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TPU 3D Printing Material Benefits

TPU material filament offers a stretchable and 3D flexible characteristic, not found in stiff and hard 3D print filament. Flexible filament (TPU) is best suited in for applications requiring high impact and abrasion resistance, it is chemically resistant and can easily withstand ambient temperatures of 80ºC.

It is widely used in the aerospace and automotive industry for panels and sensors as well levers and other resilient and functional parts. Soft TPU filaments are ideal for comfortable foot wear and sporting goods products.

3D Printing With TPU Filament

TPU filament can be divided into two main categories, Polyether Polyurethane and Polyester Polyurethane, both have slightly different characteristics and are well suited to fill specific roles.

It is possible to achieve specific hardness by properly blending polymers into the TPU material to gain exact material attributes optimized for the intended part. Product flexibility can further be controlled via specific infill density used within the part. Compared with other 3D print material, TPU does not suffer from thermal shock warping as is common in 3D stiffener 3D prints.

However it is not all roses, TPU presents a challenge to 3D printers and requires special attention from the user to successfully produce a good print. It's important to understand the specific material's behavior, prior to printing, so proper settings are used to complete the print.

The use of direct drive is preferred, assuring proper print flow, Bowden drives are unlike to deliver acceptable print performance due to the "strechy" nature of the TPU within the Bowden feed tube. Bowden drives can be used but only if their path is kept short as possible avoiding uncontrolled flow to the print head. Retraction settings need to be minimal and optimized due to the inherent flex built into TPU filament. Wrong retractions can cause gaps in the print or even clog the print head, if not cared for.

TPU Prints must be done at a very low feed rate, assuring constant flow, otherwise a sudden change in the feed can become uncontrollable and fail. It is also important to consider using negative tolerance for proper fit, if the part interacts with other non-flexible components.

TPU Filament User Guide

  • Do you need to dry TPU filament? TPU Filament has a tendency to absorb moisture from the air, therefore it is recommended to dry it prior to print. The draying process can be easily achieved using an oven set at a temp of 45ºC to 60ºC for 4-5 hours.

  • What is the most flexible TPU filament? The most flexible TPU filament available is with a shore value of 60A, which is considered ultra-flexible material.

  • Is TPU filament environmentally friendly? TPU is 100% recyclable and biodegradable- it is environmentally friendly and fully degradable within 3-5 years.

  • How do you load TPU filaments? Loading TPU material to the print head need to occur at a slightly higher temp then TPU working temp, then assure a constant feed at a very slow feed rate. It is wise to create a costume GCODE file with the heat and wait –then slow and long feed advance to assure proper flow.

  • What settings to use for a successful TPU print? Every TPU filament requires experimentation prior to printing, these are general print settings guidelines. In general, the TPU print requirements are a slow print speed for uninterrupted feed flow, approximately 30mm/s. Print travel speed of 200 mm/s and a layer height of .1mm. Infill density percentage can further be used to optimize the part rigidity (within the inherent material capability). Print temp range (material dependent) 220ºC and build plate at 50ºC. Retraction sped of 10mm/s and 1.5 mm retraction distance.

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