How to 3D Print TPU: A Comprehensive Guide

3D printing with TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) opens up a world of possibilities due to its unique properties. TPU is a flexible, durable, and versatile material, making it ideal for creating objects that need to withstand wear and tear while maintaining a certain level of elasticity. This guide will take you through the essential steps and considerations for successfully 3D printing with TPU.

What is TPU?

TPU is a type of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) that combines the best qualities of plastic and rubber. It is known for its high elasticity, abrasion resistance, and ability to withstand impacts. These properties make it suitable for a wide range of applications, from phone cases and shoe soles to automotive parts and wearable technology.

Preparing Your 3D Printer

  1. Choose the Right 3D Printer

Not all 3D printers are capable of printing TPU. You need a printer with a direct drive extruder, as Bowden extruders often struggle with flexible filaments. A direct drive setup keeps the filament path short and reduces the risk of kinking or jamming. As TPU printing doesn’t require an enclosure chamber, so there are lots of desktop FDM 3D Printers can handle TPU printing, such as Creality, Prusa, Ultimaker, Bambulab…

  1. Nozzle and Bed Temperature

TPU typically prints well at nozzle temperatures between 210°C and 240°C. The bed temperature should be set between 40°C and 60°C to help with adhesion. It’s important to experiment with these settings as they can vary slightly based on the brand and type of TPU filament.

  1. Bed Surface Preparation

TPU adheres well to a variety of surfaces, but for the best results, use a PEI sheet or apply a thin layer of glue stick, such as the PVA glue. This helps in achieving good first-layer adhesion and makes it easier to remove the print once it’s done.

  1. Cooling Fans

For TPU, minimal cooling is often best. Set the cooling fan to run at about 20-30% of its capacity. Too much cooling can lead to warping and poor layer adhesion.

Slicer Settings

  1. Layer Height

A layer height between 0.2mm and 0.3mm works well for TPU. Thicker layers can help in achieving better layer adhesion, which is crucial for flexible prints.

  1. Print Speed

Slow and steady wins the race with TPU. A print speed of 30-40 mm/s is ideal. Printing too fast can cause the filament to buckle and lead to extrusion issues.

  1. Retraction Settings

Retraction can be tricky with TPU due to its flexibility. Use a minimal retraction distance (1-2mm) and a slow retraction speed (10-20 mm/s) to prevent clogging and stringing.

  1. Infill and Shells

Infill density depends on the desired flexibility and the prints’ wall thickness. For more flexible prints, use a lower infill density (10-20%). Increase the number of perimeters or shells to add strength to the part without affecting its flexibility too much. For wall thickness less than 2mm, it is recommended to use 50% infill minimum or the prints become bend, which will lead to failure.

Printing Process

  1. Loading the Filament

When loading TPU filament, do it slowly to avoid kinking. Ensure that the filament path is as straight as possible from the spool to the extruder.

  1. First Layer

The first layer is critical for a successful print. Make sure the bed is level and the nozzle is at the correct height. TPU can be sensitive to first layer issues, so take your time to get this right.

  1. Monitoring the Print

Keep an eye on the print, especially during the first few layers. Look out for any signs of warping or poor adhesion. If any issues arise, pause the print and adjust your settings accordingly.

  1. Post-Processing

TPU prints generally do not require much post-processing. However, if you need to clean up any stringing or oozing, a sharp knife or scissors can be used to trim the excess material.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  1. Stringing and Oozing

– Solution: Increase retraction distance slightly or reduce the print temperature.

  1. Poor Layer Adhesion

– Solution: Increase the nozzle temperature or reduce the print speed. Ensure the bed is properly leveled.

  1. Warping

– Solution: Ensure proper bed adhesion techniques are used and reduce the cooling fan speed.

  1. Filament Jamming

– Solution: Check the filament path for any obstructions and reduce the print speed.


3D printing with TPU can be challenging, but with the right setup and settings, it can also be incredibly rewarding. By following the tips and guidelines in this guide, you can produce high-quality TPU prints that are both functional and durable. Happy printing!



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