Although flexible filaments have been around for a few years, many desktop 3D printers have been unable to utilize these filaments. Filaments such as TPA, TPC, and TPE were available, but were just too flexible for many inexpensive 3D printers on the market. However, TPU seems to be the perfect mesh between operational flexibility and printable stiffness.
TPU opens the door for a whole new 3D printing world. Granted, ABS and PLA, are still the work horses of 3D printing, TPU expands a creator’s repertoire immensely. For example, rubber stamp hobbyists can now create elaborate stamp designs without forking over their wallet to stamp manufacturers. Additionally, hobbyists can create soft wheels, buttons, jewelry, phone and camera cases, camera lens covers, vibration dampeners, and the list goes on and on.
Additionally, TPU, and most other flexible filaments, are extremely durable. Models can survive being dropped, kicked, and thrown with no problems. Once printed, the material is much like a cast rubber object. I have used many TPU printed devices on my racing drones and rarely have I had to print a second one, as they just don’t break, even with the hardest and fastest crashes.
Hence, if you need a strong flexible model or prototype, I highly recommend checking out TPU filament. Make sure to get the correct hardness as different manufacturers produce different formulas. For the Imaginator 3D printer we only recommend the Hatchbox filament as it works great with our machine. Also, check out our previous blog for the correct machine settings. Printing speed has to be significantly reduced to get a good print.