Flexible Filaments

Flexible Filaments - Use Cases

Extra durability

If the objects you are printing in PLA break or warp over use, and you don’t want to deal with the troubles of ABS, TPU may be the solution. TPU’s elongation qualities mean objects can take impacts without cracking as easily as PLA; edges and details can move and flex instead of being chipped off. Depending on your specific use case, a flexible filament may be your go to option to make your prints stronger without breaking the bank. Filaments such as PCTPE by Taulman or DSM’s Arnitel ID 2045 have flexible properties whilst also having additional strength and resistance qualities associated with tough engineering materials. 

Variable Tolerances

If you are printing a joining part, an object which fits into another, but the tolerances between the objects is too tight to fit together or there is too much friction, printing in a flexible material can solve the issue. Connecting gaps can stretch wider, keeping a tight but working joint. If you designed a model to fit over existing objects which have a slight variation of tolerance from part to part, a flexible material would help to ensure your printed part can consistently fit over the object.  

Flexible gradient

The main deciding factor on how flexible a filament is its shore hardness. NinjaTek’s Chinchilla 75A is very soft and flexible, Armadillo 75D is much more rigid, with Fillamentum’s Flexfill 98A Roughly in the middle of the two. Depending on the slicer you use, you can customise and tune how flexible or rigid your printed part will be; Adding additional walls, solid layers, or increasing the shell count and infill will make the part more rigid and less soft. Flexible materials are often used for prosthetics, insoles and footwear accessories due to their shock absorbing and vibration suppressing properties. 

Printing with Flexibles

Your ease of printing with flexible filaments can vary depending on your set up. Getting the filament to feed into the machine can be very difficult for machines with a Bowden set up, a direct drive is much more consistent at feeding the filament into the extruder. The filament can jam and clog the extruder due to its nature to flex and contort, although this typically happens very rarely, and can be alleviated by printing at a slower speed (See our blog on nozzle blockages for more information).  Post processing can be difficult with TPU due to its abrasion and chemical resistance. 

In summary, flexible filaments are best printed at slower than average speeds, on machines with a direct drive feeding system. The recommended print temperature varies between products, but will typically range between 220°C and 245°C. Most slicers have a default profile for flexible or TPU filaments – If not, go for a PLA profile and make the changes recommended above. You may want to print something small, preferably using a file you know prints well, and tweak your settings based on the finish of the printed part. 

If you are encountering issues with your printing and unsure how to solve them, feel free to get in touch with us – send us an email at enquiries@3dfilaprint.com, phone us on 01702 611027, or message us on our websites’ live chat system. If you are curious about what flexible filaments we offer, you can see our full range here

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