Testing Polycarbonate 3D Printing Filament

This last month we experimented with Polycarbonate filament, a member of Ultimaker’s recently released batch of engineering materials. In addition to being able to produce some really nice looking prints, Polycarbonate also possesses some favorable properties. We tested the material on an Ultimaker 2+. While Ultimaker’s Cura slicing software is optimized for usage of Polycarbonate on an Ultimaker 3D printer, any other 3D printer that accepts 2.85 mm filament should be able to print fine with it.

The recommended applications for Polycarbonate are: “molds, tools, functional prototypes and parts for short-run manufacturing”. It’s also been said that Polycarbonate is suitable for making lamp shades, due to its flame retardant characteristics. But, until we have a chance to verify the safety of this use case, we recommend not doing so.

Using Cura’s built-in material profiles, Polycarbonate proved to be a relatively easy material to work with. It was simply a matter of dragging the STL files into Cura, selecting the material (PC), and saving the sliced piece. We opted to enable the “Spiralize Outer Contour” feature in Cura for our “Twisted Gear” vase print, which greatly enhanced the appearance of the finished print. For first layer adhesion, we used a glue stick. Additionally, while it’s recommended to print Polycarbonate with an enclosure (not unlike ABS), we managed to produce some high-quality prints without actually doing so:

img_0087   img_0088   Polycarbonate 2.85 mm

In the following video, we demonstrate one of the key differences between Polycarbonate and PLA (Polylactic Acid) 3D printing filaments. Polycarbonate maintains dimensional stability up to 110° Celsius. In plain English, Polycarbonate pieces can withstand higher temperatures than other filaments without melting or falling apart. To illustrate, we submerged one of our Polycarbonate prints in 96° Celsius water and it emerged unaffected. A PLA piece of the exact same geometry immediately wilted under the exact same heat stress.

Thus, to summarize: Polycarbonate is nice material for producing high-quality prints, and along with it being able to withstand more heat stress than the average spool of PLA, Polycarbonate can be useful for a broader range of applications.

To purchase Ultimaker Polycarbonate filament, please visit the 3D Universe online store.

Object model credits: