FLEXIBLE FILAMENTS

First things first: Rubber is not 3D printable. Yet.

At least not yet, and not using a typical polymer 3D printer. Recall that polymer 3D printing relies heavily on thermoplastics, which are a family of plastics that can retain their essential properties when melted, extruded, and then allowed to cool again. Rubber is an organic compound that undergoes a process called vulcanization to harden, and cannot be melted without burning it.

There is a sub-group of polymer elastomers that exhibit elasticity not unlike rubber. The degree of elasticity in the material depends on the type of elastomer and the chemical structure of the grade. In addition, this grade of elastomers come with the processing advantages of thermoplastics which is what allows them to be 3D printed.

A note about shore hardness…

It is not unusual to see an elastomer accompanied or defined by it’s shore hardness. The shore hardness is a reference to the materials elasticity and resistance to indentation. The smaller the number the softer and more malleable the material will be.

A note about shore hardness…

It is not unusual to see an elastomer accompanied or defined by it’s shore hardness. The shore hardness is a reference to the materials elasticity and resistance to indentation. The smaller the number the softer and more malleable the material will be.


Flexible filaments include the following:


TPU – Thermoplastic Polyurethane

Thermoplastic polyurethane is the most common type of TPE used in 3D printing. Compared to other flexible filaments, it exhibits greater rigidity, allowing it to extrude more easily. It also has decent strength and high durability.

Features

  • Acceptable printability
  • Can be Semi-transparent
  • Better chemical resistance to oils and greases
  • High abrasion resistance

Printing Settings and Considerations

  • 210 – 230 degree print temperature
  • build pad set to between 30 – 60 degree
  • Reduced extrusion (20-40 mms) speed can result in better results
  • Not considered food safe

TPC – Thermoplastic Copolyester

Thermoplastic copolyester is a less commonly used variety of TPE. It shares some of the advantages of TPU, but because it is a polyester it also conveys

  • better chemical resistance
  • better heat resistance
  • more resistant to UV exposure

The combination of these factors tends to make TPC’s among the ‘toughest’, or most resilient of 3D printing filaments.

Printing Settings and Considerations

  • 210 – 230 degree print temperature
  • build pad set to 30 – 60 degree
  • Reduced extrusion (20-40 mms) speed can result in better results
  • Check with manufacturer regarding whether this product can be considered food safe

TPA – Thermoplastic Polyamide

As you may have guessed from the name, thermoplastic polyamides are a very flexible form of nylon. Nylon offers the user a great number of benefits that it largely lends to the elastomeric version.

Printing Settings and Considerations

  • 210 – 230 degree print temperature
  • build plat temperature set to 40-70 degrees
  • Reduced extrusion (20-40 mms) speed can result in better results
  • Check with manufacturer regarding whether this product can be considered food safe

%d bloggers like this: