Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printing Flexibility


Tessa Blokland  


If you look at Additive Manufacturing (AM) and industrial 3D printing it is amazing to see what kind of parts you can print with the available materials. When it comes to flexibility in 3D printed objects, these materials can answer the need for certain qualities, such as elasticity and softness, excellent vibration dampening, long shelf life, and good impact resistance. Here are some examples of 3D printed parts in flexible materials. Let’s see what their advantages are.

The first example is a material developed by DSMArnitel® ID 2045. According to the website, it offers a lighter, smarter, and greener alternative to conventional rubbers. The material is 100% recyclable, made with 50% bio-based feedstock. Arnitel can be used for personalized parts, which need soft and subtle flexibility in their surfaces, such as mouth guards, shoe midsoles and earbuds. The flexible 3D printable material is also used for flexible tools and electronics.

What you see here is a spool of Ultrafuse Z PCTG and a 3D printed part of the material. The material is an electrostatic discharge (ESD) safe filament made by chemical manufacturer BASF. It is specifically developed for the printing of handheld tools, various assembly, and electronic fixtures, robotics, automation components, and parts for explosion-proof environments.

Here you see an example of a 3D printed ESD safe fixture to hold an electronic device (in this example the case of a smartphone). The part was rigid enough to hold the device while adding the needed electronics inside, though flexible so when finished it was easy to remove it from its fixture. The part was printed by Essentium in Essentium Z TPU 80A and 74D. I took this photo at their booth at Formnext 2019.

This is a 3D printed shock absorber dust cover, printed with Zortrax‘s Z-FLEX. As you can see in the image, the material is very flexible and is resistant to various chemicals including gasoline, ethyl alcohol, butane, and carbon monoxide, as the website mentions.

The last example of the use of flexible 3D printable materials is a business case from Fillamentum Industrial with air conditioning equipment manufacturer Daikin. What I like about this business case is that it combines complex shaped geometries with flexible 3D printable materials. One of the properties of flexible materials is excellent vibration dampening. On one of the assembly lines at Daikin, the noise broke the noise limit (85 dB). Fillamentum offered the company their Flexfill TPU, which is flexible with good wear resistance. Not only did these materials have good mechanical properties and oil resistance, but they were also easy to process and simple to print, which is not always the case with flexible materials. Thanks to 3D printing it was possible to replace the complex metal part (see last image) with a complex flexible and noise reducing replacement (top image). The sound level was reduced by 5.9 dB to 80.7 dB.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3D Printing Flexibility

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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