6 Best TPU Filament & Flexibles: Top Brands 2022

The best flexible filament and the best TPU deliver a tall order. Known for elastic properties similar to rubber, flexible filaments are durable, impact-resistant, and offer an excellent surface finish that’s a pleasure to handle.

Flexible materials have a bad rap among makers for the perceived notion that they are trickier to print than PLA and ABS.

Why? It has higher temperature requirements, surging to 260°C for some brands, and its malleable properties. It’s never been easier to print bendy, quality parts, though, thanks to the rising popularity of 3D printing TPU.

In this guide, we’ll share our top recommendations for the best flexible filament brands around, help demystify the different types available, break down the core advantages and disadvantages, and provide some top tips for a smooth printing experience with flexible filaments.


How to 3D Print Flexible Filament (TPU/TPE) – Tips

  1. Print slowly: 20-40mm/s is a good starting point for most flexible. Direct drive extruders also work better, as Bowden tubes can cause extra friction.
  2. Check your temperature: TPU and flexible filaments print at anywhere between 210-260°C, depending on the blend. If filament oozes and over extrudes, turn the temperature down; if it’s under extruding, turn the temperature up.
  3. Retraction settings: flexible can leak more than standard filaments between extruding points. Check your slicer settings to optimize for this.
  4. Use the right bed surface: a thin coating of glue stick gives great results. Some surfaces like PEI can stick too well, so be wary of that.

Different Types of Flexible Filament

TPE – ThermoPlastic Elastomer is an umbrella term for a cross-section of flexibles, including TPU, that regroups the properties of rubber into a plastic polymer.

TPU – ThermoPlastic Polyurethane is the most commonly used flexible for 3D printing. It’s more rigid than straight TPE, which eases the printing processes, hence why makers favor it. TPU also has superb resistance properties, covering chemicals, abrasion, temperature, vibration, and impact.

TPC – Thermoplastic Co-Polyester is an industrial-grade flexible, generally used in fields such as medicine. It’s not as elastic as TPU, but it’s considerably tougher and stronger, along with boosted resistance to chemicals and high temperatures. TPC is usually printed with powder bed fusion printers.

PLA Blends – PLA+ and Soft PLA are PLA filaments designed to reduce the natural brittleness of standard PLA to increase their durability and impact resistance. They are also formulated to offer better elasticity. Soft PLA blends PLA with TPU for a best of both worlds material.

For more in-depth details about each of these different types of flexible filament, be sure to check out our complete flexible filaments 3D printing guide.


Best TPU / Best Flexible Filament Brands

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Ninjatek

  • Price: Check price at Matterhackers here / Amazon here
  • Printing Temperature: 210-250°C
  • Shore Hardness: 75A, 83A, 85A, 90A, 95A
  • Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm
  • Available Colors: Black, white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, transparent
Ninjatek TPU

NinjaTek’s TPU filament is synonymous with quality in 3D printing circles and the material of choice for discerning makers. It’s premium stuff with an expensive price tag in tow, but worth every penny as it is undoubtedly some the best flexible filament available.

fNinjaTek offers a range of TPU blends covering most Shore Hardness ratings from ultra-soft Chinchilla 75A to tough Cheetah 95A.


Polymaker PolyFlex TPU

Polymaker TPU

PolyMaker’s PolyFlex family regroups some of the best TPU blends available commercially. They shine for demanding applications that require a fine balance between durability and elasticity with solid UV resistance woven in, too. They are also affordably priced and cover 95A and 90A Shore Hardness, both great at making the TPU printing experience a little easier to handle.


Recreus Filaflex

  • Price: Check price here
  • Printing Temperature: 215-235°C
  • Shore Hardness: 60A, 70A, 82A, 95A, 96A
  • Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm
  • Available Colors: Black, white, gray, peach, red, orange, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, brown
Recreus Filaflex

Recreus’ Filaflex is one of the oldest and best TPU filaments on the market, and with years of fine-tuning the formula, you’re certainly buying a quality product.

The straight Filaflex options cover 60A, 70A, 82A, and 95A, while Recreus also has specialist blends, including Conductive Filaflex and Filaflex Purifier, a TPU designed to absorb CO2. All Filaflex is odorless and acetone, solvent, and fuel resistant.


Matterhackers TPU – Build Series & PRO Series

Matterhackers Build Series and PRO Series TPU

Matterhackers TPU offering is two pronged. On one side, you have the low-cost MH Build Series TPU, geared to produce quality printed parts without breaking the bank.

On the other, the PRO Series TPU is a premium blend boasting that coveted mix between elasticity and strength. This being MatterHackers, you’ll find an expansive range of available colors, but Shore Hardness is stuck on standard 95A.


