Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU Material)

Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) are flexible filaments made of a blend of hard plastic and rubber. As you may have guessed, this material is naturally elastic which lets the plastic be stretched and flexed easily. There are many types of TPE but the most commonly used is TPU.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane or TPU Material for short is a flexible, abrasion-resistant thermoplastic. There are two types of TPU material, Polyether Polyurethane and secondly, Polyester Polyurethane both have different characteristics that can be suited to a specific need.

TPU material offers may benefits and features for 3D printing.

  • Durable, can endure impact and wear
  • Ability to withstand ambient temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius
  • Resistant to many chemicals and oils
  • Versatile, used in many different industries
  • Impervious to abrasion

Printed parts of TPU are also resistant to low temperatures, which means it retains the elastic properties and does not become brittle then difficult to work with.

TPU Phone Case
Photo Source: 3D Natives

TPU does have some downsides, it can be more difficult to print compared to other filament materials, mainly due to its flexibility. It does have the possibility of creating blobs and stringing and unfortunately, does have poor bridging characteristics.

PROS

CONS

Flexible and soft

Difficult to print

Excellent vibration dampening

Poor bridging characteristics

Long shelf life

Possibility of blobs and stringing

Good impact resistance

May not work well with Bowden extruders

 

HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS
We recommend making sure your 3D printer meets the hardware requirements listed below to ensure the best print quality before printing with flexible filaments.

BED

-Temperature: 40-60 degrees Celsius

-Heated bed options

-Enclosure not required

BUILD SURFACE

-PEI

-Painters tape

EXTRUDER

-Temperature: 225-245 degrees Celsius

-Direct drive extruder recommended

COOLING

- Part cooling fan required

  

PRO TIPS

  1. Improve the feed rate by printing at lower layer heights in the 0.1mm – 0.2mm range. The lower layer height requires less plastic, so it allows your extruder to use a lower feed-rate, relieving the burden of the filament.
  2. Try to avoid using rafts with flexible materials, as the base layers of the raft have higher extrusion rates which may create issues.
  3. If you are designing a flexible part that needs to fit on top of another object, try using a negative tolerance between the parts so that the flexible part will need to stretch to fit over the other object snugly.

SAMPLE PROJECTS

RC Car Tire

TPU Car Tire
Photo Source: Cults 3D

Bike Handle

TPU Bike Handle
Photo Source: Thingiverse