3D printing with polycarbonate

Durable plastic for durable prints

Polycarbonate T-Slot, by ProtoParadigm

Ever needed to 3D print something in a strong, clear material? It’s always exciting to see hobbyist printers being used with non-ABS/PLA materials, and polycarbonate is no exception.

From what I can tell, RichRap was the first person to use polycarbonate in a hobbyist device back in mid-2011. Those efforts were followed-up on by Luke and Alex of ProtoParadigm, who wrote a thorough blog post on the subject.

The main gist is that polycarbonate (also known as Lexan, or that-stuff-the-white-MacBook-is-made-of) is very strong, and can have great transparency. The catch is that it has to be kept or made very dry before extrusion: filament affected by humidity produces a milky sheen and causes bubbles in prints.

Here’s a video of polycarbonate printing in action, from ProtoParadigm:

Despite its availability as 1.75mm and 3mm filament, hobbyist use of polycarbonate appears to be limited for now. But, as people experiment with it, it may become more attractive for certain applications.

If you’d like to read more, check out the ProtoParadigm blog post mentioned above, and also RichRap’s original post, full of his own photos and videos.


Derek Quenneville is a 3D printing evangelist who posts weekly on the Ponoko blog. Follow him on Twitter @techknight.

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