3D printing flexible filament
3D printing is an amazing technology that has allowed us to create many great objects, from detailed models of figurines to prototype parts for manufacturing. Moving forward from rigid models many companies have developed a filament for 3D printing that is flexible!
The Printability of a flexible filament is the number one thing you want to look at first, as this will determine whether it is worth investing in the long run. During the printing process there are a few things that you need to keep in mind – Flexible filaments will be 90% difficult to print with the first time round. If you find yourself not being able to print with flexible filament, don’t write it off as a difficult material straight away. Have a look through this check list before deciding:
Correct Settings – Unfortunately due to the elasticity of flexible filaments you will need to turn your print speed down. You may also need to feed the filament “spool-less” to allow for the least amount of resistance when being extruded.
Correct platform – Some flexible filaments need a special platform or a specific type of material to allow the filament to stick to the platform. If you’re unsure, check with the manufacturer of the filament.
Correct temperature – With all 3D printing filaments, it’s best to check with the manufacturer for the optimal temperature for their filament. There’s nothing worst than printing at the wrong temperature and having to clean the printhead every 2 minutes!
Support – Standard material have removable support but when it comes to special materials you may need to print without support.
The finish and level of detail on a model, say between 0.1 mm and 0.25mm per layer, could be the difference of a 1 hour and 5 minutes print job to one that takes 3 hours and 15 minutes. To save you having to reprint a model multiple times, run a quick test print with the different settings prior to committing to your project. Print something like a small 20mm cube can help with fine-tuning print settings and can be used as a reference guide.
Once you’ve finished printing your epic print and go to use it as what it was intended for, you may find that sometimes it’s not exactly what you expect. With flexible filament, this is definitely one of those cases. When looking for a filament best fit for an application, look for one that has been tested using a shore durometer test, this will allow for a real world comparison as to how flexible/strong the filament is.
Opinion: This filament was a good diameter at 1.75mm which was consistent but the filament had would not stick to anything other than the adhesive sheets that come from the manufacturer.The filament also didn’t print with support very well
Opinion: This filament had consistent diameters of 1.7mm, filament was easy to print with, I was able to print with support and the raft removed easily.
Opinion: This filament had a good diameter at 1.7mm which was consistent but the model needs to be printed raftless.
Flex Force TPU
Opinion: This filament had inconsistent diameters with values ranging from 1.3-1.6mm which made for a very inconsistent print. The filament also didn’t print with support very well
Opinion: This filament had a consistent diameters with 1.4mm which made for a very inconsistent print. The filament also didn’t print with support very well
Overall, I believe after taking into consideration the printablitiy, usability and the quality that the best one to use as an all-rounder filament is ….