Using Polycarbonate Filament With A RepRap

[Rich] couldn’t find any instances where RepRap owners had used polycarbonate as a 3D printing source material. He’s filled that knowledge gap by running multiple polycarbonate printing tests. Polycarbonate is a plastic that is highly resistant to shattering yet it’s still rather soft. With enough effort it can be bent and stretched, but it’s fairly difficult to break the material.

The test spool of polycarbonate was special ordered for this project. [Rich] sourced 1.6mm filament since 3mm material would have been difficult to spool. It melts at a temperature range of 280-300 degrees Celsius, which he reaches with a hot-end extruder design. The printed material comes out a bit cloudy, which may be due to the heating process itself, or due to extruder reversals (he’s not quite sure what’s causing it). But as you can see above and in the video after the break, it’s certainly a viable printing medium.

[Thanks Marnargulus]

19 thoughts on “Using Polycarbonate Filament With A RepRap

  1. Polycarbonate is hydroscopic. The whitening is caused by water in the plastic vaporizing causing micro bubbles. The PC needs to be dried before it is used. Basically put in a hot dry oven to slowly drive out the water.

    1. exzatly, i noticed this when trying to vaccum form it….

      then i decided to use arcylic, since the PC needs to be heated at various temps slowly for long periods of time, before you can do any forming with it

    1. I can’t think of any good reason why not. You would definitely want to use the mid-range for PC – it looks like the hotter temps (and faster feed times) don’t work evenly or cool properly. I would imagine this is why the hot-end temp item is missing the top – if the material toward the bottom is still soft when you start layering and using it as a support I could see it deforming or even possibly shearing.

      1. I didn’t notice the lower reply. I was thinking larger honeycomb structures – along the lines of 2cm or larger. If you’re trying to reduce weight and materials use the zigzag pattern works reasonably well. For larger air gaps (say, the sole of a shoe) you would likely be better off building an actual honeycomb pattern into your design.

        Not that PC would make a very good sole – it’s just an example.

  2. @Peter: That’s how Repraps, effectively, already work. You designate a % of fill and it prints a cross-hatch pattern at each level that creates space in the piece. Most people I’ve seen do most of their prints at relatively low percentages of fill (lots of air in each piece) and the pieces still come out very strong.

  3. Yay!

    I just ordered my Ultimaker kit last night so this makes me happy. Also I am blown away that the maker crowd hasn’t figured this out already? Seems like PC is a reasonable material to try given its great strength properties…

    I would love to find a good resource on materials that have been tried on FDM machines, with info on what works and what doesn’t and why.

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