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How stiff is polycarbonate compared to PLA for 3D printing?


Polycarbonate filament and PLA are two of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing. Both materials have their own unique properties, and understanding the stiffness comparison between the two can help you choose the right material for your project. Now, let’s dive into the ocean of knowledge about polycarbonate filament and PLA!

What Is Polycarbonate 3D Printing?

Polycarbonate 3D printing is a manufacturing process that utilizes polycarbonate (PC) material to create three-dimensional objects through additive manufacturing technology (layer-by-layer). The main 3D printing technology used to create objects made of this material is called fused deposition modeling (FDM). It uses polycarbonate filament as the raw material to build up the desired shape.

Polycarbonate (PC) boasts remarkable attributes—it’s robust, with an ultimate tensile strength of 70 MPa and yield strength of about 63 MPa, and can withstand both high heat and impacts, maintaining structural integrity even at temperatures up to 150 °C (its glass transition temperature). Owing to these properties, PC has found extensive utility in a myriad of industries such as: aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical devices, and consumer goods.

What Is PLA 3D Printing?

Polylactic Acid, generally often called PLA, is among the hottest supplies utilized in desktop 3D printing. It’s the default filament of selection for many extrusion-based 3D printers as a result of it may be printed at a low temperature and doesn’t require a heated mattress. PLA is simple to print, very cheap, and creates parts that can be utilized for all kinds of functions. It is usually one of the crucial environmentally pleasant filaments in the marketplace at this time, as it’s derived from renewable sources and is biodegradable.

PLA 3D Printing

What are the advantages and disadvantages of polycarbonate 3D printing?


Polycarbonate 3D printing offers a range of advantages that make it a sought-after choice for various applications:

  1. 3D-printed PC parts have good mechanical properties.
  2. It can withstand elevated temperatures, retaining structural integrity at temperatures as high as 150 °C.
  3. It demonstrates resistance to various chemicals, oils, and solvents. 
  4. Polycarbonate’s optical clarity makes it an excellent choice for applications requiring transparency. 
  5. Good impact resistance makes PC suitable for components that may experience sudden forces or collisions.
  6. It is valuable as an electrical insulator.
  7. Despite its strength, PC filament’s lightweight nature is advantageous for applications where weight reduction is desired.
  8. It is recyclable.


  1. Polycarbonate filament is relatively more expensive compared to other 3D printing materials, which might affect the overall cost-effectiveness of projects.
  2. Polycarbonate filament is hygroscopic, meaning that it tends to absorb moisture from the surrounding air. It is essential to store polycarbonate in an airtight and moisture-free setting once its packaging is opened.
  3. It demands a considerably high-temperature hot end, ideally ranging between 290 °C and 300 °C. Slower printing speeds or the utilization of composite polycarbonate filaments might allow for slightly lower temperatures. Inadequate temperatures or excessively fast printing speeds could result in filament jamming within the printer’s nozzle.
  4. Inadequate temperature control can lead to poor layer adhesion on the print bed and potential separation or cracking as the material cools and warps. Ideally, the bed temperature should fall within the range of 135-150 °C. 
  5. Airflow in the print chamber during printing can lead to poor outcomes such as brittle prints. This occurs because rapid cooling can affect layer bonding and structural integrity.
  6. Susceptible to oozing during printing, where the printer’s nozzle releases small amounts of filament even when not actively printing. This can cause unwanted strings or blobs on the printed object, impacting its appearance. Manual adjustments are often needed when printers lack PC presets. Limiting retraction distances to under 10 mm can prevent jams.
  7. When heated, polycarbonate can release BPA into the surrounding environment in the form of fumes (e.g. BPA), which can be harmful if inhaled. This makes proper ventilation and operating in well-ventilated areas essential.
polycarbonate 3d printing

What are the advantages and disadvantages of PLA 3D printing?


  • Ecological and environmentally friendly: PLA material is a bioplastic made from natural plant starch through acid decomposition and polymerization. Compared with traditional plastics, it is more environmentally friendly, degradable, and causes less environmental pollution.
  • Easy to process: PLA material has good processability, meltability and fluidity, and is easy to 3D print. The printing parameters and temperature can also be adjusted during printing to improve the adhesion, stability and printing success rate of the material.
  • Hygiene and safety: PLA materials follow the production requirements of food-grade raw materials and can be used in the fields of biomedicine and food packaging, with little impact on human health.
  • Good surface quality: Accurate deposition of each layer brings good surface quality and is easy to post-process.
  • Multiple color options: PLA material is available in a variety of colors or easily made into colors.
  • Low Shrinkage: During the manufacturing process, PLA material has low shrinkage, helping to maintain the accuracy of printed objects.
  • Wide range of applications: PLA materials can be used to make various daily necessities, products in the medical field, architectural models, etc.


