Display cases are a staple in consumer-facing industries and are becoming increasingly popular for home use. They’re a great way to protect and display merchandise, collectibles, and other important items. While the value of a display case is clear, determining the best material for your display case isn’t always straightforward. Rather, it depends on the needs associated with your use case, or just personal preference.
Acrylic and glass display cases both have utility – however, at Xinyutai, we believe that acrylic, also known as plexiglass, is the ideal material for the majority of cases. Let’s take a closer look at how acrylic display cases differ from those made of glass, and outline important considerations for each material.
One of the primary concerns when choosing between a glass or acrylic case is its aesthetic properties. In most cases, acrylic display cases outshine glass.
For starters, acrylic has better optical clarity than most forms of glass – the only glass that can match acrylic’s optical clarity is specially designed, and comes with a steep markup. Glass also has a very subtle green tint to it, while acrylic is inherently clear. That being said, acrylic can easily be dyed or tinted any color, allowing it to more closely mimic the appearance glass if needed.
Acrylic also has low light reflection properties, which is ideal for brightly lit rooms. If a spotlight is pointed on a glass display case, onlookers will have a better view of their own reflection than the object inside. However, if a spotlight is shone on an acrylic display case, it will reflect soft light back at the viewer which won’t obscure the item on display.
Glass is occasionally chosen over acrylic when a high-class, museum-like appearance is essential. This is because glass is subjectively viewed as a timeless classic despite its visual drawbacks. However, for the average, consumer-facing function, acrylic is a clear choice.
It’s inevitable – unless you isolate a display case from view, it risks mistreatment by employees or viewers. For example, imagine that an employee accidentally slammed the display case’s door. A case made out of acrylic will likely absorb this impact without cracking. Even if it does happen to break, the fragments of acrylic will not result in sharp, dangerous edges. This trait is especially important in items such as jewelry display cases, where valuables may be stored.
If a glass case receives this same treatment, it will almost certainly shatter in a way that turns heads, leaving glass shards scattered on the ground, and the items within exposed. These sharp shards of glass need to be cleaned up immediately, or else they could pose a safety concern. If this occurs in a retail store, customers may need to be blocked off from certain areas of your store while cleanup takes place.
Acrylic is up to seventeen times more impact resistant than a sheet of glass that’s the same size, shape, and thickness. This means that even if your acrylic display case is knocked over or hit with a projectile, it may not break – and that certainly means it can sustain typical wear and tear.
This strength also makes acrylic a much better material to ship, as it has a low chance of breaking in transit. Many businesses have learned the hard way that package handlers and delivery workers don’t always obey the “fragile” tag – and a glass case that’s broken or shattered on arrival is totally useless, and inconvenient to properly dispose of.
Glass display cases are heavier than acrylic display cases. This not only makes arranging it in the right space an exhausting endeavor, but it also makes them more expensive to ship. For price-conscious buyers, shipping and handling costs for something as large as a display case is a serious consideration.
On the other hand, acrylic display cases are very lightweight, since acrylic panels are 50 percent lighter than glass. This makes acrylic a great choice for lightweight or wall-mounted display cases.
An average quality glass display case is significantly more expensive than a quality acrylic case. This is primarily due to material costs, although shipping costs can make these expenses even more significant. As well, broken glass is far more labor-intensive and expensive to repair than cracked acrylic.
With that being said, beware of deeply discounted glass display cases. These cases are often made from low-quality glass. While the drawbacks of low-quality display cases are difficult to identify online, cheap glass can make the entire case quite fragile while causing visual distortion.
With regards to maintenance, there’s not a definitive winner between glass and acrylic display cases. Glass is a little easier to clean than acrylic, and can endure standard household cleaners like Windex and ammonia which damage acrylic cases. However, acrylic can easily be cleaned with mild dish soap and water, or specialty acrylic cleaning products.
Glass is more scratch-resistant than untreated acrylic, but these scratches are far more difficult to repair. To remove scratches from glass, you need special buffing compounds, mechanical buffers, and a trained laborer – if glass is polished using the wrong materials or by an amateur, it often causes more scratches than it fixes. On the other hand, even though acrylic is prone to small, surface-level scratches, these are easily removed with inexpensive abrasives or a simple, DIY buffing process.
Display cases have a lot of different purposes, ranging from point-of-purchase displays to showcases for memorabilia. While acrylic display cases are often preferred over glass display cases, the best choice will depend on your specific use case. However, for household or consumer-facing use cases, acrylic display cases are almost always the clear winner.