3D Printer Rubber: Printing with Filaments, Resins and Services

Understanding the Limitations of 3D Printer Rubber: Why Pure Rubber Can’t Be Printed

While 3D printing has opened up new possibilities in various industries, it comes with some constraints. Notably, 3D printer rubber, or pure rubber, cannot be printed. This limitation stems from the manufacturing process of rubber, which involves converting latex from trees into a durable and industry-approved form known as a thermosetting polymer.

Unlike thermoplastics like PLA or ABS, thermosetting polymers such as processed rubber cannot be re-heated and re-solidified, as heating them would lead to burning and the release of toxic fumes.

However, there are flexible materials that can be easily printed on FDM or SLA machines, each with its distinct advantages. In this article, we’ll explore these alternative materials and offer suggestions on how to use them, depending on your preferred 3D printing technology. Additionally, we’ll present some popular brands to consider for achieving flexible prints.

3D printed rubber offers a versatile solution for various applications, including:

1. Prototypes

2. Gaskets

3. Seals

4. Hoses

5. Grips

6. Lids

7. Plugs

8. Connectors

9. Footwear

10. Tires

11. Medical Devices

12. Sporting Goods

With its flexibility, durability, and unique properties, 3D printed rubber is well-suited for creating functional and reliable parts across a wide range of industries and uses.

The Flexible Scene

Exploring Flexible 3D Printing Materials: TPU, TPE, TPC, and 3D Print Rubber

There is a wide range of flexible materials available for 3D printing, but some of the most commonly known and used ones have short and sweet acronyms. These materials include:

1. TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)

3d printer rubber
3d printer rubber

2. TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers)

3d printer rubber
3d printer rubber

3. TPC (Thermoplastic Copolyester)

3d printer rubber
3d printer rubber

4. 3D print rubber (flexible resins)

3d print rubber
3d printer rubber

Flexible filaments like TPU, TPE, and TPC offer numerous advantages, including elasticity, durability, strength, flame-retardancy, and even food-safety and anti-bacterial properties. They are well-suited for 3D printing prosthetics, watch bands, wearable electronics, and more, especially due to their long-term skin contact approval. Some options even use 100% recycled materials.

On the other hand, flexible resins are UV-cured 3D printing resins that mimic the properties of rubber. They produce firm but flexible parts, with their pliability determined by the Shore hardness rating after curing. With these versatile 3D printing materials, you can achieve a wide range of applications and create functional, flexible, and durable objects.

Shore Hardness

3d printed rubber
3d printer rubber

Shore hardness, also known as the Durometer scale, is a measurement of a material’s hardness. When a Rockwell test cannot be conducted on soft materials, the Durometer test is used to determine hardness.

The Shore scale consists of three categories 3D printed rubber:

1. Shore 00: For extremely soft materials like gels and rubber.

2. Shore A: For flexible rubber and rigid plastics.

3. Shore D: For rigid plastics and hard rubber.

For 3D printing flexible resins, the Shore hardness is typically around 80A, similar to a rubber shoe heel (harder than a shoe sole) or comparable to a leather belt.

Understanding the Shore hardness is valuable, especially when printing molds. A softer material with a Shore hardness of 30-40A will create a flexible mold that allows for easy extraction. If the mold is too rigid, removing the part may cause it to break or crack. Being aware of the Shore hardness helps in selecting the appropriate material for specific applications.

Printing with Flexible Filament

To ensure successful 3D printing with rubber-like and other flexible filaments, several considerations should be taken into account:

1. Keep Filament Dry: Moisture can negatively impact all filaments, including those used for 3D printing rubber. Air pockets within the filament can lead to poor extrusion results. Proper storage and drying techniques, such as a dry box or dryer, are essential to maintain the filament’s quality.

2. Use Direct Extrusion: For flexible filaments like 3D printing rubber, direct extrusion is preferred over a Bowden feeding system. This helps prevent potential issues during printing.

3. Opt for a Glass Bed: To improve adhesion, using a glass bed can be beneficial, particularly for ensuring a successful first layer when printing rubber-like materials.

4. Adjust Retraction Settings: Reduce overall retraction in your slicer settings to minimize stringing and nozzle curling when working with rubber-like materials. Proper retraction settings are crucial to avoid elasticity-related issues.

5. Slow Down Travel Speed: Printing slowly (25-35 mm) allows for better adhesion of flexible materials like 3D printing rubber to the build tray. Controlling the temperature within the range of 215-222 °C is ideal for TPU and other similar materials.

