TPU Filament Everything You Need to Know

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TPU filament the king of flexibility, durability, and chemical resistance for 3D printing projects. Used in gaskets, protective cases, and wearables.


by Editorial Staff: We are a team of 3D Printing Enthusiasts who have build a lot of knowledge about 3D Printing the last 8 years. Our aim is to create the knowledge hub for 3D Printing covering all minor and major topics. Providing one source of reliable Information for everybody regardless of Beginner or Expert.


Introduction

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) filament is a versatile and durable material that merges the flexibility of rubber with the strength and processability of thermoplastics. Esteemed for its elasticity, wear resistance, and capacity to endure significant deformation without tearing or degrading, TPU Filament is extensively utilized across a wide range of industries, from automotive to consumer products. Its unique set of properties, including resistance to oils, greases, and many chemicals, alongside its ability to perform across a broad spectrum of temperatures, makes TPU a preferred choice for functional parts requiring flexibility and durability.

TPU’s ability to withstand abrasion and its tear resistance lend it to the creation of parts subject to repeated stress or flexing, such as flexible joints, protective casings, and seals. Add to this its transparency and UV stability, and TPU’s range of applicability broadens further, encompassing both aesthetic and functional uses. This filament is compatible with most FDM 3D printers, making it accessible for professional prototyping and hobbyist experimentation alike.

About TPU Filament

TPU filaments provide a blend of hardness levels, typically measured on the Shore hardness scale, allowing users to select the degree of flexibility needed for their project. This versatility extends TPU’s usability from semi-rigid, durable components to soft, squeezable objects. While TPU is more forgiving to print than some of its flexible counterparts, achieving the best results still requires proper printer settings and preparation due to its tendency to stretch and compress during the extrusion process.

One of TPU’s standout features is its dynamic performance under varying environmental conditions, maintaining its elasticity at low temperatures while also capable of withstanding higher temperatures without melting or losing shape. This resilience, combined with its resistance to water and mildew, makes TPU particularly valuable for outdoor applications.

Possible Applications of TPU Filament

Automotive Parts

TPU is used to produce vibration dampeners, seals, gaskets, and flexible connectors that must endure mechanical stress and environmental exposure.

Protective Cases

Its shock-absorbing properties make TPU ideal for creating durable cases for smartphones, tablets, and other sensitive electronic devices.

Medical Equipment

TPU’s biocompatibility and resistance to sterilization processes enable its use in airways, catheters, and other medical devices requiring flexibility and hygiene.

Wearable Technology

Flexible, comfortable, and durable, TPU is well-suited for wearable devices, including straps for smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Pros and Cons of TPU Filament

Pros:

  • Flexibility and Durability: TPU stands up to repeated stretching and flexing without losing its shape or integrity.
  • Chemical Resistance: Makes it suitable for industrial applications where exposure to oils, fats, and greases is common.
  • Wide Temperature Range: Maintains performance across a broad temperature spectrum, enhancing its versatility.
  • Ease of Printing: Compared to other flexible materials, TPU is less prone to issues like clogging or jamming, especially on printers equipped with direct drive extruders.

Cons:

  • Stringing: TPU can produce strings or oozing if print settings are not finely tuned.
  • Print Speed: Requires slower print speeds to ensure part quality, elongating production times.
  • Price: Generally, TPU is more expensive than rigid materials like PLA due to its specialized applications.
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Material Settings of TPU Filament

SettingValue
Print Temperature [°C]220 – 250
Build Plate Temperature [°C]0 – 60
Print Speed [mm/s]10 – 60
Cooling Fan [%]0 – 50
Enclosed Build ChamberNot Required
Air ManagementRecommended
Min Active Heated Build Chamber Temperature [°C]Not Required
DryingRecommended
AnnealingNot Required

For successful TPU prints, operators should focus on fine-tuning temperature settings and print speeds to manage the material’s elasticity during printing. A direct drive extruder is preferable for better control over the filament, reducing the chance of stretching or compression errors.

Mechanical Properties of TPU Filament

PropertyValue
Shore HardnessA60 – D58
Specific Gravity [g/cc]1.12 – 1.2
Tensile Strength at Break [Mpa]22 – 55
Elongation at Break [%]400 – 950
Flexural Strength [Mpa]NA
Flexural Modulus [Mpa]NA
Impact Strength Charpy 23˚C [kJ/m²]No Break
HDT B [°C]NA
Tg [°C]-42 – -16

TPU’s mechanical properties emphasize its outstanding flexibility, tear strength, and elongation capabilities, making it extraordinarily adept for creating parts that need to stretch or bend while still requiring a degree of toughness.

Material Comparison

MaterialTPETPUTPC
Print Temperature [°C]220 – 250220 – 250220 – 260
DurabilityHighHigherHighest
Ease of PrintingDifficultModerateDifficult
UV ResistanceHighModerateHigh

TPU offers a balanced solution between ease of printing and performance, providing higher tear strength and flexibility compared to TPE, with a somewhat easier printing process than TPC, presenting itself as a versatile option for both functional and flexible applications.

FAQ´s about TPU Filament

How does TPU compare to silicone for flexible applications?

TPU provides similar flexibility and durability but can be 3D printed, offering rapid prototyping and customization advantages over traditionally molded silicone parts.

Can TPU be used in food-contact applications?

While TPU itself may be safe for incidental food contact, users should always verify the specific filament’s food safety certifications and ensure a clean printing environment.

How can stringing be minimized when printing with TPU?

Optimizing retraction settings and printing temperatures can help reduce stringing, alongside ensuring the filament path is well-controlled, preferably with a direct drive extruder.

Is TPU recyclable?

TPU is recyclable, falling into the category of thermoplastic elastomers. However, recycling facilities may vary in their capacity to process this specific material.

What is the best way to store TPU filament?

TPU should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably in a sealed container with desiccant packs to prevent moisture absorption, which can affect print quality.

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