How To Succeed When Printing With Versatile Filament
15 mins read

How To Succeed When Printing With Versatile Filament


When most individuals consider 3D printing supplies, plastics like PLA, ABS, or nylon are a number of the first supplies that come to thoughts. These supplies all have one factor in widespread: their rigidity. Typically you desire a half that’s ductile and in a position to bend or compress as it’s confused. Fortuitously, there’s extra than simply inflexible 3D printing supplies; from TPU to PRO Collection Flex, versatile 3D printing filaments are broadly helpful supplies to have on the prepared. By design, these filaments are primarily printable rubber, permitting you to create complicated elastic designs in your particular form for any undertaking or product necessities. Versatile filaments are available quite a lot of colours, chemical make-ups, and hardness, supplying you with the flexibleness to use their numerous properties in distinctive methods. Let’s discuss easy methods to efficiently 3D print versatile filaments.

What are Versatile 3D Printing Filaments?

Typically, most rubbers are thermoset by a course of known as “vulcanization”; you warmth them up, form them, allow them to cool, and that form is remaining. As soon as rubber is formed and molded, it may possibly’t be melted again down and reformed into one thing new. To have the ability to soften rubber down into filament and re-melt it into the specified form when 3D printing, some cautious materials science was wanted to create a thermoplastic (reshapable) rubber. By combining plastic polymers with rubber polymers, you get a Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE). With this similar precept, you may mix supplies to create Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), Polyester Copolyamide Thermoplastic Elastomer (PCTPE), or Smooth PLA. Every of those supplies has totally different properties, like shore hardness or elasticity, relying on the formulation of the spool of 3D printing filament.

Flexibles are actually enjoyable to print and play with.


With a versatile materials like MatterHackers PRO Collection Flex, you may drop it a thousand occasions over and never break it. It is necessary to keep in mind that each materials has its place, and simply because flexibles do not break once you drop them doesn’t means they’re prepared to switch different supplies like PLA. Versatile filament is a superb selection for gaskets or bumpers, however you would not wish to print a shelf bracket with it. Conversely, PLA would make for a horrible sole for a shoe. Contemplate the wants of the undertaking earlier than committing to anybody materials.

Keys to Success by When 3D Printing Versatile Filament:

Restricted retraction

The query of “how a lot retraction is sufficient” is solely depending on the type of extruder your 3D printer has. The most recent extruders you should purchase make it very clear that they’ve a “constrained filament path.” In older fashions of extruders, there was open area after the extruder gear for filament to maneuver into. This is not an issue for inflexible supplies as as soon as they’re directed to the bowden tube or the nozzle, they’ll maintain extruding with out problem, however versatile filaments will nearly instantly spit out the aspect of the extruder and coil across the extruder gear.

With a more moderen extruder, after first 3D printing some calibration prints, you must have the ability to print flexibles with retraction settings akin to your regular inflexible filament settings. The E3D Hemera has been proven to excel at 3D printing with versatile filaments, having the ability to maintain the filament tightly constrained and 3D print at excessive speeds with none kinks within the filament.

With an older extruder, you’ll have to disable retractions to realize 3D print high quality. This does imply that you could be expertise some stringing because the nozzle strikes round over the 3D print, however it’s going to stop you from having below extrusion attributable to the filament bunching up within the extruder from the fixed back-and-forth movement it will expertise with retracting.

Preserve it dry

Observe the identical procedures described in this text to dry your versatile filaments: 135°F for six hours in a traditional oven, then flip it off and let the oven cool again to room temperature. You can even use a vacuum oven to dry your filament in a half hour to an hour, or use a PrintDry to simply dry your filament and maintain it dry. Most versatile filaments are hygroscopic to some extent, and can pop and sizzle for those who strive extruding earlier than the fabric is dried. The scorching is attributable to pockets of water absorbed into the filament immediately turning to steam as they hit the nozzle, leaving voids in your print or inflicting extreme stringing alongside your elements. Not solely is the visible high quality considerably worse, however the molecular chains inside the materials are damaged down, making a weaker half total. Utilizing the identical 3D printer, gcode, and spool of filament, the 2 3D prints under had been 3D printed. The important thing distinction: the one on the left had been left within the open air for some unknown period of time, and the one on the fitting was printed straight from a PrintDry after letting it dry for a number of hours.

