3D Printing Polycarbonate With Perfection

3D Printing Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate (PC) is a durable material designed for use in tough environments and engineering applications. It boasts an incredibly high heat deflection and impact resistance and a high glass transition temperature of 150° Celsius. This temperature resilience ensures it retains its structural integrity in high-temperature settings, making it ideal for such applications.

Polycarbonate is known for its ability to flex without breaking, making it an excellent choice for applications that require some degree of flexibility. Most polycarbonate filaments on the market contain additives that enable them to be printed at lower temperatures. Still, it’s crucial to review the specific brand’s guidelines for printing to ensure proper usage.

Polycarbonate’s transparency and durability make it an ideal choice for 3D printed prototypes where visual inspection is essential and for molds where quality inspection is crucial. Printing with it can be more challenging than PLA or PETG since it demands a relatively high extrusion and build plate temperature. Additionally, it’s commonly used for 3D printed lighting fixtures.

Despite its transparency, polycarbonate is available in various colors, including translucent and opaque options, and it can be mixed with other plastics to enhance impact resistance. For instance, PC-ABS, available in black and white, is often utilized in products such as drone bodies and replacement parts that require more durability than ABS alone.

PC is also available with additives, such as carbon fibers. To achieve successful 3D printing with polycarbonate, you’ll need a machine capable of handling it. This entails a 3D printer with a nozzle capable of reaching around 300 ºC, an enclosed chamber, and other features that improve the likelihood of a successful print.

Advantages & Disadvantages 

Below are the pros and cons essential to understanding before 3d printing with polycarbonate.

Advantages Disadvantages
Provides impact resistance
Requires high print temperatures
Offers high heat resistance
Prone to warping during printing
Naturally transparent
It tends to ooze while printing
Can bend without breaking
Absorbs moisture from the air, leading to print defects over time

Required Components

Component Requirement
Temperature: 135-150 °C
Heated Bed Required
Enclosure Required
Build Surface
Commercial Adhesive
Glue Stick
Temperature: 260-310 °C
All-metal hotend required
Part Cooling Fan Not Required

Polycarbonate 3D Printing

Although clear filament is available, printing with polycarbonate (PC) filament differs from PLA and other filaments in several aspects. These differences can impact the properties of the resulting prints and the steps you need to take to achieve a successful print. PC is more durable and flexible than PLA, but less so than nylon.

Additionally, it is harder than ABS, PLA, or PMMA, while still being lighter and less dense than ABS. PC also exhibits superior torsional stress resistance compared to other thermoplastics, and it is pliable enough to be bent by a machine at room temperature.

PC exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Heat resistance of up to 135°C is considerably higher than PLA’s deformation temperature of around 60°C.
  • High durability
  • Resistance to impact and shattering
  • Moderate flexibility
  • Transparency Non-conductivity concerning electricity

However, these properties also pose some challenges when working with PC, and you’ll need to be prepared to overcome the following obstacles to achieve successful prints:

  • PC requires high extrusion temperatures of around 300°C to print correctly.
  • PC has a tendency to warp and shrink during printing.
  • PC can absorb moisture.

If proper precautions are not taken, polycarbonate 3D printing can be challenging. PC tends to warp and shrink during printing, resulting in layers that don’t adhere to the bed or that separate or crack as the material cools and warps without being kept hot. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain a consistent temperature during the printing process.

One option for improving bed adhesion is to try third-party adhesives that claim to be effective for PC. If your printer doesn’t come with an enclosure, you may be able to use an aftermarket or DIY solution to help maintain the temperature and prevent warping and shrinkage.

Similar to ABS, PC filament can produce brittle prints if there is airflow, so an enclosure is recommended, and the part-cooling feature should be turned off.

Why Would You Need a Hot Nozzle?

A hot end that can reach temperatures between 290°C and 300°C is recommended for printing with PC. However, if you’re using a slower speed or a composite PC filament, you may be able to work with lower temperatures.

It’s important to avoid temperatures too low or print speeds too high, as these can cause your PC filament to jam.

Excessive Material Flow

PC is known to exhibit a significant tendency to show excessive material flow during printing. If your printer lacks a preconfigured material setting for PC, you may have to adjust it manually. It’s essential to keep your retraction settings to a maximum of 10 mm to avoid jamming.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that PC can produce strong fumes and odors during printing. Therefore, printing the PC within an enclosure with a HEPA filter in a well-ventilated area is recommended.

Moisture Absorption in PC Filament

Since PC tends to absorb moisture from the air, storing it properly when not in use is essential to prevent bubbles from forming in the extruder and avoid failed prints. Keeping the filament in a sealed container or moisture-controlled drying unit is recommended, and it’s advisable to use a high-quality filament to minimize the risk of moisture absorption.

Moisture can impact not only the integrity of the print but also its optical transparency. Therefore, taking proper precautions to prevent moisture from affecting the printing process is essential.

The recommended 3D printers come with an enclosed filament bay and either built-in or optional filament storage, which can help to reduce moisture absorption. However, it may still be necessary to dry the filament before printing.


3D printing polycarbonate can be a challenging task that requires careful consideration of various factors, such as temperature control, moisture absorption, and print surface selection. While polycarbonate offers unique advantages, such as impact resistance, high heat resistance, and flexibility, it requires higher extrusion temperatures and is prone to warping and oozing. By following the recommended practices and utilizing proper equipment, one can achieve successful prints with polycarbonate and unlock the full potential of this versatile material in 3D printing.

Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful day.

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