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3D Printing Polycarbonate

3D Printing Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonate (PC) is a thermoplastic material known for its strength, durability and optical clarity (transparency). It has a high impact resistance and can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for engineering specific applications.

Known commercially as Lexan®, polycarbonate has many applications, including CDs, DVDs, bulletproof glasses, sunglass lenses, scuba masks, electronic display screens as well as product packaging.

Polycarbonate filament is hygroscopic like Nylon, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. This will affect print performance as well as the overall strength of the final product. Like Nylon, it should be stored in an airtight container with desiccant after opening and between uses. Polycarbonate is a high-temperature resistant material, and it requires being printed at high temperatures with special attention given to the ambient temperature within a heated chamber and build surface. This also means that cooling fan speeds need to be lowered to ensure the proper layer-to-layer adhesion occurs.

ProsCons
Extremely impact resistantHygroscopic (absorbs moisture from air)
High-temperature resistanceRequires high printer temperatures
Great level of optical clarityProne to warpage if not printed under optimal conditions
Will bend before it breaksTends to ooze while printing
High tensile strength

Printing Specifications

Print Temperature
280-310°

Bed Temperature
110-120° C

Glass Transition Temperature
145°C

  • Printer performance: Although hygroscopic and prone to warping, polycarbonate can be manageable and produce excellent results with attention to a well-optimized printer setup and environment
  • Strength: Very high tensile strength with enough flexibility to withstand shattering
  • Fumes: Treat polycarbonate like ABS due to the off-gassing of particulates
  • Best used for: High strength applications
  • When not to use: While the material is an excellent choice for most applications, it is not recommended to use as a material for the 3D printing novice. It is can be overkill for some applications where a high-grade PLA, PETG or even Nylon would suffice

Best Practices

  • Ensure proper bed adhesion
    • Bed adhesion is one of the most critical elements of a successful print. Standard glue and blue painters tape cannot withstand the high temperatures and are not recommended for the demands of PC printing. While we have not experimented with printing on PEI, there are others that recommend it as an optimal build surface for PC. Our recommendation is to use an ABS Slurry for adhesion on a clean glass build plate at around 120°C.
  • Pay close attention to the first layer
    • Because warpage can be an issue with PC, it is recommended to adjust your slicer settings to ensure optimal settings. This includes possibly slowing the print speed for the first few layers and then gradually increasing it as the print progresses.
  • Adjust setting to mitigate filament oozing
    • Oozing from the nozzle may occur since PC must be printed at a significantly high temperature. This can be mitigated by increasing the retraction speeds, and if your printer is able – increasing the travel speed in your slicer’s settings.
  • Ensure filament is dry before printing
    • PC is prone to absorbing moisture, so it is highly recommended that you dry your material. Once the material is dry, it should be kept in an airtight container with desiccant to limit moisture exposure.