The advantages of the material TPU

Printing with a FDM 3D printer offers more and more possibilities. Whereas in the past PLA filament was by far the most used material, because it is cheap and very easy to print, we now see other types of filament increasing on the market. PLA is an excellent material for 3D showmodels. But due to the ease with which we can 3D print models and parts ourselves, more and more demands are made regarding the material, in order to be able to use the models for other applications as well, for example small series of products. Actually, applications such as machine parts are also becoming increasingly more common. The 3D printer market is in full development and there are now various types of filament (printing material) on the market, so that the right material can be used for every application.

Material of choice
The dddrop 3D printers have been developed specially with an open system and provide complete freedom of choice in printing material. This means that you are not only free to choose your supplier, but also the type of material you want to print. The closed case and the heated print bed make it possible to create models out of all sorts of material. In this article we highlight the flexible filament TPU.

Flex
Flex filament is a collective name for all the flexible filament on the market. These filaments are also known as TPE (thermoplastic elastomer). There are various types of TPE, with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) being the most commonly used among the 3D printer filaments. As the name suggests, this material is elastic in nature so that the plastic can easily and extensively be stretched and bent before it breaks. Moreover, it has a high temperature resistance and can therefore be used in high temperature environments. The material is best described as the perfect balance between hard plastic and silicone. It’s a combination of the beneficial properties of both materials, making TPU flexible, but shape-retaining, unbreakable, dust resistant, and barely scratchable. Furthermore, this material can be completely transparent.

Easy to print
Of the flexible materials, TPU is the easiest to print, because it’s a hard flex filament, relatively speaking. The ‘softer’ the flex filament, the harder it is to print. With the use of a special soft spring that guides the filament to the print head, the right print settings and a clean nozzle, it is easy to print a flexible product with TPU.

Application
TPU is used for shoe soles, for instance, but also for pads or other shock-absorbing applications. We also see many applications for closing off certain sections by means of, for example, cover rings

Rubber
A frequently asked question is whether it is possible to print with rubber. Printing with rubber is not possible, but TPU or other flex filaments can be used for rubber-like solutions.

For a complete 3D filament overview see the infographic.