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3D Printing Flexible Filament

3D Printing Flexible Filament

Flexible filament, commonly referred to as a Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) or Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is known for its elasticity allowing for 3D prints that bend and stretch. Multiple degrees of flexibility from semi-flexible to ultra-flexible make for a wide array of applications. Flexible filaments are ideally used for vibration dampening, grips, phone cases or even gaskets and hinges. For more information check out Types of Flexible Filament where we outline how flexibility is measured and the different types of materials and applications.

The learning curve for printing Flexible filament is steep, because of its pliability it can cause issues with different types of extruder setups. Despite its shortcomings, flexible filaments are able to be printed on a wide range of printers.

ProsCons
Good impact resistanceDifficult to print
Excellent tensile strengthDoes not bridge well
Good abrasion resistance Has potential to string or blob
Chemical resistant Does not work well with Bowden extruders
Requires slow printing times

Printing Specifications

Print Temperature
220-245°

Bed Temperature
40-60° C

Glass Transition Temperature
NA (Below Room Temperature)

  • Printer performance:Layer adhesion is normally excellent. Printing difficulty is directly correlated to the level of flexibility and hardness a material has. Our flexible material ranges from Semi-Flexible Shore A 90 (90A) to a Flexible Shore A 85 (85A) and finally a Ultra-Flexible Shore A 65 (65A).
  • Strength: High tensile strength due to elongation and good resistance to oils, solvents, oxidation and ozone
  • Fumes: Little to no smell
  • Best used for: Prints with applications for high impact and tensile strength such as phone cases, belts, springs, bumpers/stoppers, grips and hinges
  • When not to use: If rigidity is a key characteristic for the resulting print or if the printer is not optimized to print flexible filament

Best Practices

Printing with flexible filament can be a delicate balancing act. For a more comprehensive list of best practices check out Printing Flexible Filament – Things to Consider.

  • Low Printing Speed
    • Due to the nature of flexible filament, it has potential to kink or buckle when being pushed through the hot end, it is highly recommended that printing speeds be lowered to alleviate any issues
  • Optimized Print Temperature
    • To mitigate oozing and other sensitivities of flexible filament it is recommended to follow the suggested printer temperature of our and other manufactures recommended settings, making small incremental adjustments.
  • Well Adjusted Extruder
    • While a direct drive extruder works the best printing flexible filament a well set up Bowden type extruder is capable of printing Semi-Flexible and Flexible filaments.
  • Proper Retraction
    • Flexible filament has a high tendency to string when printing. To lessen this it is recommended to find the optimal retraction setting to diminish stringing and not cause the filament to blob in spots.
  • Optimal Bed Adhesion
    • Proper bed adhesion is crucial in any 3D print and is especially critical when printing flexible filament. A heated bed is recommended and blue painters tape will help to get the first layer to adhere properly.