Rational overview on significance of thermoplastic elastomer TPE Filament in 3D printing

TPE Filament Guide
3D Printable Wrench, by Creative Tools, Source is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via flickr

Thermoplastic Elastomer TPE Filament easily gets to the notice of numerous businesses because this filament can be used in many industries. From creating prototypes to finished products. TPE is the first choice for many business owners. Today, it is globally famous, and with the help of innovations, scientists are trying to find new sectors where the filament can be used. It is already delivering satisfying results in the medical and food industry, but other sectors also use TPE for their purpose. Here, in this blog, get to know everything about TPE filament and how its versatility can be exploited to create products with ease.

What is TPE filament?

TPE, Thermoplastic Elastomer, is also known as thermoplastic rubbers because it is a mix of hard plastic and soft rubber. Due to this blend, TPE has thermoplastic as well as elastic properties. TPE can be shaped into fabricated materials when heated above its melting temperature.

How is thermoplastic elastomer made?

TPE Filament is made from two methods either block polymerization or graft polymerization. In both ways, two or more monomers are copolymerized to construct the elastomer. TPE created through the block technique constructs a long chain of molecules with blocks or sequences. While, in grafting, one polymer chain is grafted to another one.

Benefits of TPE Filament
NinjaFlex Filament, by Creative Tools, Source is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via flickr

How does TPE Filament get its hard as well as soft structure?

It is also part of the construction of thermoplastic elastomers. Both the techniques of block and graft polymerization make one of the monomers make a crystalline or hard segment that works as a thermally stable component. The same element flows after softening under shear, which is different from the chemical cross-links that happen between the conventional polymeric chains of thermoset rubber.

Key Properties of Thermoplastic Elastomer

Due to its remarkable properties, TPE today is employed by numberless businesses for making various products in different industries. Look at the filament’s significant properties that make it so unique.

FlexibilityVery high
Nozzle temperature220 – 250 ‎°C
Heated bedup to 60 ‎°C
Abrasion resistanceHigh
Water resistanceMedium
Chemical resistanceMedium-high
Fatigue resistanceExtremely high
Properties of TPE Filament

Popular applications of thermoplastic elastomer?

The uses of TPE filament are many, and they all explain the versatile nature of the material. Varied industries are already using it, and business owners find it a progressive choice for the future of 3D printing. Every sector today is curious to find ways to use TPE for printing purposes. Here are some of the significant examples explaining the uses of this 3D print material.

  • Food contact products – TPE has been approved as a safe material for making products that come in contact with food. It is why the filament is used to make toddler cups, baby spoons, and tiffin boxes. The businesses that make toys for kids are also interested in using thermoplastic elastomer for making the products. Using a hazardous material may cause the government to reject the business license.
  • Automotive industry – The sector is not an exception when exploiting the TPE filament’s rich qualities. This material is helpful for automotive seals and interiors, car mats, car locks, and comfort. It is also used for weather seals and under-the-hood applications. The filament is durable, lightweight, and inexpensive, and manufacturers are after TPE to improve their overall cost calculations.   
  • Electrical applications – Industries that make cables and wires use thermoplastic elastomer because the filament has multiple functions. It can be customized so easily that businesses use it for prototyping and engineering needs. This 3D print material can easily be shaped after heating at the melting temperature.
  • Medical and healthcare industry – The medical sector has always been among the prime industries that embrace any innovation because its only effort is to improve people’s lives. Due to a higher purity level, TPE is used in varied medical equipment. TPE can be sterilized easily by gamma radiation and autoclaves. Due to this reason, the thermoplastic elastomer is considered safe for making healthcare devices. Whether it is a storage box for vaccines or a medical device that constantly come in touch with the patients, such as an oximeter, it can be made by TPE.  

Strengths and weaknesses of thermoplastic elastomer

Pros and cons are vital in every 3D printing filament, and TPE is not different in this concern. Of course, it has some good and some weak sides to show. For a manufacturer, it is essential to know both and choose the filament for the right purpose and avoid the wastage of time and money.

Benefits of thermoplastic elastomerLimitations of thermoplastic elastomer
  High fatigue resistance – This quality makes TPE flexible, and the manufacturer can give it the desired shape. For example –TPE-made electrical wiring is quite popular now.  Flexible but prone to deformity – The quality of flexibility of TEP sometimes act as its weakness. As it is a soft material, it can easily deform during manufacturing.
  Durable and stable – Excellence in durability and stability is another fantastic benefit of thermoplastic elastomer. Products that need long life, for example, car mats, are manufactured with them.  Design inaccuracy – As the TPE structure includes soft rubber, a little mistake in setting the temperature can cause inaccuracy in the final result of a design. The product making needs only skilled people.
  Tear resistant – Products made for heavy use, such as medical devices, can be made from TPE because it is tear resistant. It can perform well at a very low temperature of -30 degrees Celcius and a high temperature of 140 degrees Celsius.    Unfriendly to the environment – A chemical called phthalates exists in the TPE filament, which is unfriendly to the environment and human health. It is not biodegradable. It can cause reproductive problems, hormone imbalance, and even cancer.
  Color choices – TPE filament can be colored during manufacturing a product. Businesses that need to make multicolored products, such as kids’ food-contact products, sports shoes, etc., always love to use TPE.  Unsustainable – TPE is not sustainable because it is made from synthetic materials. It may be a bit durable, but for very long use of a product, you may not want to depend on this popular filament with several weaknesses.
Pros and Cons of TPE Filament


The 3D printing industry looks desperate to conduct experiments with material, design, printing procedures, and everything. But one thing is clear, in the future, only those printing options will stay that will provide faster results with more ease.

The quality of flexibility of thermoplastic elastomer is its strength can turn into a weakness if you fail to control the temperature and it goes higher than the required level. But consistent innovations are taking place through the intelligent minds of scientists in this field. TPE, along with other 3D print materials like PLA, ABS, etc., has made its unique place in the preference list of the manufacturers. Let us all see how far it goes while enhancing itself for the futuristic needs of the 3D printing industry. Just wait and watch.

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