The demand for 3D printing filaments grows, and tech enthusiasts are always on the lookout for new (and old) offerings that meet their needs. Before selecting a filament, you need to understand that each type works for different applications. Read up on the three most popular flexible filament types for 3D printing to understand some subtle and not-so-subtle differences.
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers)
TPE filaments combine the ease of processing from rubber with the functionality of thermoplastics. Companies designing toys, automotive interiors, and household goods use TPE because of its elasticity, texture, and printing ease. However, this filament is hygroscopic, absorbing moisture easily and retaining water. So, the best way to protect it when not in use is to store it in an airtight container or bag with desiccant packs and dry it before use.
Nylon is a flexible material but not in the same way as TPE, so many industries use it when they need a low-friction material with a tolerance to high temperatures and some flexibility. Nylon parts must generally be made rather thin to have flexibility. Nylon is also very hygroscopic. Seeing a pattern here?
TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)
TPU printer filament is TPE’s cousin. It is slightly stiffer than TPE, but it is also easier to print. As a highly flexible material, it is remarkably wear-resistant, making it perfect for creating products requiring flexibility and durability. It has been successfully used in items from phone cases to shoe soles.
Keep in mind that printing can be tricky. If you print at high speeds, you will likely get stringing. The best way to handle that in post-production is to snip off stringy parts with flush cutters. Or just be patient and print a bit slower; your print will thank you.
And yes, it is hygroscopic. As with Nylon and TPE, we strongly recommend letting it dry it for 12 hours before printing.
Producing products with a 3D printer can be fun, but before you start, you need to know what types of filament you can use, especially if you need something flexible. This list of flexible filament types for 3D printing can help you create the best projects for yourself, your friends, or your customers. Rely on Filamatrix for all your filament needs and read our other blog posts for 3D printing tips and tricks.
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