When it comes to 3D printing filaments, there are types that are a lot more flexible than others. If you are looking for some of the best flexible filaments for your 3D prints, you are in the right place.
The most flexible 3D printing filament is TPU because it has very stretchy and bendable characteristics that most other filaments don’t have.
Keep on reading through this article for more answers about flexible filament, as well as a list of some of the best ones you can get for yourself.
What Type of 3D Printer Filament is Flexible?
The type of 3D printer filament that is flexible is called TPU or Thermoplastic Polyurethane which is a mixture of rubber and hard plastic. Flexible filaments are composed of Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs), and there are a filaments under this category.
As its name implies, this type of 3D printer filaments is elastic in nature which gives the filament some chemical and mechanical properties so that they can be blended or stretched more than normal filaments.
There are many types of TPEs but TPU is considered the best and most used flexible filament in the 3D printing industry.
The degree of flexibility and elasticity of a filament is determined by many factors where the chemical composition and type of Thermoplastics Elastomers used in the manufacturing process are the most prominent.
There are some flexible filaments that have elasticity like a car’s tire whereas some can be flexible like a soft rubber band. The measurement of flexibility is done by Shore Hardness Ratings, the lower being more flexible.
You’ll commonly see values like 95A for harder rubber or 85A for softer rubber.
Is TPU Filament Flexible?
TPU is a unique 3D printing material and its flexibility is the most prominent factor of this filament. This is the first 3D printing filament that comes into mind when designing a model that needs flexibility.
TPU has the ability to print strong parts that are flexible as well, commonly used in several industries like robotics, remote controlled objects and
TPU filament has the property of maintaining a careful balance between rigidity and flexibility, this factor makes it one of the best and easiest flexible filaments to work with.
One of many users stated that it is an excellent and flexible 3D printing filament that produces good results. The final model will be flexible enough that it can be stretched a long way before it breaks down.
It is not really squishy but is flexible enough that you can print rubber washers and gaskets.
Another buyer said in his Amazon review that he has printed isolating bushes for his CoreXY motors and since then, TPU has become his go-to flexible filament.
Is PLA Filament Flexible?
Standard PLA filament is not flexible and is actually known for being a very rigid material. PLA doesn’t bend very much and if it has absorbed moisture, it is a lot more likely to snap when enough pressure is put on it. There are flexible PLA filaments used for 3D printing that look and work like soft rubber.
Such type of flexible filament is an ideal choice to print 3D models that can bend and need elasticity to fit their aimed environment.
Mobile covers, springs, stoppers, belts, tires, kids toys, machine parts, and things like these can be printed efficiently with PLA flexible filament.
Flexible PLA filament works best at a 3D printing temperature of about 225 Degrees Celsius and should be printed at a speed slower than the printing speed used while printing normal PLA.
One of the best and widely used PLA flexible filaments can be purchased from MatterHackers’ official website.
Is ABS Filament Flexible?
ABS is not as flexible as TPU, but it is more flexible than PLA filament. You wouldn’t use ABS as a flexible filament, but it can bend more and has a little more give than PLA. PLA is a lot more likely to snap rather than bend compared to ABS.
Is Nylon Filament Flexible?
Nylon is a strong, durable, and versatile 3D printing material but if it is thin, it can be flexible as well. If there is very high inter-layer adhesion, the nylon can be used to print super strong industrial parts to bear a lot of weight and stress.
Because of its strong properties combined with flexibility, this is considered one of the best 3D printing materials because it becomes tough to break and has much better shatter resistance.
People say that it is fairly flexible, and the parts printed with this filament feel like a common flex material. It shows signs of flexibility only if it is printed thin otherwise it may not bend and may even break as well.
One user said in a review that he printed a living hinge with nylon filament and it is far better than the one he printed with ABS. An ABS hinge shows crack signs and stress marks but with a nylon hinge, it was not the issue of concern.
