The abbreviation PC stands for polycarbonate. These are thermoplastics that are classified as polyesters. The particularly important aromatic polycarbonates are produced either by polycondensation from bisphenol A and phosgene or from bisphenol A and diphenyl carbonate. At the same time, polycarbonate is currently considered the hardest plastic. Among other things, PC is used to manufacture CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays.
The following article explains the advantages and disadvantages of PC in 3D printing and the settings with which it can be processed.
Where can I buy PC Filament?
* Stand: 2023-12-06 / Bilder: Amazon API
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What are the advantages of PC in 3D printing?
Polycarbonate has excellent mechanical properties. These include high impact strength, strength, stiffness, hardness, a very high melting temperature and dimensional stability that is still present at more than 100 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the material is also difficult to ignite and has been classified in building material class 1. Compared to conventional glass, polycarbonate has about 250 times the impact strength, which is why it is also used to make safety glass, and is significantly lighter than glass. It is also well suited as an insulator against electric current.
As a rule, polycarbonate is colorless. However, it can be colored with different blends, so you definitely have the option to print the objects in your desired color.
PC filament can be used in the field of 3D printing, among other things, for the production of housings, casings, various decorative items, but also components that require high impact resistance and strength.
Processed PC filament is resistant to dilute acids, numerous oils and greases, and ethanol. However, objects printed from PC are not resistant to bases, ketones, esters and halogenated and aromatized hydrocarbons.
What are the disadvantages of PC Filament?
Unfortunately, polycarbonate is very susceptible to scratches and in its original composition does not withstand prolonged exposure to UV radiation. Discoloration or yellowing occurs here over time. Furthermore, the material quickly becomes brittle. It therefore makes sense to either switch to a PC filament that also contains components that improve UV resistance, or to avoid outdoor use as far as possible.
Another disadvantage is that warping can occur when processing the material. Therefore, PC filament is best used only by makers who are already somewhat familiar with 3D printing. Incidentally, before using this filament is recommended to heat the heating bed to about 80 degrees Celsius. The required pressure temperature is around 260 degrees Celsius. Therefore, you should check in advance whether the hot end and the nozzle of your 3D printer can withstand this temperature at all.
PC filament is much more expensive to purchase compared to other filaments. Therefore, it should be used especially when other filaments are too soft or too sensitive or have too low dimensional stability.
Application examples for PC Filament
The uses of polycarbonate filament are very diverse. Among other things, it is used for the production of
- blank CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs,
- Privacy screen elements,
- Safety glass,
- Protective covers and containers
- Bottles and
- Roofs for winter gardens
used. During production, the latter are still treated with highly concentrated UV absorber concentrates, which are applied to the surface in thin layers by coextrusion.
In the field of 3D printing, PC filament is suitable, for example, for the production of
- Enclosures for technical devices, circuits, etc.,
- Underwater housing for cameras,
- Other containers,
- Decorative objects,
- Rear smartphone and tablet covers,
- Camping utensils.
You can probably think of a few more applications yourself.
What settings are used to print PC Filament?
First of all, we would like to point out that the printing recommendations are only of a general nature, since no two 3D printers are exactly alike. The settings to be selected also depend on the filament used and its additives, but also on the object to be realized and the equipment of your 3D printer. It's best to take your time and start with a test print, where you can adjust the settings as needed.
Pressure temperature: 250 to 270 degrees Celsius,
Heating bed temperature: Up to 80 degrees Celsius recommended,
Print speed: Up to 90 mm/s.
Other important data
Density: Low, about 1.2 g/cm³,
Melting point: 270 – 300 degrees Celsius,
Dimensional stability: Up to about 140 degrees Celsius,
Tensile strength: 64 MPa,
Elongation at break: 4 percent,
Impact strength: Approximately 3.5 kJ/m²,
UV resistance: Low,
Building material class: B1 (flame retardant),
Is a heated print bed (heatbed) required in the 3D printer for PC filament?
When using PC filament, the use of a heating bed is recommended by many manufacturers and users. You should preheat this to 80 to 100 degrees Celsius before 3D printing – depending on the composition of the filament and according to the manufacturer's specifications.
Can PC filament be glued? If so, which adhesive is recommended?
There are various ways of bonding polycarbonate and thus also PC filament. Before we present these in detail, we would first like to give you some general tips on gluing this filament.
- The bonding surfaces must first be cleaned of impurities using a soft cloth soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Also pay attention to whether a scratch-resistant coating is present. This can hinder the bonding. Therefore, first test the adhesive on an inconspicuous edge.
- To preserve the look, you should opt for transparent or colorless adhesives.
- If a solvent adhesive is used, it should be applied thinly to only one of the two bonding surfaces.
- Immediately after applying the adhesive, place the bonding surfaces on top of each other and press firmly for a short time. This ensures good adhesion after just a few minutes. After 24 hours, the adhesive bond is usually fully cured. You can often use the glued object after just a few minutes.
You can use these adhesives
Very often, solvents such as dichloromethane or dichloroethane are used for bonding PC and other filaments. Solvents stick even better if you add about 8 percent polycarbonate chips to them. Thus, the viscosity increases while the evaporation rate is reduced. This also makes it easier for you to apply the product. When using solvents, you should also make sure that the room is well ventilated.
For example, multipurpose copolymer-based adhesives are recommended, which include 3M Scotch-Weld 4475 adhesive, for example. With multi-purpose adhesives, you can bond not only polycarbonate to each other, but also other filaments such as PMMA, PLA and PVC.
If polycarbonate is to be bonded to fill gaps or large areas, or if bonding with other materials (such as painted metals) is planned, you can also use a 2-component adhesive that works on modified polyurethane. In such a case, you should roughen the bonding surfaces beforehand, then coat them with methanol and allow them to flash off before applying the 2-component adhesive.
If you have cyanoacrylate superglue at home, you can also use it for gluing. Here, too, it makes sense to improve adhesion by roughening the surface a little beforehand and cleaning it with methanol.
If you want to bond thicker PC sheets together or bond them to hard plastics, mineral materials or metals, you can also use silicone rubber.
Plastics such as polystyrene, PMMA, polyester, PE and PP can also be coated with hot melt adhesives. These are also known as hot melts and provide high impact strength, low viscosity and allow very thin adhesive joints.
Last but not least, you can also use double-sided adhesive tapes to bond PC panels to aluminum, stainless steel, galvanized or painted steel, ceramics, rigid PVC and glass or epoxy.
Make sure that polycarbonate is bonded without cracks. Therefore, you should know that the plasticizers of the adhesive and also the solvent soak into the outer layer of the plastic. The combination of substances can create cracks up to 40 µg deep in the material. Here it makes sense to apply a second solvent layer, which can then form a better barrier.
How can PC Filament be post-processed?
Due to its very good surface quality and other properties, it is – as we have learned through our research – very rarely necessary to rework the object printed from PC filament. Undoubtedly, however, this can be done relatively straightforwardly. Since PC is very susceptible to scratching, you should make sure to work very carefully and wet sand when finishing. You can create the right finish by coloring the object that has so far been made of transparent PC filament.
What do I have to pay attention to when storing PC filament?
Like any other filament, you should store polycarbonate in a dry place. The material is known to absorb a lot of moisture, which then results in poorer print quality. Therefore, you should store started filament rolls in an airtight plastic bag, to which you have previously added a few sachets of silicate gel. This silicate gel absorbs the moisture and can later be dried and reused.
Since polycarbonate is also very UV-unstable, you should store the filament so that it is not exposed to light sources. For example, cardboard boxes or colored plastic boxes with lids are useful.