We participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may earn a commission if you make a purchase through links on our site. We also participate in other affiliate programs.

Best 3D Printer for Flexible Filament: Print TPU and more

3D Printing any sort of flexible filament on a common desktop 3D printer can turn out to be a bit tricky. Apart from the fact that many 3D printers don’t support such filaments, there are slicer software settings and 3D printer hardware limitations to take into consideration too. All of these factors come into play when you want to, or are interested in 3D printing with flexibles.

Aside from the regular PLA and ABS, a whole lot of flexible filaments such as TPE & TPU are available today. In fact flexible filament is now being used in 3D printing applications more than ever before.

Flexible filament basically allows you to print highly complex elastic designs and 3D objects that can be used for a great many applications. Here printing TPU will give you a variety of objects such as phone cases for instance.

However, it is important to understand here that not all 3D printers are created equal nor can they all support such flexible filament.

Best 3D Printer for Flexible Filament: Top Picks

Let us take a quick look at some of the more popular printers that are capable of printing with flexibles:

1. Prusa i3 MKIII

When it comes to the world of 3D printing, there are very few brands that can boast of the stellar reputation and features along with the fervent fan base of the Czech Republic-based Prusa Research Company. Printing with flexible materials is easy with this 3D printer.

The Prusa i3 MKIII offers 250 x 210 x 200mm build volume and great print quality. Add to that a sturdy frame that can handle a licking and keep on ticking. Apart from that, there are many other staple features such as a cutting edge removable magnetic print bed along with a power recovery system.

The machine has a redesigned extruder to be able to cater to flexible filament. The extruder design is such that it works in very close proximity to the X-axis to work better with TPU and other similar filaments. It also has several other refinements such as a highly improved cooling system and significantly better Y-axis belt tension. You can 3D print lots of stuff with it and mostly you won’t even need to use painter s tape.

Pros

  • A Redesigned and Stiffer Frame
  • Crash Detection
  • Removable Magnetic Print Table
  • Power Failure Backup
  • Upgradable with OctoPrint
  • Excellent Documentation
  • 9 Points Auto calibration
  • Open frame design for easy use
  • Multiple features

Cons

  • Low Quality of 3D Printed Components
  • Tricky Bed Adhesion
  • Filament Sensor is buggy and you may have to face problems
  • You may also need and want to check for frequent updates

Tech Specs

  • Build volume – 10500 cm3 (25 x 21 x 20 cm or 9.84 x 8.3 x 8 in)
  • Integrated LCD and SD card controller (8GB included)
  • Layer height from 0.05 mm
  • 0.4mm nozzle (easily changeable) for 1.75 mm filament
  • Automatic skew axes compensation
  • Specially optimized firmware for quiet printing
  • Average power consumption 70 W (printing PLA)
  • Automatic mesh bed leveling
  • Heat bed with cold corners compensation

2. Creality CR 10

The Creality CR-10 is one of the most popular 3D printers currently available today. In fact, it is one of the rare 3D printer models that are venerated amongst the fraternity of hobbyists as well as professional users too; especially people who like to use both soft and hard printing stuff.

This has a lot to do with its versatility when working with both flexible and inflexible stuff. Apart from that, this machine’s print capability is second to none in comparison to many other similar models in the same price range.

It also has a very sturdy frame which is a significant help in effectively eliminating any vibrations or wobble. This way, you can be sure of a uniformly smooth finish on all of your 3D printed objects.

