Polycarbonate 3D Printing Guide

Probably, you are wondering how to go about polycarbonate 3D printing process. Well, this guide takes you through the vital aspects of 3D printing polycarbonate parts.

What Is Polycarbonate?

It is a thermoplastic material popular for its excellent strength and impact resistance.

This material is lightweight, exhibits superior clarity, and is relatively easy to fuse into 3D objects.

In addition, this material is durable and highly effective to use in different professional-level applications.

polycarbonate for 3D printing

polycarbonate for 3D printing

Polycarbonate – The Strongest 3D Material

Polycarbonate is arguably the strongest thermoplastic material available, with a tensile strength of about 9,800 psi.

Various tests put it on top of other materials, including ABS, PLA, and Nylon.

Using 3D Printed Polycarbonate For Production Parts

Traditionally, there has been great hesitance as far as creating fully functional end-use parts and components out of 3D printed materials.

Some believe that 3D printed parts are not strong enough to guarantee safety in different applications such as automotive and construction.

However, advent of polycarbonate material for 3D printing triggered the paradigm shift.

Several advancements in polycarbonate production and 3D printing have enabled creation of fully functional and stronger parts for various applications.

Polycarbonate 3D printing has also transformed prototyping process since it is now easy to create polycarbonate parts prototypes in similar materials as end-user parts.

3D printing in polycarbonate material facilitates rapid design changes, a more efficient testing method, and a cost-effective approach to creating new prototypes virtually.

How To 3D Print With Polycarbonate

Successful 3D printing in polycarbonate material begins with choosing a high-quality polycarbonate filament.

It also needs a 3D printing machine to manage high-temperature and bed adhesion to prevent warpage.

Some aspects surrounding polycarbonate 3D printing process are as follows;

Select Premium Polycarbonate Filament

Ensure the polycarbonate filament you choose for this task is of the highest quality.

Always avoid polycarbonate filament with fillers and additives since they affect 3D printing experience and quality of the end product negatively.

polycarbonate filament

polycarbonate filament

Besides, poor-quality polycarbonate filament is also likely to clog or jam nozzle, which ruins the print.

You may get 3D prints with inconsistent diameters likely to cause under or over-extrusion, thus forming imperfections and blobs.

Find The Right 3D Printer

Polycarbonate 3D printing requires a high-pressure hot end printer and a heated bed that proficiently handles high temperatures.

When printing 3D in polycarbonate material, high temperatures are of great concern; thus, you must ensure you choose the most appropriate one.

3D printer

3D printer

The process requires a hot end that can withstand temperatures of 290 to 315°C.

Enclosed Build Chamber

As far as 3D printing in polycarbonate is concerned, the ideal printer must attain the requisite high extruder and bed temperatures.

It should also have an enclosed print chamber to regulate heat and avert imperfections in the printed final part, like deformation and cracking.

enclosed build chamber

enclosed build chamber

This is essential when printing large parts since it allows you to maintain a stable ambient temperature.

Bed Adhesion

Polycarbonate material tends to warp and shrink since it is quite demanding and thus requires a strong bed adhesion for successful printing.

Use Proper Build Surface

You can use different build surfaces for polycarbonate 3D printing.

However, standard build surfaces such as glue sticks and blue tape have adhesives likely to break down the high temperatures needed to print polycarbonate in 3D.

An ideal build surface holds on to the polycarbonate material consistently without adhering to the part permanently at 110°C.

Why Choose Polycarbonate For 3D Printing

a) Polycarbonate filament is naturally a high-strength material for 3D printing, with lots of benefits from other materials such as ABS and PLA.

b) This material has an exceptional high resistance to heat with structural integrity that stays intact even at temperatures of 150°C.

It makes it ideal for parts used in applications where high temperature is a concern.

c) It offers enough flexibility hence can bend without breaking at room temperature and can tolerate more torsional stress better than other thermoplastics.

d) Durability and flexibility of polycarbonate are higher than that of ABS and PLA but relatively lower than nylon.

Besides, polycarbonate is more lightweight and less dense than ABS.

Challenges While 3D Printing With Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate material is hygroscopic; hence it easily absorbs moisture from the air.

Thus, it should be stored in air-tight, moisture-free surroundings once opened to prevent ruining its strength and printing performance.

It also needs high temperatures for 3D printing since excessive cooling or tool low temperature makes it extrude poorly, and layers lack proper adhesion.

This material is also more prone to shrinkage and warping.

Hence you need to have an excellent printer that can handle 3D printing if you must attain desired results.