Best Flexible Filament for 3D Printing
Although there are plenty of flexible or squishy 3D printing filaments in the market, some are better than others. Below are the top 3 best flexible filaments for 3D printing that can be used flawlessly to get efficient results.
Due to its balance between rigidity and flexibility, Sainsmart TPU has gained much popularity in the 3D printing community.
This filament comes with a shore hardness of 95A and has good bed adhesion properties. These factors make it easy for users to print models with Sainsmart TPU filament even on basic level 3D printers such as Creality Ender 3.
If you are looking for a flexible 3D printing filament, the Sainsmart TPU will never disappoint you whether you are printing drone parts, phone cases, small toys, or any other model.
- Filament Diameter: 1.75mm
- Extruder/Printing Temperature: 200 – 2200C
- Bed Temperature: 40 – 600C
- Dimensional Accuracy: +/- 0.05mm
- Smooth extrusion makes it capable of achieving high dimensional accuracy and consistency
- Better Layer Adhesion
One of the buyers said in his review that there is no definite way to tell you how flexible it is, but I can say that it is one of the most flexible materials I have ever used.
It has elasticity but not as good as a rubber band. If pulled, it will stretch a little and then return. If you keep on pulling the filament or bed too hard, it may deform as well.
Your print settings and model design will also determine its flexibility, a hollow part will have more flexibility as compared to a complete solid model.
You can find a spool of Sainsmart TPU on Amazon.
NinjaTech’s NinjaFlex 3D printing filament leads the 3D printing flexible filaments’ industry with its high flexibility and durability compared to non-polyurethane material.
This 3D printing filament is specially extracted from the thermoplastic polyurethane which is commonly known as TPU. This has a low tack and easy to feed texture making the 3D printing process easy for the users.
The filament is a strong and flexible material ideal for all types of direct-drive extruders. Some of the best applications include printing seals, baskets, leveling feet, plugs, protective applications, etc.
- Shore Hardness: 85A
- Extruder Temperature: 225 to 2350C
- Bed Temperature: 400C
- Extremely flexible
- Filament Diameter: 1.75mm
One of the buyers said in his review that the NinjaFlex filament is amazingly flexible and he can print models on his Printrbot Play without any hassle.
Talking about the print settings, he tends to print this filament a bit slower at a print speed of 20mm/s, with an extrusion multiplier of about 125%.
This helps him to get a solid first layer and a print with improved quality. Boasted extrusion multiplier is necessary because the filament is flexible and can be stretched or compressed, this is the reason that flexible filament comes out of the nozzle with a little less flow.
Get yourself a roll of NinjaTek NinjaFlex 0.5KG TPU Filament from Amazon.
This flexible 3D printing filament is manufactured by Covestro’s Addigy Family. It is also a Polyurethane Thermoplastic filament especially designed to provide an good level of flexibility without compromising on printing speed.
This 3D printing filament has gained much popularity as it has the ability to resist UV rays and sunlight to a great extent.
Although this 3D printing filament is a bit expensive but is worth buying. A well-known YouTuber said in his video that this filament offers good strength, flexibility, and printability.
- Shore Hardness: 90A
- Extruder Temperature: 210 – 2300C
- Bed Temperature: 25 – 600C
- Printing Speed: 20 – 40 mm/s
- Available Colors: Orange, Blue Yellow, Red, White, and Black
The filament is flexible but not very stretchy. It does have elastic or stretchy properties but after you have printed a few layers of your model, it will not stretch as much but still have good flexibility.
One of the many users stated in his Amazon feedback that he had an assumption that printing with flexible material would be a difficult job, but this filament is giving him the best results because of the above-mentioned factors.
A user who has an Ender 3 Pro with a simple direct drive extruder conversion stated that the filament is quite bendable but cannot be stretched very far.
The filament does ooze more than the PLA filament but minimizing the movement over empty space brings much better results, but turning on your Combing settings.
Get the Polymaker PolyFlex TPU filament from Amazon.