Polycarbonate in 3D Printing

Introduction to Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate (PC) is a high-performance thermoplastic known for its exceptional durability, impact resistance, and transparency. Widely used in various industries, it finds applications in the production of eyewear lenses, medical devices, automotive components, and consumer electronics. In the realm of 3D printing, polycarbonate stands out as a material that combines strength, flexibility, and heat resistance, making it ideal for both prototyping and manufacturing end-use parts.

Figure 1. The structure of PC.Figure 1. The structure of Polycarbonate.

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Properties and Benefits of Polycarbonate

Strength and Durability: Polycarbonate is renowned for its high impact resistance, which is significantly greater than that of many other 3D printing materials such as PLA (Polylactic Acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). This makes it suitable for creating parts that need to withstand mechanical stress and rough handling.

Heat Resistance: Polycarbonate can endure temperatures up to 140°C without deforming, which is higher than the heat tolerance of materials like PLA and ABS. This property is particularly advantageous for applications that involve exposure to high temperatures or require sterilization.

Transparency: One of the unique features of polycarbonate is its optical clarity. While it is not as transparent as acrylic, it is sufficiently clear for many applications, including lighting covers and protective visors. This property also allows for the creation of aesthetically pleasing prototypes and models.

Flexibility: Despite its strength, polycarbonate retains a degree of flexibility, reducing the likelihood of cracking under stress. This makes it an excellent choice for parts that must endure bending and twisting without breaking.

Chemical Resistance: Polycarbonate offers good resistance to many chemicals, including oils and greases, enhancing its suitability for industrial applications where exposure to such substances is common.

Challenges of Using Polycarbonate in 3D Printing

While polycarbonate has many advantages, it also presents certain challenges when used in 3D printing:

High Printing Temperature: Polycarbonate requires a high extrusion temperature, typically between 260°C and 310°C. Not all 3D printers are capable of reaching and maintaining these temperatures, which can limit its accessibility.

Warping and Adhesion Issues: Polycarbonate tends to warp during the cooling process, making bed adhesion a significant concern. To mitigate this, a heated bed with temperatures between 80°C and 120°C is recommended, along with adhesives like Kapton tape or specialized adhesives designed for polycarbonate.

Moisture Sensitivity: Polycarbonate is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. This can lead to poor print quality if the filament is not properly dried before use. Storing polycarbonate filament in a dry, airtight container with desiccants is essential to maintain its printability.

Printer Wear and Tear: Due to its high printing temperatures and abrasive nature, polycarbonate can cause wear and tear on printer components, particularly brass nozzles. Using hardened steel nozzles can help mitigate this issue.

Applications of Polycarbonate in 3D Printing

Given its impressive properties, polycarbonate is used in a variety of 3D printing applications:

Functional Prototypes: The durability and heat resistance of polycarbonate make it ideal for creating functional prototypes that can be tested in real-world conditions. Engineers and designers can use polycarbonate to produce models that closely mimic the properties of the final product.

End-Use Parts: Polycarbonate is not just for prototyping; it is also used to manufacture end-use parts. This includes custom tools, brackets, enclosures, and even small-batch production items. Its strength and durability make it suitable for parts that will be subjected to regular use and mechanical stress.

Medical Devices: In the medical field, polycarbonate’s transparency, durability, and sterility make it an excellent material for creating medical devices, surgical instruments, and prosthetics. Its ability to withstand sterilization processes ensures that the printed parts are safe for medical use.

Automotive Industry: Polycarbonate’s impact resistance and heat tolerance are highly valued in the automotive industry. It is used to produce components like headlamp covers, interior fittings, and even some under-the-hood parts. The material’s resilience ensures that these components can endure the harsh conditions of automotive environments.

Consumer Electronics: The consumer electronics industry benefits from polycarbonate’s strength and optical clarity. It is used to create robust housings for gadgets, transparent cases, and other parts that require both durability and aesthetic appeal.

Tips for Printing with Polycarbonate

To successfully print with polycarbonate, consider the following tips:

Printer Capability: Ensure that your 3D printer can reach and maintain the high temperatures required for polycarbonate. A printer with a heated bed is also necessary to reduce warping.

Bed Preparation: Use a heated bed set to the recommended temperature range and apply an adhesive suitable for polycarbonate. This will help prevent warping and ensure better adhesion during printing.

Filament Storage: Store polycarbonate filament in a dry environment, using airtight containers and desiccants to prevent moisture absorption. If the filament does absorb moisture, dry it using a filament dryer before printing.

Nozzle Selection: Given polycarbonate’s abrasive nature, opt for hardened steel nozzles instead of brass ones to reduce wear and prolong the lifespan of your printer’s components.

Printing Environment: Maintain a stable and draft-free printing environment. Sudden changes in temperature can exacerbate warping and lead to poor print quality.


Polycarbonate is a versatile and robust material that has significantly expanded the capabilities of 3D printing. Its exceptional strength, heat resistance, and transparency make it suitable for a wide range of applications, from functional prototypes to end-use parts in demanding industries like automotive and medical devices. While it does present some challenges, such as high printing temperatures and moisture sensitivity, these can be managed with the right equipment and preparation. As 3D printing technology continues to evolve, polycarbonate is likely to remain a valuable material for innovators and manufacturers seeking high-performance solutions.


  1. Krajnak K, et al.; Inhalation of polycarbonate emissions generated during 3D printing processes affects neuroendocrine function in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2023, 86(16):575-596.
For research use only, not intended for any clinical use.