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What Is The Most Flexible 3D Printing Material

What Is The Most Flexible 3D Printing Material | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

August 30, 2022

The amazing thing about 3D printing materials is how versatile they can be. Whether rugged or flexible, these materials are suitable for most projects.

If your prints lack elasticity and impact resistance, you could use the wrong printing material with your 3D printer. This can cause excessive vibrations during the process, meaning you need a more flexible material.

The most flexible 3D printing material to use is Thermoplastic Polyurethane, often referred to as TPU. It is made with rubber and hard plastic to provide better elasticity and improved abrasion resistance. Other flexible 3D printing materials include PLA, ABS, and TPE.

To get the most flexibility from your 3D printing materials, you should consider what you need it for and what you will use them for in the future. By using these specific materials, you will have access to create more unique prints. This guide will examine the most flexible 3D printing materials and how to use each effectively.

Each of these materials has been tested and researched carefully to be sure they fit the criteria for a flexible 3D printing material. Continue reading to learn more about these options to see what suits you best.

Table of Contents

What Is The Most Flexible 3D Printing Material?

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is the most flexible 3D printing filament. It offers excellent elasticity and high resistance to abrasion, making it ideal for use when you need a very flexible material.

TPU is very easy to print with and has a low shrinkage rate. It is known for its flexibility and elasticity. It has been used in various industries as a replacement for rubber due to its excellent mechanical properties.

The mixture of rubber and hard plastic that makes up TPU allows it to be the most flexible 3D printing filament. This gives you extra versatility when printing, but more flexible materials also have drawbacks.

4 Most Flexible 3D Printing Materials

3D printing is an advanced technology that is being adopted in many industries. And new materials and filaments continued to be created, tested, and used for many different applications.

This leads to the conversation about flexible printing materials and why they are needed. Besides the added elasticity and softness, they also withstand higher loads.

We have listed the four most flexible 3D printing materials below to assist with your next big project.

1. TPU

We rank TPU as the most flexible 3D printing material for a few reasons. First, it has solid rigidity and is most popularly used in advanced industries like robotics because of this.

TPU resembles TPE in many ways but is highly regarded as the better choice when analyzing rigidity and flexibility. It has a rubber-like feel to it, especially after printing.

It has amazing durability and is known to withstand many elements easily. This is why TPU is so useful because the flexibility allows for a smoother print and the durability makes a strong object.

2. PLA

Soft PLA has a lot in common with TPU, but the differences are quite obvious once you have the chance to use both. PLA is a variant of biopolymer polylactic acid. This is why it is one of the most common materials used.

This specialty filament type has key ingredients like sugarcane and additive chemicals. The combination of these materials causes the PLA to possess rubber-like characteristics similar to TPU.

But this is where the similarities end. It does a solid job absorbing vibrations while printing and providing decent impact resistance.

3. TPE

TPE is highly reliable and extremely flexible for 3D printing because it has a wider classification when discussing soft materials. It can be stretched out to twice its length when at room temperature.

Even after stretching it, you can still return it to its normal size afterward. It has excellent abrasion resistance.

These properties are a few of TPE's benefits, which is why it continues to grow in popularity among the 3D printing community.

4. ABS

ABS is considered a solid choice when looking for flexible 3D printing materials, but it does not provide the same level of flexibility as TPU.

When using ABS, you should expect to use high nozzle and bed temperatures. The higher melting point makes it more difficult to print to the level of flexibility most desire.

This is a temperature-sensitive filament and has shown a tendency to crack or break easily in the past. We would avoid ABS for flexible printing needs.

How To Get The Most Flexibility From 3D Printing Materials

3D printing is all about creativity. It's about creating objects - from toys to medical devices, from fashion accessories to art pieces.

But what if you don't have the right materials? What if your 3D printer can't print a specific type of material?

Fortunately, plenty of materials can be used in 3D printing today with plenty of flexibility. But you must consider these tips to ensure you print flexible materials properly.

Keep The Filament Dry

When you are printing with flexible materials, it is important to keep the filament dry. This will prevent the filament from getting stuck in the extruder nozzle. If this happens, you will have to disassemble your 3D printer and clean it.

These filaments are hygroscopic, so if they get wet before printing, they can sizzle during the process. If this happens, it will create steam and disrupt your printing.

Flexible materials are even more susceptible to this occurring, making it even more critical to keep these materials dry.

Reduce Retraction

Retraction is another key concern when using flexible materials because the objective is to reduce vibrations for stable printing. However, the suitable amount of retraction varies based on the printer.

The extruder you are also using matters when analyzing the proper retraction settings. Ideally, you want the nozzle to move around with ease.

Because the material is softer for flexibility, too much retraction can lead to under extrusion or cause the filament to bunch up in the nozzle. It is best to avoid this at all costs.

Turn Your Printing Speed Down

More and more people are using 3D printers in their homes, but they often forget that the materials used for 3D printing are not the same as those used in traditional printing.

That is why knowing how to configure your printer to work with flexible materials properly is important.

Setting your printing speed down can help you avoid over-extrusion when using flexible 3D printing material. This will ensure that your prints come out looking great without any imperfections.

What Are The Benefits Of Flexible 3D Printing Material?

Flexible 3D printing material is the latest innovation in the world of 3D printing. It is a new way to make objects and has several benefits.

This material is designed to be flexible, which means it can be used for creating more complicated shapes and objects. Below are some of the benefits it provides to create better 3D prints.

Improved Elasticity

Flexible 3D printing materials provide improved elasticity for your printing needs. These new plastics are elastic, more durable, and can be used in various applications.

If you need something that can be stretched or bent, this is where these materials come in handy. They also have a higher melting point, which is an added benefit for industrial applications.

Better Impact Resistance

The materials used in 3D printing are crucial to the success of the print. They affect not only the appearance of your design but also its durability and flexibility.

A material’s flexibility is important for 3D printing because it determines how much force it can take before breaking.

On average, you can expect much better impact resistance from flexible materials. They are less likely to get deformed too.

Reduced Vibration

Many of the materials in this guide have rubber-like properties, which will lessen the vibrations that occur during printing.

This is critical because, with fewer vibrations, you broaden the scope of your projects, and the objects you print can be used in more complex applications.

About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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What Is The Most Flexible 3D Printing Material

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