is a labor-intensive material.
Other similar types of materials don’t take as long or require as much work to make.
Since acrylic does take time, that makes the material more expensive.
One of the reasons acrylic is labor-intensive is because of the cells.
Any time the manufacturer makes a new sheet, it has to make completely new cells for that sheet.
This means there’s a lot of work that must be done before the acrylic even gets made.
Since the factory has to put the cells together for each new sheet, it slows down the process.
Workers need to spend time making those cells.
Even if a factory has automated the process, they’re still using materials to make those cells.
Since this process occurs each time acrylic is made, the manufacturer ends up using a lot of materials on every single sheet.
Clearly, a lot of cost goes into producing acrylic sheets.
This makes acrylic expensive because the manufacturers need to make up for that cost and earn revenue.
The only way that they can do that is by putting an expensive price tag on their acrylic sheets.
Acrylic is expensive because it requires an expensive and labor-intensive method to manufacture it.
Another reason acrylic is expensive is that it’s durable.
Durability is important for the different applications for which acrylic is used.
One such example is aquariums.
Acrylic aquariums are extremely strong and can hold several gallons of water without a problem.
Other materials might bend under all that pressure, but acrylic is durable.
That makes it highly sought-after for certain products.
The fact that it’s durable, however, means that people have a more difficult time breaking it.
Since it’s harder to break, acrylic products are less likely to need replacement.
Once someone buys one acrylic aquarium, for example, they probably won’t need to buy another one again.
This means the company has fewer repeat customers.
They can’t rely on customers coming back to them to purchase more of their materials.
They sell a few at a time.
To ensure they’re able to make as much money as they can off a single purchase, the product has to have a high price on it.
This impacts acrylic manufacturers, too.
If the people who buy their sheets and acrylic products are buying less, then they need to make the most of their sales, too.
They end up putting a high price on their sheets.
In return, the business using the sheets to make their acrylic aquariums, for example, has to price the products high to cover the cost of buying the acrylic sheets.
It all comes back to how durable these sheets are.
Since they’re difficult to break, consumers don’t need to buy as many acrylic products to replace broken acrylic products.
That impacts both producers and suppliers and their prices.
Acrylic is expensive because of how its durability affects the market.
4. High-Quality Glass
Acrylic is also expensive because it’s high-quality glass.
People tend to have a choice when procuring materials for projects.
They can use glass, acrylic, or some other material.
In many cases, acrylic tends to be superior to glass for an abundance of reasons.
Yet, it’s almost the same as glass.
It has the same level of transparency that you would expect from glass.
Glass is also expensive because it’s a delicate material.
Since acrylic is a glass replacement but is also superior, it has a more expensive price tag.
It’s expensive because you can use it almost anywhere that you would use glass.
Some might even consider acrylic a type of glass.
It’s just a high-quality version of it.
Whenever a product or material is high-quality, it’s going to fetch a more expensive price.
Acrylic is expensive because it’s really just a high-quality form of glass.
5. Used In Different Industries
Perhaps one of the biggest factors that make acrylic expensive is the fact that it’s used in several different industries.
You can find acrylic paint, acrylic panes, and even acrylic nails.
Because the material is used in so many different industries, there’s a high demand for it.
This makes acrylic expensive because manufacturers can only produce so much acrylic at a time.
If they’re using the cell casting method, in particular, then it’s an even slower process.
Since the supply isn’t available to meet the high demand, the price is going to be expensive.
There isn’t enough to go around.
It becomes a situation where producers are going to need to outbid one another to get their hands on the material to make their products.
Whoever is able to pay the highest price gets the material.
Since they chose to work with costly materials, however, the company is going to need to make up for that cost by selling their product at a high price to the customer.
Acrylic suppliers know how valuable acrylic is.
Even if one industry is having a momentary downturn in the market, they have tons of other industries that can pick up the slack.
That allows them to set the price of acrylic high.
Should anything happen on their end that results in a slowdown of production, then they can simply charge even higher prices for acrylic sheets.
Because those industries are reliant on it, they’ll have no choice but to pay a higher price.
Acrylic is expensive because it’s in such high demand across several different industries.
Another reason acrylic is expensive is that it’s lightweight.
One of the unique aspects of acrylic is that it’s incredibly durable and strong, but it’s also light.
