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What is TPU: Everything you need to know about this flexible materials

Introduction

Additive manufacturing is now offering an extensive catalog of 3D printing materials, allowing new possibilities in terms of applications. Even the most technical applications can now make the most of additive manufacturing. Today, we will focus on an impressive flexible 3D printing material: TPU.

What is the material, and how can we use it for additive manufacturing? What are the applications, and which opportunities can TPU offer your business? Let’s see how Sculpteo’s 3D printing service can provide you with some great possibilities to 3D print flexible parts.

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What is TPU material?

TPU stands for Thermoplastic Polyurethane, an engineering polymer material with superior performance. The particularities of this material are its resistance and flexibility (Shore A 88). Thanks to the unique properties of this material, this thermoplastic offers a lot of different possibilities for designers, engineers, and manufacturers. 

This material is made to meet industry-specific quality standards. Our flexible TPU offers versatility and great mechanical properties. You will be able to manufacture strong and durable performance parts, combined with excellent surface quality and level of detail using a thermoplastic elastomer material.

This Thermoplastic Polyurethane material can be used for many different applications, and its unique characteristics make it a perfect fit for serial production. All parts requiring a rubber-like elasticity or flexible lattices can easily be 3D printed with this material.

Do you need material with high flexibility? Is your project requiring rubber-like properties or shock absorption and rebound abilities? With its 63% rebound resilience, this 3D printing material might surprise you.

3D printing TPU : A material offering endless possibilities

What are the advantages of 3D printing TPU?

Combining the advantages of 3D printing and TPU can open up new opportunities for your business. Implement flexibility in both your manufacturing process and your products. 

  • Create flexible prototypes

Additive manufacturing is an efficient prototyping method. You need to create a 3D model of your project to get it 3D printed. No molding is required! This technique is perfect for developing different iterations of the same product.  

Additive Manufacturing is fast and produces your prototypes in no time. That’s an obvious advantage while running a business and developing a project. Time is money, especially when it comes to prototyping. The faster you can test new design solutions, the quicker you can adjust your design and move on to the manufacturing process of your final product. Thanks to advanced materials such as TPU, you can give your prototypes new properties and create solid functional prototypes.

  • Production

3D printing is a cost-effective technique if you are willing to manufacture small volumes, but serial production has become more appealing with this cutting-edge technology. With the development of new technical materials such as TPU, production is becoming one of the main applications of additive manufacturing. 

Producing your projects using 3D printing is a way to rethink your supply chain. Your flexible parts can be produced on-demand, and you can quickly start to make the most of a digital inventory. No need to store your adjustable amount anymore, additive manufacturing allows you to choose precisely the size of your batch. You can get one or several parts when you need them.  

  • Mass customization

While using additive manufacturing, mass customization becomes an easy process. Indeed, if customization can be difficult and expensive while using manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, it is becoming easy and cost-effective with 3D printing technology. 

Creating adapted products is the key in some sectors. 3D printing TPU will be the perfect solution if you need made-to-measure flexible parts. Offering custom-made products and a custom-made experience to your clients will be a competitive advantage for your business.

  • Freedom of design

3D printing is the perfect manufacturing technique to benefit from great design freedom. Creating complex geometries and intricate designs impossible to manufacture with traditional manufacturing techniques is a significant advantage. Creating an attractive structural design allows parts to be 3D printed for various applications, from automotive to footwear industries. With TPU, 3D printing helps get parts with varying flexibility, depending on the different zones and thicknesses. It allows manufacturing lighter parts that can easily be integrated with environments where this criterion is at stake, like automotive or aeronautics. 

TPU is also ideal for creating complex and flexible lattice structures, which can be used to develop shoe parts such as orthopedic midsoles! These exciting structures can also be used to reduce the weight of your products, which is essential in various sectors.

