Most of the manufactured objects we use undergo several procedures before getting the final product. Such objects include tools, toys, ornaments, and footwear. The first step in manufacturing these objects is to design, followed by creating a model. If the model meets the desired features, a final object is manufactured.
TPU is an acronym for thermoplastic polyurethane. A TPU filament is a synthetic polymer that exhibits rubber plastic properties. It is elastic like rubber and hard like plastic. These properties make it ideal for printing models of objects like toys and shoes in 3D printing.
There are more facts to learn about TPU. This post highlights various properties of TPU, its uses, and how it compares with polylactic acid (PLA).
What is TPU Filament Used for?
Based on its hybrid properties, TPU has a wide array of applications. Like plastic, it is not reactive to common chemicals, air, and water. Its hardness makes it resistant to abrasion caused by scrubbing and can withstand high temperatures. And like rubber, it is elastic and, therefore, can be molded to different designs.
TPU is mainly used for the creation of 3D prints. The common prints include footwear, devices used by medical practitioners, casting wheels, and other tools. Its resistance to water and heat also makes it suitable for making cases of electronic devices. Mobile phone cases, tablet covers, electronic calculators, and laptop casings are made of TPU.
What is the Difference Between TPU and PLA?
Both TPU and PLA are polymers used in 3D printing and the manufacture of different objects. However, there are differences in their composition, structure, and properties. Some of the differences are listed in the table below.
Differences between TPU and PLA
|Made from plastic and rubber (polymer)||It is made from starch extracted from corn, sugarcane, and potatoes.|
|It is resistant to common substances like water, oil, and acids and non-reactive to air.||It is hygroscopic. It absorbs water and decomposes quickly.|
|It causes environmental pollution since it is non-biodegradable||It does not cause pollution because it is biodegradable|
|It is long-lasting and does not degenerate in an adverse environment||It degenerates quickly when exposed to adverse environmental conditions|
|Can withstand high temperatures||Cannot withstand high temperatures|
|It is ideal for 3D printing at high temperatures since it is heat resistant and withstands up to 90⁰C.||It is ideal for making models from 3D bioprinters.|
|It can be molded to different shapes and regain the original form upon manipulation.||Once molded to a shape, the original form cannot be regained.
|It requires skilled personnel to work with||It is easier to work with and is ideal for beginners|
Can All 3D Printers Use TPU?
TPU works best in printers that use a heating bed because it can withstand high temperatures. Some printers, however, use an extruder mechanism without a heating bed. At such low temperatures, TPU is not ideal because it cannot be modified to desired design easily.
A 3D printer can use TPU if:
- It has a heating bed.
- It prints objects that require elongation and modification.
- The prints are resistant to scratching.
- If the models are to be converted to different shapes.
TPU is not ideal for printers that use far-end extrusion because of the low temperatures at which they operate.
What Can You Make With TPU?
TPU filament is ideal for making a lot of prints and objects. Here are some of the objects.
- Automotive instruments such as caster wheels because it is resistant to abrasion
- Sporting accessories like balls because it is elastic, water-resistant, and long-lasting.
- Medical instruments because it is durable, unreactive to most chemicals, and heat resistant.
- Film sheets because it is water and heat resistant
- Cases for electronic devices such as mobile phones because it is transparent and water-resistant.
- Footwear such as sports shoes and knee guards because it is elastic and abrasion-resistant.
- Packaging containers because it is transparent and heat resistant.
Is PETG the Same as TPU?
Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PTEG) is a synthetic polymer. It is a member of the polyester plastics family and is used in making containers, water bottles, electric insulators, and packaging containers. It is made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and glycol. PETG is hard, transparent, thermal resistant, and ductile.
The hardness and transparency of PETG make it good for making packages, especially for food products. It is also widely used in 3D printing because it is ductile with great thermal resistance.
PETG and TPU share some common characteristics, but they also exhibit some differences.
Similarities Between PETG and TPU
- Both PETG and TPU are synthetic polymers and belong to the plastic family
- Both are transparent and water-resistant.
- Both are used in 3D printing, where printers work under high temperatures
- Both are non-biodegradable and long-lasting.
- Both can be molded and remolded to different shapes.
Differences Between PETG and TPU
- PETG is ductile while TPU is elastic
- PETG is polyester, while TPU is a polyurethane
- PETG is brittle while TPU is non-brittle
- PETG is ideal for making electronic insulators, while TPU is commonly used in making common objects
PETG and TPU are different substances. They have similarities in characteristics and uses but also exhibit some differences.
Is TPU Filament Toxic?
Under normal conditions, TPU is non-toxic. It has great thermal stability and does not wear out easily. Being unreactive, it is safe for handling food substances and medicine.
However, TPU filament can become toxic under extreme conditions such as high temperatures and frequent contact with water.
During extrusion, TPU withstands temperatures up to 250⁰C. Beyond this temperature, the filament is affected by heat and becomes toxic. Also, too much contact with water makes TPU wear out and may be toxic.
TPU filament is one of the most widely used polymers in the 3D industry because of its thermal resistance. Its inert nature makes it applicable in making a wide range of products. If handled well, it lasts for a long and is economical. Its only drawback is environmental pollution because it doesn’t decompose.