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PLA vs TPU 95A: What’s the Real Difference?

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Many people are perplexed when choosing the best filament for their 3D printing projects. Thermoplastic polyurethane 95A (TPU 95A) and polylactic acid (PLA) are two popular options, though they could not be more different. These filaments have unique properties that make them useful for very different applications. We’ll highlight the differences between PLA and TPU 95A, including their traits and uses.

What Is PLA?

Polylactic acid is a bio-based material derived from plant products. It is the most common material in FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printing. PLA is easy to print, has a low melting point, and produces high-quality models with a glossy finish. It is a bio-degradable material that emits zero fumes from its chemical compounds, making it excellent for home 3D printing projects. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

What Is TPU 95A?

Thermoplastic Polyurethane 95A (aka TPU) is a flexible, rubber-like material combining the best properties of plastic and rubber. TPU filament is extremely durable, elastic, and flexes without breaking. You can use it to print cellphone cases, watchbands, or even more complex items that need to bend. It’s also suitable for printing prosthetic limbs or drone parts, which you should generally not try at home.

Distinctions in Properties

PLA is very rigid and will break with virtually no flexing. It has a glass transition point lower than that of TPU 95A, giving it a lower print temperature and making it an excellent starter filament. TPU 95A is slightly more challenging to print than PLA since it requires higher print temperatures and benefits from slower print speeds to reduce the dreaded stringing. When it comes to durability, PLA cannot hold a candle to TPU. You can quite literally drive over a TPU print and it will pop back up! Do not try that with PLA unless you have a broom handy.

Differences in Applications

Due to its flexibility and durability, TPU 95A is perfect for printing shock-resistant objects, like mechanical parts, protective phone cases, or shock absorbers. Its ability to stretch yet hold its shape makes it suitable for printing items requiring a precise fit.

PLA is better suited for printing detailed, high-resolution 3D objects, like architectural models and sculptures. Its glossy finish is ideal for decorative prints like vases and figurines. PLA is also an excellent test filament to check fit before investing in more expensive final part filaments like Nylon Carbon Fiber or PET CF.

Which Filament Should You Use?

Need flex? TPU is for you. Don’t need flex or durability? PLA is the perfect choice in most cases. You may even find yourself combining the two, such as a rigid shell with flexible rings inside to hold objects loosely in place. The possibilities are endless, so choose a filament that complements your objectives.

At Filamatrix, we are all about 3D printing. We love providing details on the best filaments to use, how to maintain a 3D printer, and so much more in our blog. And, of course, we have the PLA and TPU filaments to meet your project’s needs.

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