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Elastomer 3D Printing with TPU

March 8, 2021

3D printing is not just for stiff, rigid parts. 3D printing flexible parts can be useful for an array of items. Thermoplastic Polyurethane or TPU is the most commonly used material for the purposes of 3D printing flexible parts. TPU 3D printing makes elastomeric parts possible whereas ABS, PLA, or nylon are rigid plastics. TPU combines the properties of both rubber and plastic, making for rubber 3D printing. 

What You Should Know About TPU

TPU is a type of TPE – which stands for Thermoplastic Elastomer. TPU’s rubber-like elasticity makes it abrasion resistant, and it is very chemical resistant: which includes greases, oils, alcohol, acetone other kinds of solvents. TPU comes in a 90A durometer which is about as hard as a tire. When printed with thin walls, though, it can be very soft, feeling more like a closed cell foam or silicone rubber with a much lower durometer.

What is TPU Used For?

There are many items that TPU 3D printing can be used for.

  • Items such as phone cases and sneakers are perfect examples of what TPU can be used for. Both items need to be flexible, as well as durable.

  • TPU can be used in the medical field, such as with orthopedic models. Many hospitals use TPU model for training. The US-based company Graphene 3D Lab introduced a conductive TPU filament that can be used for medical wristbands and other flexible electronic devices.  TPU is a medical grade material that can be used in medical devices worn all day and used in hospital settings. TPU can be used in a wide variety of prosthetics and orthotics as well.

  • Due to TPU being resistant to grease and oil, it can then be used in automobiles. TPU 3D printing can produce parts like seals, gaskets, plugs, tubes, and more. 

  • Protective covers – Aerospace and other manufacturers who make extremely high-value parts generally want to protect those parts. The impact resistance and shock absorption properties of TPU can help protect those parts with custom covers.

Where to get TPU Parts

For proper commercial flexible printing, it’s recommended to utilize a commercial print service like RapidMade. RapidMade has experience with an array of 3D print filaments and materials. With in-house TPU and rubber printing, RapidMade services the medical, automotive, and industrial industries nationwide.

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