High Performance materials

Using an online 3D printing service to manufacture TPU parts

Implementing 3D printing in an existing process is not that easy, and professional 3D printers are expensive and require experienced operators to get quality parts. At Sculpteo, we specialize in industrial Additive Manufacturing to scale your production. Do you want to give TPU a try? Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service offers the opportunity to get your parts 3D printed using TPU: 

 

  • Ultrasint® TPU01: With this material developed by BASF, TPU parts are grey, and 3D printed using Multi Jet Fusion technology. This TPU developed by HP delivers a high rebound, low compression set, good fatigue behavior, and fits perfectly for serial production. The maximum size of your object will be 300 x 300 x 300 mm, and the minimum wall thickness required is 0.8mm.
 
  • Ultrasint® TPU 88A:  With this material, TPU parts are white, and 3D printed using Selective Laser Sintering technology. This SLS option offer a good resilience after deformation and a high UV stability, this SLS TPU offers numerous advantages for your projects requiring an elastomeric material. The maximum size of your object will be 274x 270 x 300 mm, and the minimum wall thickness required is 0.8mm.

Before sending your 3D model for 3D printing, check the material guide of these TPUs and respect their design guidelines. This way, you will ensure the success of your 3D printing experience and get the best result possible.

Get your 3D printed TPU parts in a few days using our online professional service. Don’t hesitate to contact our sales team for more information about this material or our other offers. Our 3D printing experts help you develop your 3D printing opportunities and take your business to the next level!

What are the applications of 3D printed TPU?

Thanks to its resistance and flexibility, TPU material can be used for diverse applications. You can easily create innovative structures and achieve exciting results. This plastic material offers durable, strong, and flexible parts. TPU is a perfect 3D printing material if you need to produce parts requiring shock absorption, high elasticity, and energy return. 

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Automotive sector

Many interesting high-performance 3D materials arrived on the 3D printing market these last years: they offer new properties usually attributed to injection molding. These new materials now meet the requirements of demanding industries such as the automotive sector. With its flexibility, TPU 3D printing material can also be used in the automotive industry to create car interior components, but also air filter covers, bellows gimbal, or any flexible and resistant parts needed in the development of a car. 

Industrial uses

TPU is a strong and abrasion-resistant plastic material and can be 3D printed to create industrial tools or pipes, for example. It also offers high friction possibilities, allowing 3D print grippers. All these advantages can be used for robotic or industrial uses. Even if they are flexible, these TPU 3D printed parts have excellent resistance to impact, stress, and fatigue.

You could need to 3D print flexible parts to connect to parts. Indeed, you could undoubtedly glue your components but designing loose 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 to connect two parts. See how you could create these design features by yourself!

Footwear

Thanks to its quality, high flexibility, shock absorption, and rebound, our TPU can be used to manufacture footwear and orthopedic models. A running shoe can also be partially created with 3D printing technology. The midsoles of running shoes are particularly suitable for 3D printing. 

Big shoe manufacturers are using additive manufacturing. Brands like Adidas, Nike, New Balance, and Under Armor have already printed sneakers. This process is particularly interesting for customization. That is why it can also be ideal for developing made-to-measure orthopedic midsoles!

Sports equipment and protections

Additive manufacturing is more and more present in the sports environment. The main reason for that is obviously: mass customization. Indeed, 3D printing technology is perfect for creating customized items that benefit athletes. 

They need the best equipment to focus on their performances and give the best of themselves. Protections and midsoles can perfectly adapt to their morphology and ensure the best protection possible.

  

 

Fashion projects

The fashion sector is also making the most of the advantages of additive manufacturing and advanced materials such as TPU. Clothes can be 3D printed using this flexible thermoplastic to respond to the body’s movements. 

Moreover, 3D printing is an excellent way to give life to objects with really complex designs and make them as wearable as traditional garments. Moreover, our TPU material is ok for skin contact.

Are you ready for your 3D printing journey with TPU? Do you want to discuss your 3D printing project with our 3D printing experts? Start identifying your 3D printing opportunities right now and make the most of additive manufacturing by contacting our sales team

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