  • Temperature sensitive: The foam of PLA material is relatively fragile and easily affected by temperature. It cannot be exposed to high temperature environments, otherwise it will easily deform or even melt. Specifically, it softens around 140°F (60°C) and may bend or twist.
  • Not as strong as ABS materials: Compared with ABS materials, PLA materials have poorer strength and toughness, and need to be replaced by other materials in applications with higher load-bearing and elasticity requirements.
  • Higher price: Compared with traditional plastics, the price of PLA materials is higher, which may increase production costs and usage costs.
  • Not durable: Items made from PLA materials may not be as durable as other materials.
  • Not resistant to UV light: Prolonged exposure to UV light may cause PLA materials to discolor or degrade.
  • Easily absorbs moisture: During the manufacturing process, PLA materials absorb moisture from the air, which may sometimes cause the print head to clog.
  • The dimensional error of molded parts is slightly larger: Compared with other materials, the dimensional error of PLA material molded parts may be slightly larger, and the surface quality is relatively rough.
Continuous carbon fiber reinforced PLA 3D printing diagram

Stiffness properties of polycarbonate (PC)

The stiffness characteristics of polycarbonate (PC) can be mainly described from the following aspects:

  • Tensile modulus: Tensile modulus is a key measure of material stiffness. The tensile modulus of polycarbonate usually falls in the range of 2000-2500MPa, which is significantly higher than that of general polymer materials (its tensile modulus is lower than 1000MPa) and aluminum alloy materials (its tensile modulus is 70 -80GPa). Despite the numerical differences, polycarbonate still exhibits excellent stiffness properties among plastic materials.
  • Elastic modulus:The elastic modulus of polycarbonate can exceed 2200MPa, which also reflects its remarkable stiffness properties. In addition, because polycarbonate itself has good heat resistance and solvent resistance, it can be used to replace metal materials in some special occasions. When a material is affected by external forces, its elastic modulus is high, which means it has excellent elastic deformation properties, that is, its stiffness is very high.
  • Impact resistance: Polycarbonate exhibits excellent impact resistance properties, which are closely linked to its excellent stiffness properties. At present, polycarbonate has been widely used in construction, automobile and other industries, but it is still in its infancy in the aviation field. Taking polycarbonate sheets as an example, its impact strength is 250 times that of ordinary glass, which allows it to demonstrate excellent performance in multiple application scenarios that require high impact resistance.
  • Dimensional stability of formed products:Polycarbonate exhibits excellent mechanical properties and the dimensional stability of molded parts is excellent, which is where its stiffness properties come into play. At present, polycarbonate is mainly used to manufacture structural parts in the fields of automobiles and construction, but further research is needed in some other application fields. Polycarbonate can not only be used as a building material, but also as other engineering plastics. It can maintain excellent dimensional stability to meet various complex application requirements.

Polycarbonate (PC) has excellent stiffness properties, which are mainly reflected in its high tensile modulus, elastic modulus, impact resistance and dimensional stability of formed products. These properties make polycarbonate excellent in a variety of applications that require high stiffness materials, such as automotive, construction, medicine and other industries.

Evaluation and comparison of degradability and compressive and tensile properties of 3D printing polymer materials: PLA, PETG, PC and ASA

Stiffness properties of polylactic acid (PLA)

  • Elastic modulus: The elastic modulus of PLA is usually in the range of 3000-4000 MPa. The elastic modulus is a key indicator of slow material stiffness and represents the material’s ability to resist elastic deformation when subjected to external forces. The elastic modulus of PLA indicates that it has a certain stiffness and is able to withstand certain programmed external forces.
  • Tensile strength: The tensile strength of PLA is between 40-60 MPa. Tensile strength is the maximum load of a material during the stretching process, which reflects the rigidity and strength of the material when it is subjected to tensile force. The tensile strength indicates its ability to maintain better shape and stability when subjected to tensile force.
  • Flexural modulus: The flexural modulus of PLA is between 100-150 MPa. Flexural modulus is an indicator of a slow material’s ability to resist deformation when subjected to bending forces. The flexural modulus mentioned above means that the material has a greater ability to resist deformation when subjected to bending forces. Not easy to deform and show good stiffness.
  • Impact strength: The impact strength of PLA (without notch) is 150-300 J/m, while the impact strength with notch is between 20-60 J/m. Impact strength reflects a material’s ability to resist resistance when impacted. PLA may have lower impact strength than some more impact-resistant materials, but it still has some resistance to impact deformation.
  • Hardness: PLA has a Rockwell hardness of 88, indicating that it has a certain hardness. Hardness is a material’s ability to resist localized deformation or penetration, with higher hardness generally meaning a material has better resistance to wear and scratches.

