TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) is a flexible yet durable material that is ideal for many diverse applications. It is very water-resistant, cold-resistant, oil and grease-resistant, and also has a high degree of UV resistance, making it a good choice for outdoor applications that require flexible material. It is not prone to warping during the printing process or over time.
TPU is often used to create automotive and industry parts such as bellows, tubes, seals, and gaskets. It also sees more ordinary use in the creationof parts that need elastomeric properties such as shoe soles, tool handles, and protective sports gear. It is a great choice for helmet cushioning, especially given the customizability allowed by 3D printing. Many uses of foam can be replaced by TPU, which is a much more durable option.
Because it is non-toxic, TPU also sees use in the biomedical field. It is, however, not food safe, as its isocyanates content can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.
TPU filament is relatively easy to use for 3D printing, especially when it comes to flexible materials. It retains its elastic properties at lower temperatures meaning that it does not have to be heated to a very high temperature compared to some materials. TPU’s flexibility means that it does not curl or delaminate as it is printed.
The challenge of printing TPU is found in its flexibility, as well. This can cause it to be difficult to control sudden changes in print speed, which is why it is necessary to set the printer up properly and monitor the printing process.
Common Uses for TPU
- Automotive and industrial seals, gaskets, tubes, and other flexible parts
- Inflatable rafts
- Helmet liners
- Shoe soles
- Phone cases
- Cable ties