Things To Remember While 3D Printing With Polycarbonate Filament

  • Excessive friction on the filament impedes the extruder from feeding the plastic. Therefore, you need to feed the filament in different positions using a spool.
  • It is recommended to pre-heat the build plate to about 90°C for at least 10 minutes before polycarbonate 3D printing.

It ensures the bed is uniformly heated and increases ambient temperature to reduce risk of warping.

  • Always maintain constant temperature since mechanical properties of polycarbonate are likely to be compromised due to poor layer adhesion if nozzle temperature is inadequately hot.
  • Ensure the top lids/doors of printers remain closed during polycarbonate 3D printing process to maintain a high environmental temperature.
  • Improve adhesion for supports by increasing support density and printing with a raft to prevent the support from collapsing or falling.
  • It is recommended during polycarbonate 3D printing to print with the part cooling fan OFF as it prevents warping and curling.

polycarbonate filament

polycarbonate filament

What Are Things To Keep In Mind While 3D Printing With Polycarbonate?

The essential tricks and tips to enable you to attain perfect polycarbonate 3D prints include the following;

Moisture

Always keep polycarbonate filament dry when not in use to prevent it from absorbing moisture, which can weaken and give it poor-quality prints.

Consider drying the filament before using it since any slight amount of moisture can make prints cloudy and less durable.

Moisture affects the print integrity and prevents it from being optically clear.

Ambient Temperature

Ensure the bed reaches and maintains temperatures of between temperatures of between 135 and 150°C to prevent shrinkage and warpage.

Nozzle Temperature

Polycarbonate 3D printing often requires a temperature of between 290°C and 300°C, but it can be lowered if you are working with an inferior polycarbonate filament.

Too low temperatures or too fast speeds may cause jamming; thus, it is recommended to ensure you get a printer that can attain such temperatures.

What Are The Advantages Of Polycarbonate Filament?

  • Good electrical insulation features
  • Excellent high strength, thus unbreakable
  • Incredible resistance to high heat
  • Lightweight hence easy and convenient to carry
  • Hardly shatters like plexiglass
  • Highly flexible, thus easy and convenient to fabricate and customize
  • Excellent optical clarity

Tips For Successful Printing

Avoid Warping By All Means

Generally, polycarbonate is unsuitable for printing large objects covering the entire sheet.

Often, 3D polycarbonate prints with round edges tend to warp less than those with sharp edges.

The fill density and number of perimeters also affect warping in polycarbonate 3D printing.

Denser infill usually enhances warping and separation risk from print surface.

On the other hand, a lesser number of perimeters elevates chances of large polycarbonate models’ successful prints.

Add Brim Around Small Objects

It is recommended to use brim function when printing polycarbonate material in 3D, especially for parts with smaller contact areas with print surface.

Never Print Cold Areas

In some instances, printer will display errors such as “Bed thermal runaway.”

Typically, it often occurs when the ambient temperature is below 18°C; hence the printer can hardly hold high heat bed temperature.

Thorough Print Preparation Is Vital

It is easy to print some polycarbonate variants than others.

Nonetheless, print preparation is quite important but generally manageable.

Recommended bed and nozzle temperatures should be adhered to during print preparation of polycarbonate 3D objects.

You risk damaging the print sheet when you print without a glue separation layer.

Printing using glue also helps to keep your satin sheet in the best ultimate shape possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Polycarbonate Be 3D Printed?

Yes. It is one of the best materials currently used in printing a wide range of 3D objects used in different applications across various industries.

The features of this thermoplastic material make it easy to be 3D printed.

Is Polycarbonate Difficult To 3D Print?

This material has several unique properties that make it quite daunting to 3D print, especially if you do not have the right equipment.

How Strong Is Polycarbonate 3D Printing?

Polycarbonate filament has a tensile strength of approximately 9,800 PSI.

It can also endure a weight of up to 685 pounds.

Can You 3D Print Clear Polycarbonate?

Of course.

You can use multi-material 3D printing technology that makes creating customized translucent and clear components easier than ever.

clear polycarbonate

clear polycarbonate

Is Polycarbonate The Strongest Filament For 3D Printing?

According to different manufacturers’ reviews, Polycarbonate is regarded as the strongest filament you can ever find presently.

It can yield exceptionally high-strength parts when 3D printed correctly using the right printer.

More Resources:

Polycarbonate Sheet Properties

Polycarbonate Machining And Fabrication

Polycarbonate Fabrication

3D Printing On Plastic

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