We recently came across a very interesting Blog post by a company called ProtoParadigm. They can be found at http://protoparadigm.com We encourage you to check them out.
The blog post covers a topic that we have not seen before - 3D Printing with Polycarbonate. This technique can be used to construct proto-types from Polycarbonate. The profiles in the photo and video were made by printing with Polycarbonate. With the permission of ProtoParadigm, we have included a video and picture from their blog as well as the text below. Please watch the video, it is an amazing use of technology. Their article also clearly identifies the importance of drying Polycarbonate. As users of Polycarbonate sheet know, Polycarbonate absorbs a lot of moisture and should be dried before thermoforming otherwise a lot of bubbles can form in the finished part.
Here is their post:
"We tracked down a number of material samples from our supplier and a little gem called Polycarbonate (PC) caught our eye. Having seen the success of Richrap printing with Polycarbonate we were anxious to work with it. Polycarbonate (wiki) is a strong thermoplastic with high optical clarity and (relatively) high melting temperature. Unlike PLA with a fast transition temperature, PC slowly softens when heated allowing successful (if not slow) extrusion at lower than processing temperatures. This is useful when switching from a plastic with a lower extrusion temperature as you can slowly start pushing PC through at the temperature of your previous plastic until you clear the hotend. It is important to purge ALL of the previous plastic before raising the printing temperature as ABS puts off some dreadfully nasty fumes at 260C.
The sample we received was extruded to 1/8″ diameter and we had let it sit out in open air for a good while before getting to it. Initial purging at 260C (Modified Makergear Stepstruder) showed extrudate that was bubbly and white; a big red flag that this plastic needed to be dried. 10 hours at 160F in an old food dehydrator showed filament that was noticeably clearer and extruded a smooth clear thread from the nozzle. Setting extruder to 260C and the Polyimide Tape covered heated bed to 120C we repurposed an ABS printing profile for PC and started printing; once flow-rate was dialed in we tried printing our Plastic T-Slot. It was by far the strongest beam we had printed and clear enough that looking straight through it you could make out objects on the other side.
It’s worth noting that adjusting temperature is similar to PLA, printing at higher flow-rates will require higher extruder temperatures for a consistent melt. An indication the flow-rate is to high or temperature to low is stripping or skipping at the filament driver. Those with Bowden style extruders will need to watch for signs of excessive force where the Bowden tube meets the filament driver and hotend. For the Ultimaker I’m using this thing to keep everything secure. If you print PC near the high end of your firmwares temperature limit, PID fluctuations can send it hot enough to force a shutdown of the hotend; temperatures drop, nozzles clog, filaments strip, things get ugly. Also, for hotends that use PTFE (teflon) insulators there is the concern of dangerous fumes when temperatures approach 300C (see Polymer Fume Fever for example.) Care should be taken to avoid inhalation of dangerous fumes or, better yet, to avoid creating them.