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3D printing flexible materials: Here are our best tips!

Introduction

Are you looking for a way to manufacture flexible objects? Do you that you can use additive manufacturing technology for these projects? By using 3D printing you will have several possibilities to create your flexible parts. Are you looking for rubber-like material? Or a part slightly flexible? Is this object meant to resist to stress?  Yes, you might not know it, but 3D printing is already offering great possibilities when it comes to flexibility.

Sculpteo’s 3D printing service is offering you some great possibilities to 3D print flexible parts, let’s see what kind of 3D printing material you could use, and some examples of projects you could create using them. Let’s 3D print flexible materials!

What are your possibilities when it comes to flexible 3D printing?

Ultrasint® TPU01

Ultrasint® TPU01 is an elastomer, a flexible material belonging to the thermoplastic polyurethane family, and has been developed for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology. This material presents a very high elasticity, characterized by an elongation at break of over 260%. Along with this flexibility, Ultrasint® TPU01 is a strong, durable material offering great rebound and shock absorption capabilities.
Thanks to these properties, this high-performance material has much to offer to final part production projects: Ultrasint® TPU01 can indeed be utilized along with lattices to design light sports equipment, footwear, and orthopedic soles, but can also be used for other applications such as car interior component or tool manufacturing.

Other than its performance, Ultrasint® TPU01 combines a great surface quality and a potential for advanced finishings. The raw material is grey and can undergo chemical smoothing to get a shiny black finished look. 

Parts printed with Ultrasint® TPU01 should be provided with a 0.8 mm minimum wall thickness. 

via GIPHY

 

Ultrasint® TPU 88A

Ultrasint® TPU 88A is, just like Ultrasint® TPU01, a thermoplastic polyurethane presenting similar fatigue resistance, flexibility, energy return, and shock absorption capabilities. Designed for SLS 3D printing technologies, this elastomer shows a high UV resistance and resilience after deformation.

Unlike its Multi Jet Fusion counterpart, Ultrasint® TPU 88A parts come out white and can be post-processed with chemical smoothing to get a slightly translucent finished look. Parts produced with Ultrasint® TPU 88A should also have a 0.8 mm minimum wall thickness.

 

TPU88A

PEBA

What is PEBA material? PEBA is a plastic material, but a little bit different than hard plastic materials we are used to working with in the additive manufacturing industry. Indeed, it is a rubber-like material, it is flexible but also quite resistant, which makes it quite an interesting material. It can totally resist to stress and fatigue. PEBA 2301 is great for both experienced professionals and beginning designers because of its high precision and low cost. Unpolished, the material is white, granular, and somewhat porous.

PEBA (11)

Elastomeric Polyurethane

Elastomeric Polyurethane, also referred to as EPU, is a high-performance polyurethane elastomer. Developed for CLIP DLS processes, what makes this material stand out is its great elasticity under cyclic tensile, compressive loads, and under wide-ranging temperatures.
The stretchability and durability of EPU make it a perfect fit for applications in which tear and impact resistance are needed. Examples of applications for this resin are gaskets, grommets, cushioning, and flexible watertight seals. This material comes out black, with a rubbery touch, and can be polished in order to get all supports or eventual bumps removed. The minimum wall thickness EPU parts are to be provided with is 1mm with supports or 2.5mm without supports.

 

Flexible Filament

Using a desktop 3D printer, you could also use a flexible filament in order to manufacture your parts. 3D printing with flexible filaments using the FDM technology could be a solution for you to make some rapid prototyping.  

 

What can 3D printing flexible materials can be used for?

3D printed joints and snap fits

You could need to 3D print flexible part in order to connect to parts. Indeed, you could certainly glue your components but designing flexible parts will help you reduce your assembly time.

Do you want to create 3D printed joints? Follow our tutorial to learn how to make 3D printed joints and snap fits in order to connect two parts. See how you could create these design features by yourself!

As the MultiJet Fusion PA12 material is both strong and flexible, our professional designers chose it to create several joints and snap fits possibilities.

3D printed clothes and shoes

A 3D printing material like PEBA can be used by the fashion industry for example. Most of the time, designers 3D printing clothes are using flexible materials to get parts responding to the movements of the body.

For example, this following dress is made by the American designer Travis Fitch, with at least 30 different sections. It has been 3D printed using a flexible colorful multi-material.

Stratasys_20160913-5530_retouch-682x10241

A few years ago, at Sculpteo, we 3D printed a clothes collection with the designer Anastasia Ruiz, the “Virus Collection”. More than flexible materials, in order to get wearable clothes, you will need to get specific designs for your 3D models in order to create innovative articulations and this Virus collection is actually showing it quite well.

Here is another example of the use of flexible materials in the fashion industry: The famous shoemaker Adidas is also using 3D printing to create soles for the Futurecraft 3D, a pair of running shoes. For this 3D printed sole project, they had to use flexible material, as a shoe sole has to be a little rigid, but still a little bit flexible, as it has to be wearable.

virus collection fashion 3d printing

virus collection fashion 3d printing

3D Printed footwear & sports equipment

High-performance flexible 3D Printing materials such as Ultrasint® TPU 88A and Ultrasint® TPU 01 offer new perspectives to sports equipment manufacturing. Indeed, the bedrock requirements for such projects combine high-durability and light weight. In that regard, These two materials have no match. Their shock absorption and energy return properties live up to the damping standards for shinguards, helmets, shoes, and much more, while lattice designs open up lighter equipment production possibilities.

Have you already used 3D printing flexible materials? What are your thoughts about it? Share your experiences with us in the comments! If you want to start and create your project using flexible parts. Tell us if you prefer to use 3D printing filaments or professional 3D printing technology such as SLS or MultiJet Fusion. Don’t hesitate and start to upload your 3D files on our 3D printing service right now!

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