WHAT IS POLYCARBONATE?
Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic that is most prominently known for its incredible strength and impact resistance. The basis of bulletproof glass, polycarbonate is lightweight and exhibits a translucency that is superior to other Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing materials. Polycarbonate also boasts heat resistance, is flame-retardant, and insulates electricity, making it essential to use in electrical components and hardware.
Polycarbonate is extremely durable and highly effective for a wide range of professional-level applications:
Widely used in the construction, transportation, and automotive industries
Electrical and telecommunications hardware
Data storage, such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray Discs
Consumer products like sunglasses, phone and computer cases, water bottles, and food containers
Polycarbonate: The Strongest 3D-Printing Material
When it comes to strength, polycarbonate truly is the “king” of 3D printer filament, dramatically out-performing other materials in strength tests. In an informal material strength test, Aardwolf 3D printed a series of hooks using a variety of 3D printing materials: ABS, PLA, Nylon 910, and polycarbonate. Each material was then tested by loading the hook with weight until it fractured. Polycarbonate won by a landslide.
PLA has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi and was able to lift 285 pounds. In comparison, ABS has a tensile strength of 4,700 psi and snapped instantly under 285 pounds of weight. Polycarbonate, on the other hand, has a tensile strength of 9,800 psi and lifted a whopping 685 pounds — far more than any of the other materials that were tested.
Using 3D-Printed Polycarbonate for Production Parts
Historically, there has been a great deal of hesitance when it comes to making fully functional, end-use parts out of 3D-printed materials. For example, most parts made from commonly used 3D printing materials simply are not strong enough for safety-critical automotive components. The advent of 3D printing in polycarbonate, however, has initiated a paradigm shift.
With the incredible strength of polycarbonate as described above, along with significant developments in 3D printing technology, such as a better understanding and employment of thermal management and innovations in bed adhesion, users are now empowered to create extremely strong functional parts for end-use applications.
The ability to 3D print polycarbonate also has revolutionized the rapid prototyping process as prototypes for polycarbonate parts can now be created in the same material as the end-use part. Even if a production part’s final iteration will be injection-molded, 3D printing in polycarbonate allows quick design changes, a more efficient method of testing, and an easier, money-saving way to create a new prototype virtually immediately.
Just Polycarbonate 2021