TPE filaments are a great 3D printing material because it is very flexible that’s why it’s sometimes called flexible filament. The 3D printing outputs you produce using TPE material will be flexible while remaining strong and durable.
3D printing is exciting especially when you are starting to use new materials for your prints. Have you tried using flexible filaments for 3D printing? One of these flexible and rubber-like materials is the TPE filament.
The TPE material is among the top varieties of elastic and durable 3D printing material in the market. It is versatile, thanks to its rubber-like properties, so you can use it for a wide range of applications. This material is more available in the market, and softer, too, compared to other flexible filament 3D printer materials.
If all these are new to you, don’t worry. You will learn more about TPE 3D printing filament as you read along. So, let’s get started with the basics.
What is TPE Filament?
TPE 3D printer filament is a popular flexible filament. It is made up of ThermoPlastic Elastomer. It is a favorite material when it comes to 3D printing flexible materials. It is a kind of plastic which has similar qualities to that of rubber. Once you start using TPE 3D printing filament for 3D printing, you will notice that your prints are elastic.
With these elastic prints, you can even stretch them up to double their length and they will easily go back to their original form. And this you can do without damaging your prints. Apart from the elasticity, the prints are soft. The shore hardness of prints made from TPE material is 85A.
TPE rubber-based filaments are very helpful for anything that needs impact, or vibration resistance. Its non-slip properties are also great if you want to 3D print non slip rubber pad or anti-slip shower mats.
As you may already know by now, when it comes to working with flexible 3D filaments, it can be challenging. However, this depends greatly on the type of extruder which you are using in 3D printing your design.
Usual Challenges You’ll Encounter with TPE Filament
No one can deny the fact that TPE filaments along with other flexible filaments like TPU are very useful. But as you would expect from any new technology, there can be a few hiccups. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges you will encounter with this material.
1. Feeding the TPE Filament to the Extruder
A TPE 3D printer filament is softer than regular 3D printing filaments. You may find it challenging to feed TPE filaments into the extruder because the risk of them getting stuck and deformed is quite high. As a consequence, you may experience jams.
To be able to feed the filament successfully from your drive gear towards the hot end, you will need to have a direct path for the filament. You may not have encountered this issue with other filaments before because they are stiff.
Buckling of the Material
Because of the nature of a flexible TPE filament, the nozzle’s pressure may, at times, cause the filament to buckle while it is being pushed through the extruder. The usual cause for this is when you print too fast. Also, it may be possible that the pathway may not be narrow and tight. This may cause jams in the process.
Getting the Material to Stick
When 3D printing with TPE filaments, you may discover that it is quite challenging for it to stick to the build plate. To be able to get good adhesion to the heated bed as well as to avoid any shrinkage, try adjusting the temperature of the print bed.
It could be that the cause of unsuccessful adhesion is incorrect leveling or print beds that are not at the right temperature. So, try to adjust the temperature and see if there are any improvements to the adhesion.
When there is a build-up of pressure in your extruder, you can expect that some extra filaments will be oozing out. This will create a print that is stringy or messy. There are several factors that can cause this. It can be retraction settings, speed, or temperature.
Tips for 3D Printing TPE Filaments Successfully
Now that you are aware of the challenges of 3D printing with flexible filaments, let us share with you some useful tips on how you can get good prints with TPE filaments.
Don’t Speed Up the Printing
Generally, it is recommended that you set the speed at 30mm to 40mm per second when printing with TPE and other flexible filaments. This is so that you can get the best timing as well as print quality. If in case you will be using Flexifil, the speed recommended is 10mm to 20mm per second.
You can set your print speed to 5mm per second to make sure that your prints are precise. Yes, it can be very slow but this will ensure you that you have better chances of getting the perfect print that you want to have.
Also, the benefit of slow print speed is that you can avoid creating too much pressure on your extruder. Remember, too much pressure on the extruder will make prints that are stringy and messy.
Try Using a Direct Drive Extruder
It can really be a hassle when your filament jams the extruder. To avoid this from happening, you can lessen the space between the nozzle and the cold end. You can do this by using a direct drive extruder.
Keep in mind though that it is not recommended to use Bowden extruders for printing with TPE materials or other flexible filaments. You may still use it but you will surely find it a bit more challenging.
Keep the Extruder Temperature Hot Enough
When your extruder is hot enough, the filament will be able to flow a lot easier through the nozzle. However, there is a downside to this. If the extruder is too hot, there can be a lot of oozing. The prints can turn out uneven or stringy.
To get the best print, you will have to make adjustments to your printer so that you will know which settings are the most appropriate for a flexible TPE filament. At this point, don’t be afraid to try out several settings until you find the right one.
Adjusting the Retraction Settings
Retraction may be able to lessen the hot end’s pressure. Also, it will be able to stop the filament from being moved towards the nozzle when your extruder is not printing. Adjustments can be made to your retractions settings.
The adjustments may depend on the issues that you are having. For example, if the extruder clogs, you can lower the retraction. There are others who have successfully printed their designs at zero retraction.
What you can do is to find the least amount of retraction that is necessary so that there are fewer issues with your prints being stringy. If you observe that extra material comes out from the nozzle, you can try increasing the retraction speed or distance.
Adjusting the Temperature of the Hot Bed
The temperature settings of your hotbed depend on the material you are using as well as the kind of printer that you have. The usual recommendation for the temperature is 40°C to 50°C. But to get even better prints, do check the filament guide of the brand of TPE 3D printer filament you have selected before you start 3D printing.
Pros & Cons
Best TPE Filament Brands
If you’re all excited to try 3D printing with TPE, here are some of the best brands in the market that you can try. They are widely available in many stores online. Let’s take a closer look at their features.
1. NinjaFlex TPE Filament
NinjaFlex is among the top TPE 3D printer filament brands that produce flexible filaments like TPE. It is also one of the easiest to use. You will find that you won’t have a lot of issues when it comes to feeding the filament to the printer.
You can print many designs with NinjaFlex including watch bands, phone cases, as well as shoes. You can print designs that need to be flexible while remaining strong. This is one of the TPE filament brands that you should definitely try.
2. Robotjoy Flex 3D TPE Filament
Robotjoy Flex is a product of the USA. If you are looking for a US brand, in particular, this is it. This material is great for printing 3D parts that need to bend while maintaining its durability thanks to its rubber like properties. This TPE 3D printer filament brand is compatible with most 3D printers.
Robotjoy Flex is better compared to the typical filaments such as PLA. This is because it is flexible and excellent for prints that have to be soft while remaining strong. You can bend it and twist it and it won’t have any permanent damage on the print.
3. eSUN Elastic TPE Flexible Filament
eSun has satisfied plenty of customers with the quality of their filaments. The prints you will get from eSun will be elastic and very flexible. Its shore hardness is at 85 while its tensile strength is at 30 MPa.
When 3D printing with eSun TPE filaments, you have to keep in mind that since the filament is soft, you will need to be careful in printing to make sure that the process runs smoothly. It is recommended that you print slowly at 20mm per second.
With the development of new materials, 3D printing becomes more exciting. If it is your first time to use TPE filament, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As we’ve shared in the challenges of printing with this material, you may need to have several tries before you get the right settings.