There are many materials that you can 3D print on a stock Ender 3 without any upgrades such as PLA, TPU, PETG, and ABS. PETG is a material that has great heat resistance properties as well as easier print settings than PC.
Polycarbonate is a more specialty material that should only be used for special situations where you actually need polycarbonate’s high heat resistance and impact resistance.
There is a way to 3D print polycarbonate on a stock Ender 3 but it should be reserved for special situations to avoid any unwanted damage to your machine.
I know there are tons of people on the internet that will tell you “you cant print PC on a stock Ender 3, you will melt the entire system if you even try”. My advice is to try this for yourself and make adjustments as you go to fine-tune your print.
Can A Stock Ender 3 Print Polycarbonate?
3D printing polycarbonate on a stock Ender 3 is possible but there is a risk of damaging your machine when printing at the higher temperatures required for polycarbonate. It is recommended to upgrade the Bowden tube as well as the hot end to print polycarbonate on an Ender 3.
If you do decide to try printing polycarbonate on an Ender 3 follow my recommendations to avoid any damage to your printer.
As you can see with a stock Ender 3 using “safe” settings to ensure your bowden tube doesnt melt the layers delaminated and caused the print to fail. You can kick a completely stock Ender 3 up to 250° C on the hot end but you will likely damage the bowden tube.
The best possible set up with an Ender 3 to print PC is an all metal hot end with a capricorn boxden tobe and an enclosure.
Settings For Printing Polycarbonate On An Ender 3.
If you have upgraded your Ender 3 with an all-metal hot end and an upgraded Bowden tube then you can print at the polycarbonate recommended settings without having to worry about damaging your machine.
If you are running your Ender 3 stock you will want to run polycarbonate at lower temperature and slower on the movement speed to compensate for the lower heat hot end.
Here is a table for recommended settings for a stock Ender 3 when printing polycarbonate.
|Parameter||Reccomended for PC||Stock Ender 3 PC Settings|
|Hot End Temperature.||260 (°C)||250 (°C)|
|Bed Temperature.||90 – 105 (°C)||100 (°C)|
|Printing Speed.||30 – 50 (mm/s)||30 (mm/s)|
|Retraction Distance||1 (mm)||1 (mm)|
|Retraction Speed||20 (mm/s)||20 (mm/s)|
|Capricorn Bowden Tube||Recommended||Recommended|
Hot End Temperature.
Polycarbonate is recommended to be printed with a hot end temperature between 250°C and 270°C. On a stock Ender 3, you should print the polycarbonate with the lowest temperature possible to avoid damaging your PTFE Bowden tube.
When printing with a stock Ender 3, set your hot-end temperature to 250° and reduce your speed to compensate for the lower hot-end temperature.
The printer will potentially have some flow issues due to the lower temperature, there isn’t a great way to solve this on a completely stock Ender 3, the cheapest and fastest upgrade you can make to get an extra 5-10°C to the hot end is upgrading the Bowden tube to a Capricorn Bowden tube.
I highly recommend upgrading your bowden tube to a capricorn tube but if you want the highest quality print you should also update your hot end to an all metal hot end
Cheapest price for a Capricorn Bowden Tube: Amazon.
Cheapest Micro-Swiss all-metal hot end – Amazon.
The stock Ender 3 bed is capable of taking on just about every material that you throw at it. The max temperature for and Ender 3 bed is 110°C which is basically right in the center of the recommended PC print settings of 90 – 105 (°C).
For a stock Ender 3, the recommended bed temperature is 100°C. I personally do not like pushing the heated bed right to its limit because I don’t want to get false max temp errors and also it is not great to push it and put stress on the components.
Because we are printing at lower temperatures we need to compensate for that by slowing the print speed down to 30mm/s or even lower when printing PC. For my testing, I used a print speed of 30mm/s and achieved acceptable results.
This is a setting that you will probably have to play with yourself, if you notice your extruder is clicking and skipping then your movement speed is too fast. If your extruder is still clicking even at a lower speed you may have a clogged nozzle or other issues. Check out this article for troubleshooting a clicking/skipping extruder.
The retraction distance should not be any different for a stock ender 3 or an ender 3 with modifications. A 1mm retract distance should be plenty for polycarbonate. If you are seeing some stringing on your print you can adjust this up .5 mm at a time until you achieve the desired results.
Much like the retraction distance, the stock ender 3 will already be capable of pretty much any retraction speed that you may want. The recommended retraction speed for PC is 20mm. If you have stringing when printing with PC you can increase the retraction speed by 5mm per second until you achieve the desired results.
It is recommended to have the cooling fan off when printing polycarbonate. The added air flow will increase layer separation.
It is recommended to print polycarbonate with an enclosure and most filament manufacturers recommend printing with a heated chamber, especially for larger PC prints.
It is recommended to print PC in an environment that is between 70 – 80°C (158 – 176°F).
Obviously, most Ender 3’s do not have an enclosure and much less not a heated chamber. For smaller parts, you will be able to get away with printing without an enclosure but for anything larger than a baseball you will want to figure out some kind of enclosure, even if it is just placing your 3D printer in a small closet with a space heater.
Best Ender 3 Upgrades For Printing Polycarbonate.
All Metal Hot End.
An all-metal hot end is the most important upgrade that you can make to your ender 3 for printing higher heat-resistant materials such as PC or Nylon.
My suggestion for an Ender 3 all-metal hot end is the Micro-Swiss All Metal Hot End. If you need help installing your new Micro-Swiss all-metal hot end follow my step-by-step guide.
Cheapest Micro-Swiss all-metal hot end – Amazon.
Capricorn PTFE Tube.
A Capricorn PTFE tube is the cheapest way to increase the temperature of your hot end. The Capricorn tube will work up to 275° without melting or deforming meaning you can safely print things like PETG, PC, and nylon safely without worrying about degradation.
Cheapest Capricorn Tube – Amazon.
All Metal Extruder.
An all-metal extruder will give your better force on the filament that is passing through the extruder and is great for softer material such as TPU. You do not technically need an all-metal extruder to print higher temperature materials but it can improve the performance of your machine overall.
Best all-metal extruder price – Amazon.
Bed Leveling Springs.
Bed leveling springs will not help you 3D print higher heat resistant materials but in my opinion, it is the single best upgrade you can make to a stock Ender 3. The stock springs on an Ender 3 are slightly less springy and do not keep level very well. Upgraded Ender 3 springs hold the bed level better and for longer than the stock springs
Best Bed Level Spring Price – Amazon.
I don’t see polycarbonate as a necessary material for 99% of applications. The increased heat resistance and impact resistance are a huge plus and are totally necessary for some parts but the few applications that do require PC probably shouldn’t be printed on an Ender 3.
The settings listed here are simply my recommendation for printing PC on an Ender 3 and it is your responsibility to print safely and in a way that will not do any damage to your 3D printer or your property.