What is TPE filament?

TPE stands for ThermoPlastic Elastomers and it describes a class of polymers that are flexible. For 3D printing, filaments are generally divided between TPE and TPU, where TPU is less flexible. Because the definition is not widely used in the same manner, it is best to look at the Shore Hardness for information on the actual elasticity and hardness. Using TPE filament you can 3D print flexible objects. With the really rubber like materials you can print wheels for RC cars for example, while the semi-flexible 3D print filament is great for shock absorbers.

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Main properties of 3D prints made in TPE

Finish: Matt
Color: Translucent, but available in many colors
Strength: Very strong
Heat resistance: Minimal, up to 60 degrees
Flexibility: Very flexible
Specialties: Wear resistant

You can print the TPE filaments using any 3D printer, as long as it has a closed filament path from the motor to the Hot End. Any place for the filament to escape will ruin your 3D print. Bowden systems may prove to make printing TPE filament a challenge, so it is recommended to use a direct drive extruder. Generally ABS settings at a low speed are a good start to start 3D printing with TPE filament. This is not a recommended material if you just started 3D printing.

Pros for using TPE filament

  • High elasticity
  • Great for printing wheels, shock absorbers, phone cases, etc
  • Very good wear resistancy
  • Translucent by nature and available in many colors

Cons for using TPE filament

  • Reduced printing speed neccesary
  • Requires a closed filament path extruder system
  • Not recommended for 3D printer novices

Tips for 3D printing with TPE filament

  • Preferable 3D print using a direct-drive extruder, with a closed filament path
  • Print temperature generally is between 210 °C and 235 °C
  • Retraction should be reduces significantly
  • Bowden systems are mostly not suitable, as the flexibility of the tube makes applying pressure to the filament difficult.
  • Print settings for ABS can be used, just reduce the speed an retraction
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