TPU Filament 3D Printing Material – The Complete Guide
TPU filament is popular for its flexibility, durability, and strength. This is a great 3D printing material as it is not prone to shrinkage and warping.
Do you need a flexible filament? Wondering if TPU material is the one you’re looking for?
TPU filament is one of the most popular flexible filaments on the market. You’ll find this along with TPE if you are looking for 3D printing materials with impressive flexibility.
If you wish to learn more about the TPU material, then this page is for you because we will be covering this 3D printing filament thoroughly in this page.
What is TPU?
Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is one of the most popular flexible filaments on the market. Just like TPE, this is durable, flexible and strong.
This is also resistant to abrasion, oil, greases, chemical, and wearing. That’s not all, it’s also resistant to low temperatures so it does not brittle and is not prone to warping.
TPU filaments come in different types depending on the application:
- Polyester-based TPU materials are derived from adipic acid esters.
- Polyether-based TPU filaments derived from tetrahydrofuran ethers.
- Polycaprolactone-based TPUs, which are derived from thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer.
Due to TPU’s properties, it is a great choice for a wide range of applications, especially in the automotive industry. We will cover this in another section.
In addition, compared to TPE filament, a TPU filament is easier to print and it retains the elastic properties better at lower temperatures. A TPU material, unlike other stiffer thermoplastic, has qualities that include flexibility and conformity. It has an excellent interlayer adhesion and doesn’t curl or delaminate during the printing process when you use the right settings.
TPU filament is a medium strength 3D printing material but it can withstand higher compressive and tensile forces than its more common counterparts PLA and ABS.
TPU Filament Properties
TPU filament has certain qualities that make it a great choice for your 3D printing project that needs a flexible material. If you are looking for a flexible filament, good news, a TPU material is easier to manage than its counterpart TPE.
Here’s a list of TPU properties that you should know.
Impact strength: High
Flexibility: Very High
Chemical resistance: Medium-high
Abrasion resistance: High
Water resistance: Medium
Nozzle/extruder: 220-250 degrees Celsius
Heated bed: 20º – 60º C
Print speed: Around 30 mm/s (may vary)
Food safe: No
Recommended Extruder: Direct Drive
Closed chamber: Not necessary
Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this material. Check it out, so you’ll know:
- Ease of coloring
- Rubber-like elasticity
- Resistance to abrasion
- Pleasant tactile properties
- Easier to handle than TPE
- Excellent layer to adhesion
- Suitability for bonding and welding
- Resistance to oils, greases, and solvents
- Excellent low-temperature and impact strength
- Good flexibility over a wide temperature range
- Robust weather and high-energy radiation resistance
- Poor bridging characteristics
- The possibility of blobs and stringing
- May not work well on Bowden extruders
- Difficult to print compared to other types of filament due to its flexibility.
TPU materials are commonly used in caster wheels, automotive instrument panels, sporting goods, power tools, medical devices, footwear, drive belts, inflatable rafts, extruded film, and sheet applications.
Aside from the aforementioned TPU materials can be used for:
- TPU film
- TPU phone case
- TPU rubber
- TPU shank
- Cable ties
- Golf discs
- Cable sheathing
- Medical tubing
- Seals and gaskets
- Industrial parts
- Tool handles
- Spiral and pneumatic tubing
- Fire, fuel, conveyor, irrigation and hydraulic hoses
Thermoplastic Polyurethane Safety
Is TPU safe? TPU filament is not toxic and is generally safe in many applications depending on several factors, it is even used in biomedical cases.
A TPU filament is a versatile compound and is commonly used in everyday lives. But it is also responsible for many health and environmental problems due to its isocyanates content which is released by PUR based products and can cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat. It may also cause breathing problems and other health issues that can lead to blindness, disabilities or death.
If these compounds are well manufactured then there is no danger of exposure as its dangerous components are rendered inert or non-toxic when they are being successfully bonded together.
TPU 3D Printing Tips
3D printing with TPU filament is one of the best materials if you are looking for a flexible filament. This is easy to use but you have to make the setting right to make it work as expected.
Here are 3D printing tips when using a TPU material.
Optimize the Feed Rate
It is highly recommended that you use a consistent feed rate that is slow when 3D printing flexible filaments. TPU filament is elastic and can be uncontrollable if there are sudden changes to the speed.
