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CapabilitiesCustom Online 3D Printing ServicePolycarbonate (PC) 3D Printing

Polycarbonate (PC) 3D Printing

Polycarbonate (PC) is a thermoplastic with excellent mechanical properties and some of the best temperature resistance of any common FDM 3D printing plastic. PC can be subjected to high levels of plastic deformation without breaking. It is useful for both end-use parts and functional prototypes in the medical and automotive industries.

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About 3D Printing in Polycarbonate

3D printing in PC can be more difficult than other standard FDM plastics due to its high glass transition temperature. This means the print must be done at a far higher temperature than other standard plastics like PLA or ABS. PC is also a good electrical insulator wherein some grades of polycarbonate can be sterilized with various standard processes making it ideal for food or medical applications.

3D Printed Polycarbonate at a Glance

Application

Manufacturing tools and jigs, functional prototypes

Advantages

High temperature resistance, electrically insulating, high tensile strength
High impact resistance

Disadvantages

Highly susceptible to scratching, hygroscopic

Lead Time

1 day

Price

$

Minimum Feature Size

0.010" (0.254 mm) for parts below 16" (406.4 mm) and 0.013" (0.330 mm) for parts above 16" (406.4 mm)

Tolerances

Z plane: +/- 0.010” (0.254 mm) for the first inch, plus +/- 0.002” (0.0508 mm) for every inch thereafter. XY plane: +/- 0.004” (0.1016 mm) for the first inch, plus +/- 0.002” (0.0508 mm) for every inch thereafter.

Layer Height

0.010" (0.254 mm) for parts below 16" (406.4 mm) and 0.013" (0.330 mm) for parts above 16" (406.4 mm)

Max Part Size

24” x 36” x 36” (610 mm x 915 mm x 915 mm)

FDM PC

Standard polycarbonate has excellent mechanical properties that far exceed those of other popular high-strength plastics like ABS. This makes polycarbonate ideal for functional prototypes and manufacturing tools as well as end-use parts.

FDM PC Properties
Tensile Strength (MPa)Elongation at Break (%)Hardness (Rockwell)Heat Deflection Temperature (℃)Glass Transition (℃)
Tensile Strength (MPa)

68

Elongation at Break (%)

5

Hardness (Rockwell)

115

Heat Deflection Temperature (℃)

138

Glass Transition (℃)

161

FDM PC-ABS

As the name suggests, PC-ABS plastic combines these two popular plastics to create a material that contains properties of both. It has the high strength and temperature resistance of polycarbonate while maintaining some of the flexibility of ABS. 3D printing in PC-ABS is ideal for end-use parts that need to be flexible and don’t need to focus on temperature resistance.

FDM PC-ABS Properties
Tensile Strength (MPa)Elongation at Break (%)Hardness (Rockwell)Heat Deflection Temperature (°C)Glass Transition (°C)
Tensile Strength (MPa)

29

Elongation at Break (%)

2

Hardness (Rockwell)

110

Heat Deflection Temperature (°C)

110

Glass Transition (°C)

125

FDM PC-ISO

This version of PC is biocompatible under ISO 10993 USP class IV and can be either gamma- or EtO-sterilized. The ability to be sterilized, coupled with PC’s mechanical and thermal properties, makes this variant ideal for medical device prototyping and food packaging.

FDM PC-ISO Properties
Tensile Strength (MPa)Elongation at Break (%)Flexural Strength (MPa)Heat Deflection Temperature (°C)Impact Strength Notched (J/m)
Tensile Strength (MPa)

57

Elongation at Break (%)

4

Flexural Strength (MPa)

90

Heat Deflection Temperature (°C)

133

Impact Strength Notched (J/m)

86

Finishes

3D printing in PC using FDM technology does not typically give you many potential surface finishes. However, PC is available in black, white, or clear plastic. In addition to this, some basic surface finishes are listed below. 

Standard: Support structures are removed and some light sanding is performed at the support locations. It must be understood that in general FDM creates a surface texture with visible layer stepping. If a completely smooth part is required right off the machine, other 3D printing technologies like SLS or HP Multi Jet Fusion should be considered. 

Custom: Custom surface finishes like painting and additional sanding can be requested. Polycarbonate FDM parts react well to sanding, so excellent surface smoothness can be achieved.

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    Cost-saving Design Tips

    DFM: FDM 3D printing in PC requires special considerations when designing parts. FDM constructs parts from the bottom up, so any large overhangs will require support. Large internal cavities are not ideal as support structures cannot be removed. This can, however, be overcome with special soluble supports. To gain the most benefit from the material when 3D printing in PC, parts should not be designed to have loads applied perpendicular to the print layers. 

    Material Choice: PC is a relatively low-cost plastic but is still more expensive than other commodity thermoplastics like PLA or ABS. It should only be used if the resulting part needs to be strong or resistant to high-temperature conditions.

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