TPE material is a class of copolymer also known as thermoplastic rubber. It has a mix of thermoplastic and elastomeric properties.
In this reference guide, we discuss the TPE material properties for 3D printing to make some awesome parts that can withstand slip, vibration, and impact.
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) is a flexible material and it can be used in applications where rubber-like properties are required. As 3D printing technology improves, the TPE material is becoming much more practical to the additive manufacturing industry to make elastic parts.
These parts combine the advantages of rubber recyclability and the processing advantages of plastics.
TPE material has good tensile and tear strength, and it exhibits elasticity similar to cross-linked rubber. Their hardness and softness rating is based on the Shore durometer scale.
New uses for TPE are being developed all the time, and it’s gaining popularity as the material of choice for applications in medical, packaging, personal products, electrical, automotive, and many more.
TPE Material Properties
- Tensile strength – 500 – 2500 psi
- Elongation – 600% max
- Temperature range – -30 F – 250 F
Areas Of Strength
- Recycleable with plastic advantages
- Abrasion resistance
- Tear resistance
- Solvent resistance
- Ozone resistance
- Chemical resisteance
- Elastic and flexible
- Slip & shock resistance
- Can be rigid and also flexible
- Can be sterilized
Areas Of Weakness
- High cost
- Tend to deform under sustained pressure load & temperature
- Post cure metling if due to high temperature
Types Of TPE
There are 5 important TPEs as styrenic block copolymers:
- TPU – Much lower priced thermoplastic elastomer
Don’t get confused TPE with TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane).
TPU is a type of TPE, and the only difference between TPU and TPE is the spec range of elastic thermoplastics.
To avoid confusion, anything rated at 90A hardness or below is classified as TPE even if the material is TPU based.
Common Applications For TPE
- Seal rings
- Bottle cap liner
- Wire & cable coating
- Baby spoon
- Toddler cup spouts
- Conveyor belt
Which 3D Printers Can Print TPE
Please make sure your 3D printer has the following capability & settings:
- Nozzle temperature up to 190-250 °C
- Bed temperature – Unheated-70 °C
- Print speed around 5 – 50 mm/s
- Print bed – Painter’s tape, glue stick
- Disable retraction when printign TPE
Best TPE Filament Material To Buy
Please check out the following:
ColorFabb VarioShore TPU
- Nozzle temperature: 200-250 °C
- Bed temperature: 20 – 40 °C
- Printing speed: 20-30 mm/s
- Flow: 60 – 100%
- Price: ~$55 for a 700-g spool
- Nozzle temperature: 210-240 °C
- Printing Speed: 20-110 mm/s
- Nozzle temperature: 230-260 °C
- Bed temperature: 60-70 °C
- Printing Speed: 10-35 mm/s
- Price: ~$55 for a 500-g spool
Best Practices Using TPE Materials In 3D Printing
Find Non Mositure Storage
- TPE is hygroscopic, it means it absorbs moisture from the air and it will degrade the filament. So please store the material in a low humidity environment using airtight container and desiccant packs
- Disable retraction to avoid TPE’s tendency to stretch and compress
- Avoid using rafts and use negative tolerance between parts to ensure flexible part has to room to stretch and have a tight fit
- Avoid gap between extruder drive gear and theentry hole of the hot end to prevent buckle (TPE tends to buckle or squeeze through gaps in the filament path)
- Ensure tight tolerance along filament’s pathway to prevent coiling
- Mount filament pool aboe the printer so it feeds downward without resistance
Store Nylon Filament With Care
- Do not expose nlyon filament spool to air for a very long time because the material absorbs moisture from the environment (Will result in foggy rough finish & tiny voids in print)
- Remove spool from the printer once the tasks in completed, and please store it in a air tight container with some desiccants to remove moisture within
- Get some storage containers to keep the filament dry
Slow Down The Print Speed
- Slow the print speed around 35mm / second or less will deliver the best result and don’t se the bed temperature above 60 degrees Celsius to prevent poor bed adhesion