Introduction: 3D Printed Molds / Flexible Filament

Using your own 3D printer to create molds is easy! So let’s talk about 3D printing flexible filaments. Everyone wants to print with it, but in the first look, it might seem difficult. We will take a look at what makes flexible filaments easier to print than it might seem, and how you can add flexible filament to your favorites 3D printing materials.

Step 1: TPU 95A (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)

TPU is a common filament material for use in fused filament fabrication 3D printing due to the fact that it is an elastic thermoplastic which makes it ideal for printing objects that need to be flexible and elastic. The fact that TPU is a thermoplastic also allows it to be melted, extruded, then cooled back into a solid which is necessary when 3D printing using fused filament fabrication.

Properties of TPU include:

  • high abrasion resistance
  • low-temperature performance
  • high shear strength
  • high elasticity

Step 2: Slicing

Proper 3D slicer settings can make the difference for a successful print.

These are the settings I used in the Ultimaker Cura for printing the TPU molds :

  • Layer Height: 0.06 or 0.08
  • Infill Density: 60% (Grid)
  • Printing Temperature: 230°C
  • Build Plate Temperature: 50°C
  • Print Speed: 30 mm/s
  • Retraction Distance: 2mm
  • Retraction Speed: 20mm/s

Step 3: the Result

I was really surprised by the results, there is unbelievable detail without a trace of the slightest problem. It has exactly the flexibility it needs and is durable for many and different uses! A flexible material like the TPU 95A turns out to be the best choice for my needs.

  • No changes to my 3d printer in order to print flexible (Creality Ender 3).
  • It can be used by almost all Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers.
  • No need for any special build plate surface
  • Very reasonable price for the filament

Step 4: Tips for Success

Τhose that needs all of your attention is the settings for Cura or any other slicer. I found that bigger amount of infill gives better results, at a rate of 50 - 60 %. Also, the retraction speed and retraction distance must have lower values than the commons filaments like PLA, ABS. For the build plate, I find that the sweet spot is around 50°C for a good first layer and for the nozzle something around 210°C - 230°C. Remember to keep your filaments dry, the easiest way to do this is by storing your filament in an airtight container that contains desiccants.

Step 5: 3d Printed Molds & Cement

I have tested the molds mostly with concrete with very good results and in the future, I plan to use molds with other materials such as liquid glass, chocolate, etc.

Visit my shop illustrisWorkshop to see some finished cement pendants!

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