You may not be aware that you can 3D print using a flexible filament made of Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) which is a blend of hard plastic and rubber. This material has an elastic texture that can be stretched easily. There are however some disadvantages of using this material which I will highlight now, along with some advantages.
- An advantage of printing with rubber is that it is soft and flexible. Clearly this is a necessary factor in order to print.
- Secondly, it has a long shelf life. This means you won’t have to throw it away after storing it for a while, which will potentially save you money.
- It has great vibration dampening which means the system you use to print in 3D will utilise less energy in the process.
- It has good impact resistance meaning it won’t break easily during the printing process.
- Despite its flexibility and softness, it can be difficult to print with. This obviously is a holdback when thinking about whether to use rubber to print in 3D.
- It can blob and string easily which can make the saved energy from the good vibration dampening a waste as you’d have to redo the printing in order to get the desired product without errors or imperfections.
- It can be difficult to use on Bowden extruders.
To conclude, it definitely depends what type of equipment you have, and how much experience you have with using a variety of materials in 3D printing. If you are interested in using rubber, and are looking for a company who specialises in UK Rubber Moulding, I recommend contacting Meadex Rubber Moulding.