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3D Printing Ideas With Flexible Filaments

3D Printing Ideas With Flexible Filaments

The selection of the right quality filaments plays a crucial role in providing intricate details and an overall master look to your products. The ease of use with these flexible filaments has provided a different approach to businesses in practical applications. 

There is a wide variety of 3D filaments in the marketplace, such as TPU, TPA, TPC, and PLA, each with its multiple features. You can determine the flexibility of the filament based on its elasticity. Let's get into details and understand flexible filaments.

What are flexible filaments in 3D printing?

To make 3D filaments: most rubbers are thermoset by a process known as vulcanization. The process makes rubber solid and enables it to make a final shape. The shape cannot be changed as it's heated down and then cooled down to construct it. 

Hence, rubber cannot become fluid again and reformed into something new, which makes it difficult to 3D print. Natural (Hard) filaments such as latex cannot be liquified or solidified due to the requirement of 3D printers. Hence flexible filaments are made to ensure greater flexibility.

If you combine plastic polymers with rubber polymers, you'll get Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE). Using the same materials, you can make Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), Polyester Copolyamide Thermoplastic Elastomer (PCTPE), or some soft PLA. 

Each of these materials helps to create flexible filaments and has different properties like shore hardness or elasticity, depending on the spool of the 3D printer. To create an object using flexible filaments, you first have to identify the basic requirements of that object. Not every filament can make every other object: PLA will make an awful sole for a shoe.

If you use flexible filaments and drop them over a thousand times, it won't break, but you don't want to make a whole shelf out of it. So flexible filaments are commonly used in gaskets or bumpers. Let's now get into basics to know shore hardness and elasticity of filaments.

Some Basics of Flexible 3D filaments 

1. Shore Hardness

Shore hardness is a way to measure the hardness of a material to ensure greater flexibility of the filament. According to the measurement, the material ranges from very soft to various degrees to very hard, depending on its flexibility.

The shore hardness of flexible filaments usually ranges from 75A to 85A at 100% infill, but you can also see ranges from 92A to 98A as well. 

The material will become harder with an increase in the range. Hence filament capabilities can play a vital part in deciding which filament is more appropriate to use.

3. Retraction

Retraction often causes tension between the filaments, when pulling back from the hot end. The tension can cause the material to extend and elasticate, which will affect the diameter of the filaments, causing troubleshooting issues. 

To avoid clogs, you can adjust your retraction settings by lowering them, while printing materials. You can turn off the retraction settings in the slicer to avoid these common issues.

3. Bowden and Direct Drive Systems

It is essential to use a printer's extrusion mechanism or system for 3D printing. Most people use the Bowden system to push filament in the hot end, but to print flexible materials, a direct drive system will be much more effective.

However, it depends upon the type of printer you are using. If you have an old printer, then a direct drive system will be more appropriate.

Requirements for Flexible Filaments

If you working with flexible filaments, then please take the following recommendations to help you assist better with 3D printing techniques.

  1. Hot End Temperature: 210-240 °C. You can also use the temperature provided by the filament manufacturers as each filament has its specific requirements.
  1. Bed Temperature:  0-60 °C. use the temperature provided by the filament manufacturers as each filament has its specific requirements.
  1. Printers Speed: Set your printer speed at 5 to 30mm per second. Low printing speed will ensure better quality results. All intricate details will be added to the product.
  1. Retraction: lower your retraction settings to 3mm-20mm per second or adjust it accordingly if it's too high. Its generally recommended to turn off your retraction settings.
  1. Fan speed: For cooling the heated objects, your minimum fan speed should be 20-60% for the first three layers.
  2. Extrusion System: Direct drive for older 3D printers will be much more appropriate.

Now that we know about flexible filaments, we can have a look at the best 3D printing models, and how to print them effectively. Some of the best models are highlighted below.

Best 3D Models to make from Flexible Filaments

1. Watch Strap

If you got your watch strap broken or you want a new design, you can easily print another one. You can adjust the watch strap by customizing it from the Thingiverse Customizer application and adjusting the size and length of your wrist.

The designer suggests multiple types of filaments that you can print easily, such as Ninjaflex, Fifaflex, and Taulman 3D. You can check out the designer's instructions on using these filaments as each of them has its specifications. 
Some prints are really popular and take 15 to 20mins to make them. You can also make bracelets that require only 2 grams of filaments. The designer is laird Popkins and you can check his more designs on Thingiverse.

2. Sneakers

Designers like Recreus recommended the Filaflex 82A filaments to print sneaker designs. The infill can be adjusted to 25% with a printer speed of 90mm per second.

The sneakers will take at least 23 hours to print, depending on whatever type of printer you use. The designs come in several sizes or you can create your own by modeling yourself. You can find more designs on Thingiverse related to it. There are multiple recorded makes for the sneakers with 3 remixes.

3. Amazing Wallets

The customizable wallets are great to put your credit cards and other valuable resources. There are two sizes offered for it: Full and mini ones.

When printing these wallets, the creator recommends printing at a lower speed of 40mm per second to add fine and intricate details to them. The creator, Frank Lumein, recommends limiting your slicer by one perimeter so that the slots are not made tight. 

This is one of the most popular wallets in demand, with over 800 downloads and 10,000 views worldwide.

4. iPhone Bumper Case

No matter how much you try to protect your phone from damage, you always get scratches on your phone's screen. But now you can make your cases by customizing or molding them to your liking.

The creator, Adafruit has recommended using NinjaFlex filament with a hardness of 85A.

The model has over 270 downloads with more than 6500 views worldwide.

5. AirPods and Cases of Apple watches

Matching cases for your apple watches and AirPods is an amazing combination. The AirPods consist of two parts: one for the body and the top. Apple watch case is simple to make so it does not require any other parts in making it.
The creator, AaedMusa has recommended using TPU filament. The watch case will take exactly 40 minutes to print. The model is quite popular with over 1000 downloads and 10,000 views worldwide. You can find more samples at my mini factory.

conclusion

A lot of products can be created using multiple flexible filaments and each comes with its specific recommendations. 3D printing has made it quite easy to print day-to-day resources but to print them effectively requires careful consideration.

To print multiple designs. Check out Thingiverse for amazing samples that will guide you to make your required objects. 

Happy Printing!

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