Polylactic acid (PLA) has certain stiffness properties, which are mainly reflected in its high elastic modulus, tensile strength, flexural modulus and hardness. These characteristics make PLA have broad application prospects in 3D printing, packaging, medical and other fields.

Silk PLA filaments for 3D printers

PC vs. PLA Stiffness Comparison

Tensile strength

  • PC: PC material has excellent tensile strength and can withstand large tensile forces without breaking easily. This high-strength property makes PC materials widely used in many fields, such as electronics and electrical, automobile manufacturing, etc.
  • PLA: The tensile strength of PLA is lower than that of PC. Although it does have some strength, it is not typically used in applications that require it to withstand high tensile loads.

Yield Strength

  • PC: Yield strength is an assessment of the ability of a material to begin plastic deformation when subjected to external forces. PC material has excellent yield strength and can withstand large forces without plastic deformation.
  • PLA: PLA has a relatively low yield strength, so it is more prone to plastic deformation when subjected to external forces.

Impact strength

  • PC: PC material has excellent impact resistance and can maintain structural integrity when impacted and is not easy to break.
  • PLA: PLA has lower impact strength compared to PC. Although it also has some impact resistance, it is more susceptible to damage when subjected to strong impacts.

Other strength-related properties

  • PC: PC materials also have excellent rigidity and hardness, and these properties are closely related to strength. PC has high hardness and is resistant to scratches and wear.
  • PLA: PLA has relatively low rigidity and hardness, but its degradability and environmental friendliness give it unique advantages in certain applications.

PC vs. PLA Stiffness Comparison Chart

Material3D Printing TechnologyTensile strength(MPa)Elongation at break(%)Hardness

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Strength requirements

If your parts need to withstand high strength, high impact or high pressure, then PC is a better choice. PC’s high strength and rigidity allow it to withstand these stresses, and its chemical and abrasion resistance also allow it to perform well in harsh environmental conditions.

Cost Matters

If price is your main consideration, PLA may be a better choice. PLA generally has lower material costs than PC and is easier to print, which means you may not need to invest as much time and resources in adjusting print settings or troubleshooting print problems.

Printing Technology

If you are new to 3D printing or don’t have much printing experience, PLA may be a better choice. PLA is simpler to print and typically does not require a heated bed or special print setup, making it a good choice for beginners.

Application scenarios

Finally, you need to choose the most appropriate material based on the specific use of the part. If the part must be used in harsh environmental conditions, or needs to withstand high pressure or friction, PC may be a better choice. If the part is intended primarily for education, art, and decoration, or if rapid prototyping is required, PLA may be a better choice.

Comparison of tensile properties (strength, flexibility, stiffness) of 20 types of filaments

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PC is superior to PLA in terms of tensile strength, yield strength and impact strength. This makes PC materials more advantageous in applications that need to withstand high loads and high impacts.However, although PLA’s strength is relatively low, its biodegradability and environmental protection provide it with unique value in specific fields. Material selection should be based on specific application needs, cost and environmental factors.

When choosing a 3D printing material, you need to consider the physical and chemical properties of the material, cost, difficulty of printing, and the specific use of the part. While these are standard guidelines, specific choices may vary based on the specific formulation of the material, printing conditions, and the specific needs of the part. Therefore, when choosing a 3D printing material, be sure to check the specifications provided by the filament manufacturer and consider all relevant factors.


Which is stronger, PC or PLA?

From a strength and mechanical property perspective, PC generally has higher strength and stiffness than PLA. However, in actual applications, appropriate materials need to be selected based on specific usage scenarios and needs.

Which one has better toughness, PC or PLA?

PC material shows better toughness with its high flexural modulus, excellent impact resistance and stable notched impact strength.Although PLA material has certain tensile strength and ductility, it is not as good as PC in terms of flexibility, impact resistance and resistance to bending deformation. Therefore, PC materials are often a better choice in applications that require high toughness. However, this also depends on the specific application scenarios and needs, such as biodegradability requirements or cost considerations.

Which one has better high temperature resistance, PC or PLA?

The high temperature resistance of PC is significantly better than that of PLA. PC materials can maintain their physical properties and stability over a wide temperature range, especially specially modified PC materials, which have better high-temperature resistance. Although PLA can be modified to improve its high temperature resistance, its high temperature resistance is still not comparable to PC even after modification. Therefore, PC is a better choice in applications that require high temperature resistance.

Which is more difficult to print on PC or PLA?

From the perspective of material properties and printing parameter settings, PC printing is relatively difficult. Its high temperature characteristics and sensitivity to temperature changes require users to have higher 3D printing knowledge and experience, and to adjust printing parameters more precisely. In comparison, PLA is less difficult to print and is suitable for beginners and general users. Its lower melting point and better interlayer adhesion make the printing process more stable and reliable. Therefore, in terms of printing difficulty, PC printing is more difficult, while PLA is relatively easy.


3D printing filament



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