It’s common knowledge that clear plastic is one of the most popular materials used in manufacturing and design. However, there is a wide variety of these transparent polymers out there, and they can’t always be used interchangeably. Plastic, after all, is a generic term for a large family of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials. For the most part, plastics can be put into two major categories: thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers. The former refers to plastics that can be melted and re-used after their initial formation without having their structure destroyed. The latter group does not have this property.
Acrylic is really an umbrella term used to refer to the kinds of thermoplastics that are petroleum based and created from the derivation of natural glass. Acrylic is also known as polyacrylate. There are quite a few brand names associated with acrylics, with Plexiglas probably being the most known one.
Acrylics can be injection molded or hand crafted. The former is very similar to glass, and is thus often used as an alternative to it in sunglasses, display risers and bakery bins. The material is strong, and is also cheaper than their hand crafted counterparts. Hand crafted acrylics are relatively more upscale and usually used for displays. These are higher quality and extremely strong.