This makes it very different from glass and even other types of plastic.
The thicker or stronger something is, the heavier it usually tends to be.
The fact that acrylic is relatively lightweight makes it very useful in certain industries.
For example, some might choose to use acrylic to make protective panes for children’s playgrounds.
They might replace existing glass panes with acrylic ones because it’s safer and easier to install.
Should the worst happen and the pane somehow pops out of its frame, the lightweight material wouldn’t harm a child as much as a glass pane might.
This is true in other applications as well.
For aquariums, for example, having a lightweight tank makes all the difference when moving it around the home.
A glass tank would be incredibly difficult to move because it would be quite heavy.
Since acrylic is lightweight, this makes it more appealing.
It is in higher demand as a result.
With higher demand and limited supply, it makes the price of acrylic sheets, and thus acrylic products, more expensive.
Acrylic is expensive due to its lightweight nature and the appeal that it generates.
The level of thickness also impacts the price of acrylic.
The thicker the pane of acrylic is, the more expensive it’s going to be.
The thickness of the acrylic influences the price for a few different reasons.
The first is time.
Thicker panes of acrylic sheets take longer to make.
They need to sit in the autoclave longer.
Since it takes longer to make thicker pieces, manufacturers are going to need to sell those pieces at more expensive prices to make up for the time.
Another factor is the material cost.
Thicker acrylic requires more materials to make.
Besides making bigger cells, manufacturers also need more liquid monomers.
Since the cost of operation is higher to make thick acrylic sheets, they need to be sold at higher prices.
Companies that make acrylic products are then going to buy acrylic sheets at higher prices.
Once they make their products from the sheets, they’ll add those costs to the final price tag of their product.
The consumer ends up paying an expensive price for a thick acrylic piece.
Thinner acrylic pieces, on the other hand, are cheaper.
They take less time and fewer materials to make.
As such, acrylic is more expensive when it’s thick.
8. Long Lifespan
Another big factor that makes acrylic expensive is the fact that it lasts a long time.
Durability aside, acrylic is a plastic that has a long lifespan.
While some types of plastic can start to degrade with time or when exposed to certain substances, that isn’t the case with acrylic.
It’s built to last.
This makes it expensive for a number of reasons.
For one, it makes it more appealing.
Consumers want to buy acrylic products because they know that they are going to last a long time.
There’s a good chance that they’re only going to need to buy it once.
That means that it’s worth the investment to them, even if they need to pay more for it as a result.
It also means that acrylic suppliers and acrylic product makers will encounter fewer repeat buyers.
That means that they need to set a price that allows them to make as much money off their products as they can through a single purchase.
Acrylic is expensive because it lasts a long time.
9. Safer Than Glass
Acrylic is also expensive because it’s deemed safer than glass.
When glass shatters, its extremely sharp shards can seriously hurt people.
It’s why a lot of places that cater to children tend to replace glass with acrylic panes or other materials.
Should the glass ever fall and shatter, then it could seriously injure a child.
Acrylic doesn’t shatter into sharp shards.
Instead, it shatters into pieces with dull edges.
While you can still cut or scratch yourself on the small pieces, they’re not huge pieces that could impale you.
That makes acrylic a more desirable material for certain products.
Since it’s in higher demand, the demand will drive up its price.
Acrylic is expensive because its safety makes it more desirable to use in many settings.
A final reason acrylic is expensive is that it’s waterproof.
Like glass and other types of plastic, acrylic does not get damaged by water.
This makes it expensive because it means there’s going to be more demand for it.
Acrylic is something you can use to make products that are for both outdoor and indoor environments.
You could make a table or workstation out of acrylic in an outdoor area and never have to worry about the rain ruining it.
You can also use an acrylic aquarium and never have to worry about the water degrading the material.
The fact that acrylic is waterproof means that it has several more uses than other similar materials that aren’t waterproof.
It increases the number of industries that might have an interest in using a material like acrylic.
Since there’s more interest in acrylic because of its waterproof qualities, it means there’s going to be a higher demand for it.
With high demand comes high prices.
Acrylic is expensive because of its waterproof feature.
Acrylic is a type of material that has many benefits and advantages over glass.
These features, along with the factors listed above, are some of the reasons why acrylic is such an expensive material.