TPU filament, also known as thermoplastic polyurethane filament, is a popular material used in 3D printing. It offers a unique combination of flexibility, durability, and strength, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. TPU is not easy to 3D print, so we need a comprehensive knowledge of TPU 3D printing for success printing. In this article, we will explore what TPU filament is, its advantages and disadvantages in 3D printing, and how it compares to other common filaments.
What is TPU filament？
TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) filament is a flexible and elastic 3D printing material. It has properties of both plastic and rubber. TPU filament is very strong and durable. It is abrasion, tear and puncture resistant. TPU also has high impact strength and elongation. It does not break easily when bent or stretched. TPU filament is popular for printing flexible objects like phone cases, robotic parts, shoes and cosplay props. It provides good layer adhesion and does not warp much during printing. The shore hardness of TPU filament varies from soft and rubbery to tough and rigid.
For get a deep understand of TPU, you can refer our this blog-The properties of tpu material and its application in 3d printing
Advantages of using TPU Filament in 3D Printing
TPU filament offers several advantages that make it a popular choice for 3D printing enthusiasts and professionals alike.
Firstly, its flexibility sets it apart from other materials. TPU can be twisted, stretched, and bent without breaking, allowing for the creation of intricate and flexible objects. This makes it ideal for applications such as wearable accessories, phone cases, and prototypes that require both strength and flexibility.
Secondly, TPU filament has excellent impact resistance, making it highly durable. Objects printed with TPU can withstand rough handling, making it suitable for functional prototypes, mechanical parts, and objects that may undergo repeated use.
Additionally, TPU filament has good elasticity, allowing it to recover its original shape after being stretched or squeezed. This elasticity makes it suitable for printing objects such as shock absorbers, gaskets, and seals.
The flexibility, durability, and elasticity of TPU filament make it a versatile material for 3D printing. However, it is important to consider certain disadvantages before using TPU filament, which we will explore further along this article.
Disadvantages of using TPU Filament in 3D Printing
While TPU filament offers numerous benefits, it is essential to be aware of its limitations before diving into 3D printing projects.
One major downside of TPU filament is its difficulty in printing. Due to its flexible nature, TPU can be challenging to feed through the extruder smoothly. It tends to curl or warp, which can cause print failures or result in poor print quality. Adjusting the print settings and using a filament guide or specialized print bed can help mitigate these issues, but it requires additional effort and expertise.
Another disadvantage is its limited availability compared to more popular filaments such as PLA or ABS. TPU filament may be harder to find and may come at a higher cost. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the availability and budget constraints when choosing TPU filament for 3D printing projects.
Lastly, TPU's flexibility may not be ideal for all applications. While it is suitable for certain designs that require flexibility, it may not provide the same level of strength or rigidity as other materials. Therefore, it is important to assess the specific requirements of your project and determine if TPU filament is the best choice.
Considerations for choosing TPU Filament in 3D Printing
When considering TPU filament for your 3D printing projects, it is important to take several factors into consideration.
First and foremost, make sure that your 3D printer is compatible with TPU filament. Check the manufacturer's specifications and guidelines to ensure that your printer can handle the flexibility and unique characteristics of TPU.
Additionally, consider the intended use of your prints. TPU's flexibility makes it ideal for certain applications such as wearables, phone cases, or soft robotics. However, if you require high strength or rigidity, TPU may not be the best choice. Evaluate the specific requirements of your project and determine if TPU can deliver the desired results.
Furthermore, take into account the print settings and techniques that can help overcome TPU's challenges. Adjusting the print speed, nozzle temperature, and retraction settings can greatly improve the printing process. Additionally, using a heated print bed or applying adhesive to the print surface can prevent warping and ensure better adhesion.
By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision about using TPU filament in your 3D printing projects.
|Excellent layer-to-layer bonding
|Difficult for novices to print successfully
|Soft and Flexible
|May not work well on some extruders
|High elongation at break
|Higher material cost
|Excellent mechanical strength
|Poor hydrolysis resistance
|Difficult to post-produce
Pros and cons of TPU filament
Tips for successful printing with TPU Filament
Now that you understand the factors to consider when using TPU filament in your 3D printing projects, let's delve into some helpful tips and tricks for achieving successful prints.
- Optimize your printer settings: TPU filament requires specific settings to ensure good results. Start by adjusting the print speed to a slower setting, as TPU tends to print better at a reduced speed. Experiment with different temperatures for your nozzle and print bed to find the optimal settings for your specific TPU filament.
- Fine-tune your retraction settings: Retraction is the process of pulling filament back into the nozzle to prevent oozing. It is crucial to find the right retraction distance and speed for TPU filament to avoid stringing or blobs in your prints. Start with a shorter retraction distance and increase gradually until you find the best results.
- Use a direct drive extruder: TPU filament benefits from a direct drive extruder setup, where the filament is fed directly into the hot end. This helps to reduce the risk of filament buckling or jamming and ensures smoother extrusion.
- Consider using a brim or raft: TPU filament can be challenging to adhere to the print bed due to its flexibility. To improve adhesion, try using a brim or raft when printing. These extra layers around your model provide a larger surface area for better adhesion and stability.
- Experiment with different print speeds and layer heights: TPU filament performs well at lower print speeds and thinner layers. Adjusting these settings can improve the overall print quality and reduce the risk of warping or layer separation.
By implementing these tips and techniques, you can increase your chances of achieving successful prints with TPU filament. Keep in mind that patience and experimentation are key to finding the ideal settings for your specific printer and filament combination.
Comparing TPU Filament with other materials for 3D Printing
While TPU filament offers unique advantages in 3D printing, it's also essential to understand how it compares to other commonly used materials. One significant advantage of TPU filament is its flexibility and elasticity, making it an excellent choice for producing flexible and durable prints. Unlike rigid materials like PLA or ABS, TPU can withstand repeated bending and stretching without breaking.
Additionally, TPU filament exhibits excellent impact resistance, making it suitable for functional parts like phone cases, shoe soles, or prosthetics. Its ability to absorb shocks and vibrations adds durability to printed objects.
In terms of surface finish, TPU filament may not provide the same level of detail as PLA or ABS. It tends to have a slightly rougher texture, which can affect the final appearance of the print. However, this trade-off is often outweighed by TPU's flexibility and mechanical properties.
Furthermore, TPU filament has lower printing temperatures compared to some other materials, which can be advantageous for printers with limited temperature control or those prone to clogging issues. However, it's essential to note that this lower printing temperature can increase print time significantly.
Ultimately, the decision to use TPU filament depends on the specific application and desired properties of the printed object. By understanding both the advantages and disadvantages, you can make an informed decision when selecting the most suitable filament for your 3D printing needs.