Dynamism TPU HS

  • Price: $50 – Available at Dynamism here
  • Printing Temperature: 200-220°C
  • Shore Hardness: 95A
  • Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm
  • Available Colors: Black
Dynamism HS TPU

If you need a reliable, workhorse TPU capable of producing quality prints that weighs in at just about affordable, Dynamism TPU HS is a winner.

It’s tuned for high flow printing; you can crank up the print speed compared to other best TPU brands. Slim pickings on color and Shore Hardness, black and 95A, respectively.


Sunlu TPU – best cheap TPU filament

  • Price: Check price at Amazon here
  • Printing Temperature: 200-230°C
  • Shore Hardness: 95A
  • Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm
  • Available Colors: Black, white red, blue, green, orange, yellow
Sunlu TPU

Cheap and cheerful, but without sacrificing too much in the way of quality, Sunlu TPU is a solid general-purpose TPU for makers who want to try their hand at TPU but aren’t too fussed about the very best print results.

At $20 a spool, it’s a genuine steal. Add a nice selection of colors and an eco-friendly formula, and Sunlu offers an excellent starter TPU.


Tips For Printing The Best Flexible Filament

What Cura Settings to Print TPU Filament With?

The right settings will largely depend on your printer and the TPU brand. As a general guide, we recommend the following:

  • Nozzle Temperature – 220°C to 260°C 
  • Bed Temperature – 0°C to 60°C, depending on manufacturer recommendations
  • Print Speed – 5-30 mm/s
  • Retraction – 3 mm at 20 mm/s, but don’t hesitate to lower it based on results
  • Cooling Fan – Initially set to 0%, then shift to higher as the print progresses, but no higher than 50%

Retraction

If you’re running a new printer, you can tune your retraction settings in line with those of PLA and ABS. For older printers, low retraction settings are vital. The path through the extruder is perfectly designed for flexible filament to clog, wind, and jam around the gears, something exacerbated by high retraction settings. In this case, you’ll want to run very low retraction or turn it off entirely for the best results.

Direct Drive Extruder

Though flexibles work well enough with Bowden systems, they have an easier time with direct-drive extruders. These minimize the potential for the filament to bend, snap, stretch, or otherwise ruin your prints, thanks to a shorter gap between the extruder and hot end. If possible, use a direct drive printer.

Print Slow and Hot

Flexibles thrive when print speeds are tuned low. Don’t hesitate to drop down anywhere from 5 mm/s to 30 mm/s for the best results. Similarly, these materials prefer very hot nozzle temperatures. Look to manufacturer recommendations for the latter.

Keep Flexible Filament Dry

An obvious one, but do your very best to ensure flexible filament is kept dry and away from moisture. Proper storage is critical.


How To Pick The Best TPU

Shore Hardness

Flexibles come in different levels of hardness, measured in Shore Hardness, a measurement of a material’s hardness. You’ll find options running from highly flexible to reasonably stiff.

For 3D printer flexibles, the Shore Hardness ranges from around 75A to 100A, with the numerical value ascending in hardness. With 100A being much less flexible (think the rubber on a shopping cart wheel) – and 75A being more or less the softest limit you can print using current FDM printers. Stiffer materials tend to be easier to print, while very soft materials can be problematic.

We recommend sticking to no lower than 85A as incredibly soft filament tends to complicate the printing process.

Buy From Reputable Brands

Flexibles are difficult enough to print without throwing in a sketchy third-party manufacturer who’s out to cash in on unsuspecting makers rather than provide a solid product.

To avoid mishaps and potentially hours of wasted time, stick to the well-known, best flexible filament brands – MatterHackers, PolyMaker, NinjaTek, Colorfabb, Sainsmart, etc.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexible Filament

Advantages

  • Flexible and durable: flexibles resemble rubber in their elasticity, often bending and extending well beyond their normal shape without breaking.
  • Resistant: flexible filament is generally impact, abrasion, UV, low-temperatures, chemical, oils, greases, and solvent resistant.
  • Smooth finish: Printed flexible generally boasts a smooth surface finish, ideal for soft consumer parts subject to regular handling.
  • Warp-free: unlike other 3D printed filaments like ABS, flexible rarely curl, offering superb layer adhesion.

Disadvantages

  • Stringing: flexibles are particularly susceptible to stringing during the printing process.
  • Tricky to print compared to PLA: the natural elastic properties of flexibles can make the printing process challenging, with clogging and jamming a common issue for printers that aren’t set up, dialed, and calibrated correctly to handle flexible filament.
  • Hygroscopic: flexibles absorb moisture, which can affect printing performance.
  • Post-Processing: due to its composition and elasticity, flexible filament isn’t suited to heavy post-processing work.

FAQs