Flexible, bouncy and durable: TPE adds range to industrial 3D printing.

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20 Dec, 2023

A protoptype created with TPE in a laser sintering machine

A protoptype created with TPE in a laser sintering machine

Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) offers a unique balance of flexibility and durability in 3D printing. Utilizing Selective Laser Sintering, it's ideal for various industrial applications, from footwear to machinery dampening.

Laser sintering is a type of 3D printing that uses a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of material, such as plastic or metal powders, together to create a solid object. This process, also known as selective laser sintering (SLS) is often used in the manufacturing industry to produce complex and durable parts. 

As 3D printing becomes a viable option for manufacturing, the search for a wider range of materials, outside of metal and plastic is essential. Sintratec, an innovator within the 3D printing industry, is contributing to the future of additive manufacturing with its Thermoplastic Elastomer material, known as TPE. This material has properties similar to rubber and has wide application in 3D printing from prototyping to end product. 

Sintratec TPE 

Sintratec's use of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology enables the transformation of TPE powder into highly precise 3D objects. At a sintering temperature of approximately 110 degrees Celsius, the resulting objects are not only accurate, but also soft to the touch with an impressive degree of stretchability. One of the key features of TPE is its pliability, which can be altered in different areas of a single part by adjusting the wall thickness. This unique characteristic allows for a combination of flexibility and robustness within the same structure, opening up new possibilities for innovative design and application.

Distinguishing Features and Efficiency of TPE in 3D Printing 

The core feature of TPT printed objects are their high degree of stretchability. Sintratec TPE is recognized for its ductility while ensuring dimensional stability over time. The material showcases a tensile strength of 7 megapascals and a tensile modulus of 21 MPa. Further, its unique features, such as elongation at a break of 448% and a Shore A hardness of 76, set it apart from other materials. Moreover, the economic efficiency of TPE is highlighted by its refresh ratio of 90%, where only 10% of virgin powder needs to be added to the non-sintered material, thereby making it a cost-effective choice in recycling.

Broad Applications of Sintratec TPE

Sintratec's TPE isn't just for prototypes; it's used in many final products in different industries. Because it's soft and bounces back into shape, it's perfect for dampening or cushioning. This includes parts for bathroom fittings, wrist supports after injuries, and shock absorbers for big machines. You can also find it in bike grips, headphone cushions, and shoes.

Final Thoughts

Sintratec TPE emerges as a high-performance SLS material well-suited for industrial applications. Its remarkable flexibility, elasticity, and tear resistance cater to various applications, from insulation elements to footwear, making it a versatile choice in 3D printing. As Sintratec continues to explore and introduce more 3D printing materials, the future looks promising for further advancements in 3D printing.

This article is based on a video by Sintratec. Read more about Sintratec materials here.