Moist versatile filament on the left, not too long ago dried filament on the fitting.


Sluggish it down

Prefer it was talked about with retraction settings, PLA or ABS, you may print quick as they’re a tough materials, so it’s very easy to grip and push the filament by the nozzle. Printing flexibles is like making an attempt to information one finish of a rope by pushing the opposite. By slowing it down, you lower the strain inside the nozzle making the filament a lot much less more likely to bind up and even wrap round your extruder gear. Like every other filament, actual velocity settings will differ from one printer to a different, so it’s possible you’ll have to experiment to find out what velocity is the higher restrict that your particular 3D printer is able to. For some that may imply 10mm/s, and different extra superior 3D printers won’t want any modifications in any respect and might print at 60mm/s with ease.

Dispelling Some Myths

This fantasy actually is not as pervasive because it as soon as was, however there existed a time when it was widespread perception that bowden 3D printers had been unable to 3D print versatile supplies. Whether or not or not that was the case, it’s most positively not true now. There may be nothing that particularly precludes bowden 3D printers from having the ability to use flexibles. All of it comes again to constrained filament paths being the basis reason behind any considerations. Whereas sure, most direct-drive 3D printers are extra responsive than bowden 3D printers when utilizing versatile 3D printing filaments, bowden 3D printers are totally able to creating lovely 3D prints with versatile filaments.

Getting the First Layer Proper

The primary layer is crucial a part of any print.  There are some things it’s essential do to get the primary layer to stay properly.

  • You want the print floor to be degree. In case you are unfamiliar with easy methods to degree your 3D printer’s mattress, you may learn in regards to the process right here.
  • Have your Z-Offset set to the fitting peak. This may depend upon the fabric that your 3D printer’s mattress floor is fabricated from, as some supplies will bond too properly to versatile filaments, completely attaching to them. For many surfaces, you want an honest “squish” to your first layer.
  • You want base materials on your versatile filament to stick to.  Blue painter’s tape or a heated glass mattress with PVA glue stick or MatterHackers Stick Stick are splendid surfaces on your print mattress.

3D Printing on Blue Painters Tape

Blue Tape, or Painter’s Tape, is without doubt one of the best and quickest methods to get a dependable mattress adhesion on your versatile filaments. Here’s a fast guidelines of stuff you wish to be sure you are doing.

  • Be certain every bit of tape strains up edge to edge with none overlap or gaps.
  • Preserve the mattress temperature pretty low when utilizing Blue Tape, as a temperature that’s too excessive could trigger the tape to stay too properly to your printed half. 55°C-65°C ought to be sufficient warmth to get the job carried out with most flexibles.
  • Change any tape strips that get broken when eradicating elements.
  • Change the tape after 5-10 prints, when elements cease sticking, or when there’s a noticeable loss within the texture on the tape’s floor.
  • In case your first layer just isn’t sticking – ensure that the print head is shut sufficient to make a pleasant squished line of filament. If that does not handle your drawback, you may apply a skinny smear of PVA glue persist with get a little bit extra adhesion.

Printed PRO Collection Flex on blue painters tape.


3D Printing On Glass With A Heated Mattress

When you have got a temperature managed mattress, printing straight on glass could be a nice possibility.  The really useful mattress temperature for versatile filaments differ enormously, from room temperature to 110°C, so observe the really useful mattress settings as described in our Filament Comparability Information or within the Technical Specs for the filament. Typically, PVA glue stick is a superb adhesive to use to the glass when 3D printing with versatile filaments to make sure that they stick all through the whole thing of the 3D print job.

