Rubber 3D Printing Services
Rubber and rubber-like materials are everywhere in modern industry. Soft materials like latex, silicone, and thermoplastic elastomer are useful in applications that demand flexibility and durability for industrial parts and consumer goods alike.
While rubber manufacturing has historically been the domain of casting and injection molding, modern advances in 3D printers and 3D printed materials have made additive manufacturing the ideal solution for producing small to medium quantities of rubber-like parts.
Our 3D printed rubber services can manufacture high-quality rubber-like parts in as few as two days―all you need is a 3D model! Start your project by getting a quote or keep reading to learn more.
Get a quote for your project using one of our quoting tools. Our engineers will review your project and get back to you 24 hours or less. 3D printed rubber parts ship in as few as two days!
3D Printed Rubber Applications, From Prototyping to Production
3D printed rubber parts can be used in place of molded rubber for just about any application. Like other methods of 3D printing, rubber prints accurately produce complex internal geometries like lattices and tubes at no extra cost, easily achieving designs that would be impossible with other types of manufacturing.
And because 3D printing doesn’t require any costly molds or tooling, 3D printed rubber parts can be manufactured in just a few days compared to multiple weeks of lead time for injection molding. This combination of high agility and no start-up costs allows rubber 3D printing to excel for both prototyping and small- to medium-sized production runs.
3D printed rubber is ideal for:
Skin contact medical devices
Scratch resistant covering
Advantages of 3D Printed Rubber vs. Injection Molding
Traditionally, rubber manufacturing has required injection molding, casting, or sheet lamination. Rubber-like materials are far too soft to machine, and 3D printing was restricted to harder plastics for most of its development. Now, new developments in 3D printers and materials have opened up a wide range of new possibilities for 3D printed rubber products. So how does 3D printing compare to casting or injection molding for manufacturing rubber?
Short Lead Times and No Setup Costs
Injection molding requires machined metal molds that cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months to produce. Any design changes require new tools, making adjustments extremely expensive and time-consuming.
In contrast, 3D printing requires no tooling or other setup costs and can begin production immediately. This leads to parts that can be manufactured in as little as one day and much greater affordability at low quantities, making 3D printing Moreover, design changes are easy and can be executed at no additional cost.
The Best Choice for Rubber Prototypes
When it comes to product development, 3D printed rubber is a godsend. Even under the most ideal conditions, traditional technologies take weeks of lead time and tens of thousands of dollars for each new design.
Because 3D printing doesn’t require any tooling or setup, 3D printed parts can quickly be designed and redesigned at no additional cost. This agility has made 3D printing an indispensable part of prototyping and product development.
A Question of Quantity
As a result of these differences in lead times and setup costs, 3D printing is much more economical for small- to medium-volume production, while casting and injection molding provide greater value for productions of 1000 parts or more.
Although metal molds are expensive, molded parts become very cheap to produce once the tooling is made. When those initial costs are spread out over thousands of parts, individual part costs plummet, making injection molding the least expensive technology around for high-volume manufacturing.
3D printing, on the other hand, generally stops providing additional per part savings once part quantities exceed the capacity of a single machine. As a result, 3D printing has a much flatter cost curve that makes it a great option for small to medium quantities but significantly less economical for large production runs.
Unlimited Design Possibilities
Rubber 3D printing can easily achieve complicated designs that would simply not be possible with other manufacturing technologies. From interior cavities and lattices to variable wall thicknesses, organic shapes and built-in hoses—all of which are difficult or impossible to create with injection molding—3D printed rubber parts unlock endless new design options. You can even combine multi-part assemblies into single pieces, saving costs and improving functionality.
Plus, 3D printed parts can be highly customized, down to single parts at a time, without additional costs. This is especially useful for industries like medicine or athletics that have a high demand for products customized to each individual user. Needless to say, this would be extraordinarily expensive with casting or injection molding.
To learn more about the unique design capabilities of 3D printing, check out our Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) Guide.
Is It Really Rubber? 3D Printed Rubber Materials
The answer to whether 3D printed rubber is really rubber depends who you ask. There are a lot of materials that are referred to as rubber: thermoplastic polyurethane, thermoplastic elastomer, silicone, and, of course, natural rubber!
