TPE Filament: Everything You Need to Know

Fillamentum Flexfill TPE Filament 90A Sky Blue

Uncover the potential of TPE Filament in 3D printing for creating flexible, durable parts. Learn about its applications, benefits, and printing guidelines.


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Introduction

Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) filament is a broad category of flexible, rubber-like materials that combine the properties of thermoplastics and elastomers, offering both elasticity and recyclability. Known for their flexibility, durability, and shock absorption, TPE filaments have become increasingly popular in the 3D printing community for applications requiring parts with these characteristics. Unlike rigid materials such as PLA or ABS, TPE Filament allows for the creation of functional parts that can bend, stretch, and compress, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of applications—from industrial tooling to consumer products.

TPE’s versatility is highlighted by its use in creating objects that require a soft touch, such as grips, seals, and wearable devices. Its ability to withstand repeated flexing and stretching without deforming or breaking offers significant advantages over traditional materials. Furthermore, TPE’s compatibility with most FDM 3D printers makes it accessible to both professional and hobbyist makers seeking to explore the capabilities of flexible materials without needing specialized equipment.

About TPE Filament

TPE filaments encompass a range of durometers, allowing users to select the level of flexibility or rigidity needed for their specific project. This adaptability extends the material’s applicability from soft, squishy objects to semi-rigid, durable parts. Printing with TPE, however, can be challenging due to its elastic nature, which may lead to issues like jamming or stringing if the printer is not properly calibrated. Nonetheless, with the right settings and a little patience, TPE can be successfully printed on most machines capable of handling filament-based materials.

One of the unique advantages of TPE is its resistance to environmental factors such as UV light, chemicals, and moisture, making it suitable for outdoor applications. Its hypoallergenic and non-toxic properties also make it a safe choice for items in direct contact with skin, further broadening its range of uses.

Possible Applications of TPE Filament

Consumer Products

TPE is ideal for creating consumer goods such as phone cases, protective covers, and wearable fitness tracker bands that benefit from a soft, flexible touch.

Automotive Parts

The material’s durability and resistance to deformation make it perfect for automotive applications, including vibration dampeners, door seals, and flexible joints.

Medical Devices

Due to its biocompatibility, TPE can be used for various medical devices, including flexible tubes, seals for containers, and custom orthotic devices.

Industrial Tooling

TPE’s shock-absorbing qualities are beneficial for creating grips for tools, anti-vibration mounts, and protective equipment that requires a degree of flexibility.

Pros and Cons of TPE Filament

Pros:

  • Flexibility: TPE’s main advantage is its flexibility, allowing for the creation of parts that can stretch or compress.
  • Durability: It is resistant to impact, making it durable for functional use in various environments.
  • Safe for Skin Contact: Hypoallergenic and non-toxic, making it suitable for wearable devices and items in close contact with the skin.
  • Chemical and UV Resistance: Augments its suitability for outdoor and automotive applications.

Cons:

  • Printing Difficulty: TPE can be challenging to print, particularly on printers not optimized for flexible filaments.
  • Speed Limitations: Printing with TPE often requires slower speeds, increasing production time.
  • Stringing: Improper settings may result in stringing or oozing, requiring post-processing for clean-up.
FillamentumFlexfill TPE Filament 90A Signal Red
<a href=httpswww3djakecomfillamentum>Fillamentum<a>Flexfill TPE Filament 90A Signal Red

Material Settings of TPE Filament

SettingValue
Print Temperature [°C]220 – 250
Build Plate Temperature [°C]0 – 60
Print Speed [mm/s]15 – 60
Cooling Fan [%]20 – 80
Enclosed Build ChamberNot Required
Air ManagementRecommended
Min Active Heated Build Chamber Temperature [°C]Not Required
DryingRecommended
AnnealingNot Required

Due to its flexibility, TPE’s print settings demand careful adjustments. Lower print speeds and moderate cooling are essential to minimize stringing. A direct drive extruder is recommended for optimal feeding and retracting of the filament.

Mechanical Properties of TPE Filament

PropertyValue
Shore HardnessA70 – A96
Specific Gravity [g/cc]0.906 – 1.15
Tensile Strength at Break [Mpa]5 – 45
Elongation at Break [%]146 – 990
Flexural Strength [Mpa]NA
Flexural Modulus [Mpa]NA
Impact Strength Charpy 23˚C [kJ/m²]No Break
HDT B [°C]NA
Tg [°C]-50 – 0

The mechanical properties of TPE illustrate its exceptional capacity for elongation and impact resistance, making it unmatched for creating parts needing to withstand bending, stretching, or repetitive impact.

Material Comparison

MaterialPLAABSTPE
Print Temperature [°C]180 – 235230 – 270220 – 250
DurabilityModerateHighHigh
Ease of PrintingHighModerateDifficult
UV ResistanceLowModerateHigh

TPE distinguishes itself by offering superior flexibility and impact resistance over PLA and ABS, alongside higher UV and chemical resistance, albeit with a more challenging printing process.

FAQ´s about TPE Filament

What makes TPE different from other flexible filaments?

TPE offers a unique combination of elasticity, durability, and resistance to environmental factors, distinguishing it from other flexible materials by its range of applications and performance characteristics.

Can TPE be used for all 3D printers?

TPE can be printed on most FDM 3D printers, but those with direct drive extruders generally yield better results due to the filament’s flexibility.

How can I prevent TPE from jamming during printing?

Using a direct drive extruder and reducing print speed can significantly mitigate jamming issues when printing with TPE.

Is TPE material waterproof?

TPE is resistant to moisture, making it suitable for applications that require water resistance, though it’s not entirely waterproof in all conditions.

What applications are best suited for TPE?

TPE is well-suited for creating flexible and durable parts like seals, gaskets, protective covers, wearable devices, and any application that benefits from a stretchable, impact-resistant material.

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