Sneeze guards: Once a simple staple of salad bars, now they're one of our best tools for returning to work after COVID-19. Every industry—from retail to food service, healthcare clinics to corporate offices, and everywhere in between—has found some applications for these easy and innovative barriers.
Acrylic, plexiglass, polycarbonate? Pass-through, wraparound, easy-attach feet? What does it all mean? We're here to help you find the right sneeze guard or room divider for your workspace, ensuring safety without sacrificing visibility.
Sneeze Guard Materials
It's the prevailing material choice for sneeze guards and clear partitions. Available in a range of thicknesses, acrylic is a transparent material that maintains your line of sight while providing a protective barrier.
Let's get nerdy—there are 2 ways to manufacture acrylic. Extruded acrylic will keep costs low and price points favorable, allowing you to purchase more partitions for less. Its more durable counterpart is cell cast acrylic, which is inherently more durable, more transparent, and cracks less often during cutting.
Plexiglas (aka Plexiglass)
Not unlike Kleenex or Jacuzzi, Plexiglas is a brand name of acrylic. However, the debate between Plexiglas vs. acrylic isn't quite so clear-cut. While all acrylic can be manufactured 2 ways, all Plexiglas is cell cast, ensuring its strength, lack of impurities, and ability to be cut without cracking.
What's the difference between Plexiglas and Plexiglass? Over time, Plexiglas gained the misnomer Plexiglass. It also became shorthand for acrylic in general. When you're buying, assume all acrylic is just regular acrylic and instead rely on the thickness of the product.
You've heard the term at the optician's office; polycarbonate is often used in non-high-index glasses and much thicker applications, such as bulletproof glass. If you're installing a sneeze guard for the long haul, it's worth considering this plastic polymer with a lot to prove. While it's still heavier than acrylic, the lightweight nature and thinner profile still beat glass by a mile.
When purchasing, think about your application and the thickness it needs first. If you need an extremely durable and large coverage area, consider polycarbonate; otherwise, opt for a thicker acrylic or a piece with metal edging.
Admittedly, glass isn't particularly common in movable or temporary sneeze guards. Its weight is prohibitive, it's a lot harder to work with, and it requires framing that just isn't feasible. The appeal of acrylic or polycarbonate outweighs the benefits of glass, though it is the most scratch-resistant material and can be tempered to prevent dangerous shards.
Sneeze Guard Thickness
Thickness will be a major consideration when selecting the best sneeze guard or room divider for your workspace. Get your calculator out—it's possible companies might list their thicknesses in fractions, decimals, and or even millimeters.
Every thickness has benefits:
Thin: Whether it's a piece called 1/8" or 0.118 – 0.125 thick, these thinner sheets are widely available and great for small spaces, such as table dividers or partitions on conference tables. They're significantly less expensive, allowing for bulk buying to add protection in many areas. Use these sheets in spaces that need temporary protection. Usually made from extruded acrylic, can be cast.
Thicker: At the middle of the road, 1/4" or ~0.25 sheets give added stability and durability to your sneeze guard and room dividers, allowing for wider use in larger applications. Especially when finished with a lightweight aluminum frame, these moderate thicknesses are durable yet easily movable. Can be extruded or cell cast.
Thick: If you're investing in a long-term solution or looking to purchase a large sneeze guard to cover a wide counter, look for significantly thicker materials. 2/3" to 1" thick guards will resist impact, cracking, and shattering while providing more than enough protection against a cough. Especially in large formats, this is the best solution that will show its strength without sacrificing visibility. Usually cell cast, sometimes extruded.
Extra Thick: Extreme situations call for extreme measures. Enter the thickest acrylic. We'll admit—this is overkill for office retrofits after COVID-19, and its benefits are better suited for high-impact applications. For most applications, look toward material under 1" thick. Mostly cell cast acrylic.
Features, Benefits, and Options
While you're evaluating your needs, consider some of the features and benefits that can be built into prefabricated sneeze guards:
Pass-Through Windows: For reception areas and welcome desks, a pass-through window at the bottom makes transactions possible, giving room to pass pens and papers between the transparent barrier.
Full-Body Panels: For valet stands, service areas, and other customer-facing, standing spaces, a full-body sneeze guard is totally transparent option that stands at employee height.
Easy-Attach Feet: Often designed in a triangular shape with a slit down the middle, these feet slip onto a solid sheet of acrylic to get your shield upright instantly. Sometimes they're acrylic, sometimes they're wood, and sometimes they're a different material entirely.
Aluminum or Metal Frames: Metal framing is an option for sneeze guards in all shapes and sizes. This frame adds durability to thinner sheets, enhances the aesthetic appeal, or finishes off sharp corners.
Wraparound Designs: A sneeze guard with wraparound sides adds see-through security from every angle for all-over protection. Stand-alone reception areas benefit the most from these all-in-one solutions.
Small Sizes: Find smaller tabletop dividers to suit conference tables, breakroom tables, or benched desking to add an easy barrier without limiting face-to-face visibility.
Desktop Designs: There's an emerging trend in attachable privacy panels that clip onto existing cubicle panels or desking via brackets to provide see-through solutions for employees.
Ready to retrofit, reconfigure, or reinvent your office? NBF has the tools you need to get the job done. Visit our Return to Work Essentials page or call our sales team at 1-866-405-0112 to see how we can help you make a successful Return to Work.