TPU Filament

TPE, TPU, TPC (Elastic Filament)

Articles printed with elastic threads


What is TPE Filament?

A lot of newbies are asking what is TPE Filament and its properties. Here we will explain in detail and as simply as possible to be clear for everyone.

“Soft and stretchable, TPE filaments can withstand physical stresses that neither ABS nor PLA can.”

As the name implies, thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are basically plastics that have the properties of rubber, which makes them extremely flexible and durable. Thus, TPE is commonly used for automotive parts, household appliances, and medical supplies. More about this filament on Wikipedia

Actually, TPE is a broad class of copolymers (and polymer blends), but nevertheless, it is used to label many commercially available filament types for 3D printers. Soft and stretchable, these filaments can withstand physical stresses that neither ABS nor PLA can. On the other hand, printing is not always easy because TPE can be difficult to extrude.

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a special kind of TPE and is itself a popular filament for 3D printers. Compared to regular TPE, TPU is slightly stiffer, which makes it easier to print. It is also a little more durable and can retain its elasticity better in the cold.

Thermoplastic copolyester (TPC) is another kind of TPE, although not as widely used as TPU. Similar in most cases to TPE, the main advantage of TPC is its higher resistance to chemical and ultraviolet exposure, as well as to heat (up to 150 ° C).

Properties of filaments for 3D printer: TPE, TPU, TPC (Flexible, Elastic)

  • Strength: Medium | Flexibility: very high | Durability: very high;
  • difficulty of use: medium (TPE, TPC); low (TPU);
  • printing temperature: 210 °C – 230 °C;
  • printing layer temperature: 30 °C – 60 °C (but not required);
  • shrinkage/strain: minimal;
  • soluble: none;
  • Food safety: not safe.

When should TPE, TPU, or TPC filaments be used?

Use TPE or TPU when creating objects that require a significant resource. If your 3D printed part will bend, stretch, or compress, these filaments for the 3D printer must be ready for the task. Examples of prints might include toys, phone cases, or wearable accessories (such as bracelets). TPC can be used for similar applications but works especially well in harsher environments such as the outdoors.

Summary of 3D printer filaments TPE, TPU, TPC

Pros: extremely flexible, perfect for parts that bend or wrinkle.
Cons: difficult to print, requires narrow thread paths and slow print speeds.