By keeping these points in mind and fine-tuning your printer settings, you can achieve excellent results when 3D printing rubber and other flexible filaments.

Filament Options

Top Three Flexible Filaments for 3D Printing

When it comes to 3D printing with flexible filaments, there are some standout options worth considering:

1. NINJATEK NinjaFlex: 

3d printed rubber
3d printer rubber

With a Shore hardness of 85A, NinjaFlex is incredibly flexible, soft, and squishy. Its chemical resistance and high toughness make it ideal for fasteners and protective cases. This filament excels in engineering and scientific environments where parts undergo rigorous testing, thanks to its excellent elongation before fracturing.

2. COLORFABB nGen Flex: 

3d printer rubber
3d printer rubber

Known for its superb layer-to-layer adhesion, nGen Flex allows for printing speeds of 40-60 mm/s, a significant advantage for flexible materials. Its resistance to high temperatures makes it suitable for applications like steam sterilization, commonly used in orthopedics and pharmaceutical practices. Additionally, it is well-suited for creating prosthetics, apparel, and tools.

3. RECREUS Reciflex: 

rubber 3d printer
3d printer rubber

A standout feature of Reciflex is its use of 100% recycled materials. Available in different hardnesses (70A, 82A, and 95A), this filament offers an eco-friendly choice for 3D printing, standing apart from other materials that may not be as environmentally sustainable.

Printing with Flexible Resin

To ensure successful printing with resin, follow these tips:

1. Level Build Plate: Ensure your build plate is level to achieve precise prints.

2. Ventilation: Adequate ventilation is crucial when working with resin to prevent exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Consider using a secondary enclosure or an air filter to enhance safety.

3. Paper Towels: Cover your work surface with paper towels to catch any resin splashes and keep your workspace clean.

4. Curved Designs: When printing curved items like watch straps, design them to print with the intended shape, as flexible resin tends to return to its flat origin shape otherwise.

5. Print at an Angle: Printing parts at a slight angle reduces elastic stress within the prints and minimizes the risk of distortion compared to printing flat on the build plate.

6. Curing Settings: Follow the recommended curing settings provided by the resin supplier for optimal results.

7. Mixing Resins: For experimentation, you can mix flexible resin and normal resin in a 50/50 ratio to alter the final product’s rigidity.

By keeping these considerations in mind, you can achieve excellent results when 3D printing with flexible resin.

Resin Options

When it comes to flexible resin for 3D printing, these top picks offer a mix of practicality and hobby-based designs:

1. FORMLABS Flexible 80A: 

3d printer rubber
3d printer rubber

With a Shore hardness of 80A, this resin is durable and perfect for functional everyday objects like gaskets and watch straps. Once post-processed, it becomes significantly harder, ensuring reliability and quality for various applications.

2. PRUSA RESEARCH PrimaCreator Flexible:

3d printer rubber filament
3d printer rubber

Made in-house by Prusa Research, this resin is user-friendly, especially for those new to resin printing. Its excellent elastic properties and ability to withstand heavy impacts make it suitable for modeling, creating casts for jewelry, and orthopedic components.

3. LIQCREATE Flexible X: 

3d printer rubber
3d printer rubber

Specializing in SLA printing resins, Liqcreate offers an extremely flexible resin with a Shore hardness of 55A. It is ideal for general-purpose hobbyists and makers, offering excellent elongation, rebound properties, durability, and tear strength.

These flexible resins provide the versatility and quality needed for various 3D printing projects, making them stand out as top choices in 2023.

Conclusion

In conclusion, 3D printing has opened up a world of possibilities for creating unique and innovative designs. Whether you’re working with PLA, ABS, or flexible filaments, understanding the best practices for each material can significantly improve the quality of your 3D prints.

Proper post-processing techniques, including sanding and priming, can transform rough prints into polished and professional-looking objects. When working with flexible filaments and resins, paying attention to specific considerations, such as print orientation and curing settings, can ensure successful outcomes.

Additionally, 3D printing services like Craftcloud provide a convenient and accessible way to explore 3D printing without the need for extensive material investments.

Embrace your creativity and enjoy the journey of bringing your ideas to life through the exciting world of 3D printing. With continuous learning and experimentation, you’ll be amazed at the incredible objects you can create with your 3D printer rubber filament, resins, and service. Happy printing!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

R3DMakers
Logo
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0