TPU, as discussed in “What is TPU filament? The Ultimate Guide”, is a versatile material with many interesting applications. If you’re excited to get into the world of TPU printing, here are a few options to get you started. Hopefully, this list will be able to show you the wide variety of options with TPU and give you some ideas on how you can start using it.
Enjoy printing one of these useful items out of TPU filament:
- Vibration Damper
- Apple Watch Strap
- Bracelets and Rings
- Terrarium Furniture
- Airtight Mask
Read on and see what you can make with TPU filament.
1. Vibration Damper
Anyone who owns a printer knows that not everyone enjoys the hums of a print in progress. For some, the drone of the stepper motors gets annoying somewhere between 1 and 100 hours. A quick fix to help mute the noise of a printer is to attach rubber feet to dampen any vibrations. I have personally printed these TPU feet on my Ender 3, and after a quick search, I found feet compatible with the Prusa i3 MK2. Any surface your printer touches will act as a speaker and amplify the sound. Therefore, putting a rubber barrier between your printer and the surface will considerably minimize the sound.
With TPU you can now print fully customizable and flexible watch straps instead of the link style that you are limited to with PLA. A TPU watch strap has the added benefit of being more durable and more comfortable. Beyond just Apple watches, you can find or make a strap to fit almost any watch with a quick google search.
A few months ago, I saw a video on 3D printable shoes and was inspired.
TPU allows 3D printing to grow closer to the goal of being a replacement for large-scale manufacturing, and printing your own shoes is a perfect example of that. In addition to getting custom-designed shoes for a fraction of the price, with a bit of 3D modeling experience, you also gain the ability to adjust the shoes to fit your foot perfectly. This has the potential to allow you to create a shoe that is even better than one you can buy from a major brand. With the variety of TPU materials, you can use a softer, more flexible brand for the body of the shoe and a firmer grippier one for the tread. In the linked video, they even use un-printed TPU for the laces!
Due to the rigidity of PLA and filaments like it, printing any apparel is impractical because it would be too delicate and likely uncomfortable. Rings and bracelets printed in TPU would be identical to the recently popularized silicone rings and bracelets. TPU jewelry would also be durable enough to hold up to regular use and squishy enough to be comfortable. With the flexibility of TPU, it is also less critical that you get sizing exactly right, making a more “one size fits all” option possible.
I recently purchased a Nintendo switch and used TPU to print these grips, making the Joy-Cons way more comfortable. The TPU holds onto the controller well and provides a soft, flexible, rubber-like grip for the controller. Beyond game controllers, you can also custom model grips for tools or any oddly shaped items around your house. I’ve even seen models for water bottle sleeves that can be resized for any size bottle.
TPU adaptors are another useful application of flexible filament. The biggest benefit of a TPU adaptor is its ability to create a watertight seal for something like a hose adaptor. TPU also allows you to create adaptors with lower tolerances, as you can just stretch the print to fit where it needs to go.
Both PLA and TPU are known to be safe to put in animal terrariums as they are inert once printed so that they won’t seep any toxic byproducts. TPU, however, has two major benefits over PLA for this use. In heated tanks, it will be more resistant to warping under heat lamps. And for any fish owners reading this, you know that sometimes fish will run into fish tank decor and hurt themselves; TPU can be made so soft that it eliminates that issue.
RC car enthusiasts will be excited to learn of the capability of TPU in printing tires. While I lack any personal experience with this, I have read that some brands of TPU can provide an apt replacement for standard RC car tires. This capability could also be taken advantage of by model makers to add an extra level of realism or customizability to your model cars or other vehicles at a fraction of the price.
A quick disclaimer before this next pick: I am not a doctor, so I cannot speak to the effectiveness of this in protecting against infectious diseases or dust particles.
With that out of the way, this fully 3D printable face mask claims to be able to create an airtight seal. I believe that TPU should have no problem creating an adequate seal due to the nature of the material. 3D printing a mask unlocks the potential for added style and comfortability with just a little bit of 3D modeling know-how. A reusable mask would also be more environmentally friendly as you wouldn’t be throwing it away after a few uses.
While I am not personally a parent, I have a little brother. You never realize how many unreasonable sharp surfaces are at baby head level until a baby starts wandering around your space. While plenty of purchasable products already exist to help babyproof your space, finding corner protectors for every possible corner is way easier if you can just design and print it yourself. A 4-pack of corner protectors is about $5 on Amazon, and for that price, you could probably print upwards of 20 that will fit perfectly and be in any color or design that you want. It will require a bit of testing to determine the right settings to protect a corner adequately, but it should be fairly straightforward.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.