Overall, the printer’s design is very attractive and it also has the capacity to print various models with a resolution that can go up to 100 microns. Apart from that, this 3D printer can also print for a solid 200 hours straight without facing overheating issues. This is only possible due to this 3D printer’s large heated bed, which enables it to disburse all of the heat across the glass print surface. It is also capable of printing soft NinjaFlex

Pros

  • Standard build volume that dwarfs most printers
  • Wide variety of printing matter
  • Makes great 3D printed objects
  • Easy assembly in record time
  • Simple design & few moving parts
  • Works with TPU filament
  • Large prints make for impressive fun
  • Easy to trouble shoot
  • It can print soft NinjaFlex
  • Great with flexible stuff
  • Intuitive control box
  • Comfortable with fine detail
  • Removable glass print bed
  • Go-faster stripes
  • Works with Ninjaflex and TPE

Cons

  • Awkward extruder placement and you may want to change the extruder
  • Doesn’t work well with ABS
  • Filament holder is prone to tangling
  • Print preparation can take a long time
  • Bed takes a very long time to heat up
  • You will need to be patient while the hot end heats up

Technical Specs

  • Net Weight: 8kg
  • Modeling Technology: FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)
  • Printing Size: 220*220*250mm
  • Machine Size: 440*410*465mm
  • Filament: 1.75mmPLA, TPU, ABS
  • Printing Speed:180mm/s
  • Power Supply: 100-265V 50-60HZ
  • Output:24V 15A 360W
  • Printing Accuracy: ±0.1mm
  • Layer Thickness: 0.1-0.4mm
  • Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm

Read the full review here

3. Creality Ender 3 Pro

The Ender 3 3D printer has been equipped from the bottom up with a very tough 40×40 aluminum extrusion. This is because it has been designed for the machine’s Y-axis. Apart from that, it also acts as a great aid to the overall stability of the print platform. Moreover, this 3D printer has very large bearings for its print base and they help to provide a very high level of stiffness, so as to greatly reduce friction.

Ever since the Ender 3 3D machine was first released it garnered a very large and enthusiastic fan following. There are always plenty of fresh upgrades and other mods available for this printer, thanks to its community of followers. It can also print flexible material and you just need to make sure you have the right temp settings.

This is a fully hackable and upgradeable machine and even if you don’t particularly like to print upgrades on your own, you can always buy them from the company store.

It more than meets the grade when it comes to the following capabilities:

  • Build size
  • Expandability
  • Budget
  • High quality

Pros

  • Upgradable architecture
  • Highly affordable
  • Compact design
  • Large and functional hot end
  • Recommended with most flexible material
  • High quality prints
  • Capable of using diverse filament
  • Excellent print volume for its size
  • Very easy to assemble
  • Tight filament path (helps in improving compatibility with flexible material and other filament)

Cons

  • Print bed leveling can turn out to be a very cumbersome job
  • The magnetic hot end is not easy to work with at all
  • Brittle filament issues
  • Additional adhesion may be required sometimes

Technical Specifications

  • Modeling Technology: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
  • Machine Size: 440*410*465mm or 17.3×16.1×18.3 in inches Power Supply: UL certified
  • Filament: 1 75mm ABS/PLA,TPU, flexible carbon, wood
  • Printing Size: 220*220*250mm or 8.6×8.6×9.8 in inches
  • Max Hot end bed Temp: 110℃
  • Total Package Weight: 8.6kg (19 lbs.)
  • Max Nozzle Temp: 255℃
  • Working Mode: USB cable (not included) online compatible or micro-SD (offline)
  • Output: DC 24V 15A 360W

Read the full review here

See Ender 3 TPU settings here

4. Tevo Tornado

If you are in the market for a state of the art yet affordable printer that is not just larger than its competition but can also work well with flexible material, the Tevo Tornado is what you should get.

The Tornado is a somewhat different 3D printer when compared to the other offerings in the market. It has a duel AC-powered heated bed as well as its own Titan brand extruder.  It is also a completely plug and play unit that works without using any tools or extensive DIY work.