Increased speed can result in a compression of the filament which may lead to a jam. It may take several attempts to find the optimal print speed. A good starting point is a speed of 35 mm/s.
Print at a lower layer height and ensure that they are in the range of 0.1mm to 0.2 mm. At the lower layer height, less plastic is required and the extruder feeds at a much lower rate.
Use a Negative Tolerance And Avoid Using Rafts
It is recommended that you use negative tolerance between the parts. This will ensure that the flexible parts have the ability to stretch comfortably over the other project.
Do not use rafts when using a flexible filament like a TPU material because the base layers of the raft have a higher rate of extrusion which could lead to problems.
Optimize Retraction Settings
TPU material is flexible and elastic so it’s sensitive to fast movements such as retractions. It’s crucial that you optimize the retraction settings to limit the movements and be successful in 3D printing. Begin with a small amount of retraction while using a slow speed to help with any possible oozing from the extruder (hot-end).
Shorten the Distance
Many find 3D printing flexible materials with a direct drive extruder better. But you can still reach the same results when using the right settings on a 3D printer with Bowden extruder. It is important for the path in which the filament travels to the melt zone to have tight tolerances which can prevent any kinking or coiling.
Placement of the Spool
When it comes to 3D printing TPU, it will make a difference if you do a couple of tweaks to the spool of the material. The extruder drive wheel will pull the filament into the nozzle which may result in the filament unwinding a small amount of plastic in the process.
However, a TPU material is elastic, so the filament will be stretched while pulled which can lead to under-extrusion. Therefore, you should mount the spool above the printer so the filament unwinds downloads which can reduce any resistance.
Best TPU Filament Brands
At this point, you are probably looking for the best TPU filament in the market. We don’t want to disappoint you, so we added this section with a list of the top TPU brands.
SainSmart TPU is renowned for its high strength and flexibility. Each spool of SainSmart TPU filament comes with 0.8kg/1.76 lbs of material. It is drawn out to a diameter of 1.75mm with a dimensional accuracy of +/- 0.05 mm, making it the perfect choice for most printers on the market.
With the right setting, this material prints great. No jams stay stuck to the bed and the object pops rights off when the print is already cool. It’s great in both direct drive and Bowden extruders.
It literally works like the other flexible materials and it delivers high-quality prints. Initially, we thought flexible filaments are difficult to print but SainSmart TPU flexible 3D printing filament just proved us wrong. Overall, this is a great TPU filament — easy to use and produces nice prints.
This TPU filament is surprising very easy to use. In fact, it came to a point when I felt that it was easier to work than PLA. The magic begins with the right set of your 3D printer, if you set it right, you’ll see the results that you desire.
Also, another great thing about this filament is that it comes with a built-in gauge that shows the percentage of material remaining and approximate length remaining. This is made of a strong yet flexible thermoplastic polyurethane which is easy to use and offers excellent layer-to-layer bonding and holds up well to more rigorous wear and tear.
Once tweaked-in this TPU material is really quite easy to print with and has good layer adhesion, minimal stringing and is quite strong. I highly recommend this due to its performance, quality results and price. This got everything you need for a TPU filament.
YOYI Flexible TPU Filament is compatible with different 3D printers including RepRap and MakerBot 3D printers. This product features higher elasticity, is easier to print and is available in various colors including transparent colors.
One of the best things that I really love about this filament is that it doesn’t need any “special” handling compared to other flexible filaments. In fact, I was using the same settings when I was printing PLA and it printed without any problems. This is actually much easier to use than Ninjaflex.
Overall, this comes with a better price, prints faster and delivers high-quality outputs. This is highly recommended if you are looking for a TPU filament.
TPU filament is a great material if you are working on a flexible 3D printing project. A TPU material works well for various applications including especially in the automotive industry. It’s also a good material for sporting goods, power tools, and medical devices.
Its flexibility is its best asset, but it’s also the reason why this type of material is kind of challenging to 3D print because it’s difficult to control sudden changes in the print speed.
Overall, a TPU material is a better flexible filament compared to TPE. It stands out in terms of durability, strength, and flexibility. It also doesn’t shrink and warp.
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