Printed PRO Collection Flex on a heated glass plate.


Getting The Temperature Proper

When working with a brand new roll of filament for the primary time, we typically like to start out printing at about 235°C after which adjusting the temperature up or down by 5°C increments till we get a high quality print.

Really useful printing temperatures for numerous versatile filaments.


If the temperature is just too excessive

If the spool of filament is already dry however your temperature is just too excessive you’ll nonetheless see strings between the separate elements of your print, like cobwebs. When this occurs you must attempt to incrementally decrease the temperature by 5°C till the nozzle would not leak any materials. Typically that is not treating the underlying drawback, which may merely be retraction settings that are not fairly aggressive sufficient and want only a small bump to get every thing in tune.

If the temperature is just too low

A 3D print with an extruder temperature set too low for the fabric being printed can have layers that do not bond collectively very properly or in any respect and might be simply pulled aside. Be certain the filament is dry and take a look at once more, but when you recognize that it is dry and you’re nonetheless experiencing issues, elevate the temperature of the nozzle in 5°C increments till you obtain sturdy layer adhesion and might see that the edges and infill of the 3D prints aren’t sparse and are properly linked to one another.

First Layer Troubleshooting

In the event you adopted the steps to getting your first layer proper and your print isn’t sticking, listed below are some suggestions to assist enhance your expertise:

  • It takes extra torque for the extruder to push versatile filament out of the nozzle, so ensure that the nozzle is sufficiently primed earlier than your half begins being printed. Use a skirt, prime blob, or purge line at first of the print to verify there’s sufficient filament within the sizzling finish by the point it will get began in your half.
  • Be certain the extruder temperature is sizzling sufficient to correctly soften the filament. In any other case, the plastic could not circulate and go away you with sparse layers and infill disconnected from the edges. Progressively elevate the printing temperature by 5°C to a most of round 255°C if filament is not flowing as properly as you want.
  • Be certain the speeds on your printer aren’t too quick. Printing too quick may cause underextrusion and make infill appear like a spider net. With versatile filaments, printing quicker takes extra torque to get by the recent finish, so your choices are improve the torque of your extruder by upgrading to a stronger extruder and motor, or decelerate to decrease the torque essential to extrude the filament.
  • Flip up the extrusion multiplier a bit extra. When E-steps are calibrated for a 3D printer, it’s often carried out utilizing a inflexible materials like PLA which implies extruder actions are way more responsive. When utilizing a versatile materials, it’s possible you’ll have to recalibrate to get the identical expertise. An effective way to get this correct, is to do an E-step calibration on your versatile filament. The Extruder steps/mm that extrudes 100mm in PLA may solely get you 85mm with TPE, so observe our E-step calibration article to get that arrange. Or, as soon as you discover the correct E-steps for the versatile filament, calculate the p.c distinction from the unique E-steps (versatile E-Steps divided by inflexible E-steps multiplied by 100), and you’ve got your extrusion multiplier share you need to use anytime you come again to this materials, fairly than modifying the firmware of your 3D printer to get the identical end result.
    • For instance, your printer makes use of 400 E-steps for PLA, and after calibrating you discover TPE makes use of 500 E-steps. 500/400=1.25. Multiply by 100 to seek out an extrusion multiplier for TPE at 125%. Now you may print PLA with an extrusion multiplier of 100% and TPE at 125% and maintain these profiles at all times in sync with out modifying the opposite.

With the assistance of this information it is possible for you to to 3D print versatile supplies with ease or know what it’s essential do to get your 3D printer up and working. 

In case you have any feedback or contributions, please drop us an e mail or give us a name. We’re at all times on the lookout for suggestions, and finest practices – and would love to listen to from you. Be happy to succeed in out with any particular questions within the feedback down under.

Try our Filament Comparability Information to get the news on all the most recent and best filaments.

Comfortable Printing! 

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