Technical Specs

  • Min. Layer resolution: 50 microns
  • Material type: ABS, PLA, PETG, Flexible Filament, Wood and PVA
  • Printing Color: Single color capability
  • Build size: 300 X 300 X 400 mm
  • Extruder: Full Metal E3D Titan (Bowden)
  • Nozzle size: 1 75mm
  • Compatibility: Windows, Linux, Mac
  • Maximum extruder temperature: 260°C
  • Maximum Printing Speed: 150 mm/s
  • Device weight: 14kg
  • Connection: TF card or USB
  • Positioning accuracy: Z 0.004mm, XY 0.012mm
  • File print format: STL, G-Code
  • Heating plate temperature: 60-110°C
  • Power requirements: 220V, 250W, 50Hz, 0.89A

Pros

  • The Titan extruder is ideal for printing flexible filament and material
  • Quick heat-time The aluminum frame is quite durable
  • Very easy to assemble
  • Can print even larger items
  • Affordable price range while using different materials

Cons

  • The unit is not equipped with its own spool holder and you will need to start using an aftermarket one that you will have to get from a store
  • The printer takes a very long time to become operational
  • There is extensive warping on at least some of the printer surfaces

5. Tevo Tarantula Pro

The Tevo Tarantula Pro is a classic example of the breakneck cycle that is currently fueling budget desktop flexible 3D printing. Barely was the Tevo Flash released that Tevo came up with another offering, this time under $200 and sporting the capability of printing flexible filament.

Pros

  • Highly versatile
  • Decent print quality
  • Heats quickly
  • Heated print bed
  • LCD Screen

Cons

  • Can be buggy during printing operations
  • Frustrating build instructions
  • You may get irritated with the lack of information regarding assembly

Tech Specs

  • Technology: FDM
  • Mechanical arrangement: Cartesian-XZ-Head
  • Filameter diameter: 1 75 mm
  • Materials: PLA, Flexibles, HIPS Wood, ABS, PVA
  • Accuracy: X/Y-axes +/-50 micron, Z-axis +/- 10 micron
  • Max. heated bed temperature: 70°C Layer height: 50– 350 microns
  • Feeder system: Bowden drive
  • Extruder type: Single
  • Nozzle size: 0.4 mm
  • Max. extruder temperature: 240°C
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Max. print speed: 150 mm/s

6. Monoprice Maker Select Pro

The pro version of the Monoprice Maker Select is a highly anticipated version of the original Monoprice Select. This 3D printer has the capability to build with most flexible and inflexible 3D filaments out there. Even though it is basically a kit based 3D printer, it still doesn’t require any great technological know-how, unlike many of its competing kit-based 3D printers.

Technical Specs

  • Build Speed: 150mm/s
  • Direct drive extruder
  • Build Volume: 200 x 200 x 180 mm
  • Touchscreen interface
  • Layer Resolution: 100 microns
  • Filament: Almost any type of filament
  • Improved Anti-Jam MK10 extruder

Pros

  • High speed
  • Touch screen
  • Large print volume
  • Heated bed

Cons

  • It is a difficult printer to operate for a newbie
  • You may get irritated with its complex controls

How to Successfully Print TPU?

When printing TPU you will have to take care of the following points otherwise your build will get spoiled:

  • Use a direct drive extruder to shorten the distance to its absolute minimum for printing flexible filament
  • Use very tight tolerances in a Bowden extruder in case your 3D printer is not equipped with a Direct Drive extruder
  • Print speed has to be very slow otherwise the TPU will stretch rapidly and spoil your build at high print speeds
  • It is a good idea to completely disable the retraction settings on your 3D printer so it won’t have to stretch multiple times in short order
  • You have to optimize the feed rate. In fact, it is standard best practice to use a consistent feed and print speeds rates. One that is always slow when 3D printing with a flexible filament
  • Use negative tolerances and also avoid using multiple rafts for printing flexible filament
  • Optimize the retraction settings because TPU thermoplastic polyurethane filament is elastic and sensitive to sudden retractions
  • Shorten the distance for the filament to travel from one point to the other
  • Place the spool over and above the printer so it unwinds downwards

Check out our picks for the best TPU filament

Conclusion

We can conclude that TPU thermoplastic polyurethane and other flexible filaments are not very easy to work with if you don’t have the right equipment and technique. However the right methods, coupled with the right 3D printers can make some excellent and flexible TPU 3D builds.

Leave a Comment

shares