Natural rubber, also known as latex, cannot be liquefied and re-solidified in the manner required by 3D printers. However, thermoplastic elastomers can achieve similar levels of flexibility and softness to rubber and have the thermal properties necessary for 3D printing.
The most effective rubber-like materials for 3D printing are semi-rigid thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and soft shore photopolymers, like our High Rebound Elastomer. TPU is heat fused via a thermoplastic powder bed process called Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) while photopolymers, as the name implies are light cured via stereolithography (SLA.)
Rubber 3D Printing Technologies
Estane Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) redefines the capabilities of rubber manufacturing across a broad spectrum of industries. With 90A hardness, Estane TPU brings the toughness and stiffness of tire rubber, making it an excellent choice for producing durable, abrasion resistant parts. Beyond its toughness, this real thermoplastic is distinguished by its consistent matte finish, FDA approval for skin contact and medical devices, and extremely high heat (125C,) UV and chemical resistance, making it versatile for numerous applications beyond the medical field, including industrial, automotive, and consumer products.
The prowess of the Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology in this context lies in its remarkable speed, quality and cost efficiency, revolutionizing the way businesses approach manufacturing. Companies choose MJF because they know they are getting the best value in production quality parts, whether 1 or 1000 units. Parts are high density and mechanical thermoplastics with fine detail, thin features (0.5mm) and consistent finish. MJF’s high volume production capabilities with the versatile, high-quality attributes of Estane TPU offers an unparalleled solution for a variety of industries seeking fast, reliable, and versatile urethane for the most demanding applications.
Our High Rebound Elastomer resin represents an innovative development in 3D printed elastomers, well-suited for a variety of applications, including those where FDA approval for medical devices and 30-day skin contact is required. SLA stands out with its superior surface finish, which is smoother than of Multi Jet Fusion (MJF). The resin’s softer durometer – Shore 62A hardness – is a more classical rubber hardness sought after for applications where flexibility and elongation are prioritized. While it’s suitable for medical uses, its general-purpose nature makes it extremely versatile for many other applications. Our
The High Speed Stereolithography (SLA) technology excels in creating high detail 3D prints, with fine layer resolution, the smoothest surfaces and thin walls as fine as 1.5mm. Photopolymers are not naturally as tough as powder bed thermoplastics but crystalizing liquid in a vat achieves a much smoother surface finish. The smoother surface makes it ideal for rubber applications, many requiring tight seals and compression fits to act as barriers for liquids and gases. However, it’s important to note that SLA 3D prints require support material which must be removed and leaves witness marks. For the smoothest finish on critical surfaces, please consult with your RapidMade representative the optimal orientation of your print.
Freeform Injection Molding (FIM) is an exciting advancement in the production of molded elastomers, including silicone, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). This innovative technology synergizes the materials of traditional injection molding with the speed and cost of 3D printing. By utilizing 3D-printed molds, FIM enables the creation of complex, custom-shaped elastomeric components with enhanced speed and cost efficiency. This process is particularly advantageous for small batch production or prototyping, where the conventional mold-making approach would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.
Directly 3D printing rubber products has a massive limitation around availability of qualified materials. The two listed above are pretty much it. Injection molding has the most qualified elastomers of any manufacturing process. In this way FIM expands the realm of possibilities for product development and manufacturing. Now customers can marry the speed, cost and design freedom of low volume 3D printing with previously unavailable materials like medical and food grade silicone and TPU, neoprene, nitrile, natural rubber, styrene butadiene and more!
Additionally 3D printing has always struggled to provide excellent mechanical properties through the Z layers. High pressure injection molding solves this problem and produces completely isotropic parts.
Molds last up to 400 units or can be dissolved for one off creation of impossible designs. Quoting is currently unavailable on our instant quote tool but we are accepting manual quotes.
Start Rubber 3D Printing Today
If you need rubber manufacturing for your business, RapidMade can help you take your projects from 3D models to high-quality 3D printed rubber parts in as few as two days. When you work with RapidMade, you get a team of 3D printed experts dedicated to helping you succeed.