The best flexible 3D printer filament can be used to print some very cool objects, like prosthetic limbs and customized cell phone cases. But in order to make these objects, you will need to use the correct settings as well.
Each flexible filament is different. Some are semi-flexible, others are more elastic. Some are medical grade, and others are not functional at all.
Below is a list of the best flexible 3D printer filament brands. They are some of our favorite flexible filament brands and we are confident that you will enjoy them too.
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A Few Quick Tips For Printing With Flexible Filaments
The best flexible 3D printer filaments are usually made of a thermoplastic called TPU. Due to TPU’s unique properties, you won’t be able to print it with the same settings as you print other filaments like PLA and ABS.
The main reason for this is that TPU tends to be a bit more messy when heated than other thermoplastics. And due to the flexible nature of the materials, printed layers often warp or bend after extrusion unless care is taken to cool the layers quickly.
With those challenges in mind, here are some tips for getting started when printing with TPU filaments:
- Print slowly, at a printing speed of between 15-30 mm/s
- For the first layer use something close to the following settings: Height 100% Width 150% speed 50% e.g.
- Make sure that retraction disabled. That will help to reduce any messy stringing or oozing.
- Optionally, you can increase the multiplier: set to 1.1, this might help the filament bond better.
- Make sure to use a cooling fan after the first layer.
Hopefully, those tips give you enough information to get started. Again, these settings work best for TPU, so some of the more exotic flexible filaments on this list, such as flexible nylon and flexible wood filaments, might require different settings.
Is TPU Toxic?
Flexible TPU filaments are often used to make little toys for children, and as we all know, kids like to put toys in their mouths all the time. It’s just what they do.
So the first question any parent might have about TPU is this: Is TPU flexible filament toxic?
In short: no, not really.
That being said, TPU is not food safe nor is it necessarily free of impurities. Some TPU filaments contain additives to improve their strength and print performance.
It is a synthetic thermoplastic filament, so it should not be ingested. It is used in medical applications, but those are highly specialized devices.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you can use TPU for everything other than food related applications. So have fun!
The Best Flexible Filament Brands
1. NinjaTech Ninjaflex Flexible Filament
NinjaTech and it’s parent company Fenner Drives have created one of the most popular brands of flexible filament, Ninjaflex. In fact, it is so popular that the brand name Ninjaflex is almost becoming synonymous with flexible filament, similar to how the brand Kleanex became synonymous with tissue.
Here are a few highlights:
- These filaments are really flexible: there’s no infill needed to make flexible objects
- 660% elongation allows for repeated movement & impact without wear or cracking
- Excellent vibration reduction
- Shore Hardness = 85A
- Suggested Applications: Seals, gaskets, plugs, leveling feet, protective applications
The reason that Ninjaflex is so popular is of course that Ninjaflex is the best quality flexible filament you can buy. There are cheaper flexible filaments, but this is one of the highest quality.
NinjaTech sells two different types of flex filament: TPU filaments (which are the most popular) and an interesting semiflex filament. TPU is the most popular type of flexible filament because it is relatively easy to use and the results are good.
The Semiflex filament is a more rigid version of the TPU Ninjaflex which makes it a bit easier to print with. But of course it isn’t quite as flexible as TPU. That is a benefit considering that TPU tends to have a similar flexible range from one object to the next, so you can mix it up with a semiflex filament.
2. SainSmart Flexible TPU
SainSmart makes arguably the best flexible filament on the market today. With hundreds of positive customer reviews and a wide range of assorted colors, SainSmart is clearly the dominant player in the flexible filament space.
Here is a quick overview of what you can expect from SainSmart flexible TPU filaments:
- It is made of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) and prints flexible, strong objects.
- TPU is compatible with all FFF printers
- TPU is easy to print with once you have the correct settings
- Excellent bed adhesion
- No warping on the bed
- Can be used to create phone cases, drone parts, shoe insoles and bracelets/jewelry
SainSmart is definitely a great value for money filament. It compares favorably with Filaflex and Ninjaflex, and they come on a standard plastic spool. The diameters are very consistent over the length of the spool.
The main spec to be aware of is the fact that it is 95A durometer, so it is a bit stiffer than other filaments, which tend to be around 85A. While other flexible filaments will be flexible like a gummy bear, you can expect SainSmart TPU to be more like a plastic fork.
3. Lay-filament Flexible filament
As usual, Kai Parthy and Lay Filament are pushing the boundaries of specialty flexible filaments. You can get flexible wood filament, flexible foam filament, and gelly filaments.
They even make a chalk based filament. Crazy, right?
The usefulness of flexible wood filament might not be immediately clear. One idea is to use this filament as a substitute for cork boards. But even if it is not super useful, flexible wood is a fun novelty filament.
Flexible foam and gelly filaments are immediately interesting because the range of objects that require these kinds of materials is vast, and now you can print them all.
The prices of these filaments are all over the place. For the full line-up, check out the lay filament website, but to buy them you will probably have to visit Amazon or a third party distributor like MatterHackers.
4. Taulman3D T-lyne Flexible Filament
The most impressive flex 3D filament from Taulman is called T-lyne, which Taulman teamed up with Dupont chemical to produce. The coolest thing about it is that you can dunk it in warm water to soften it, reshape it, and then dunk it in cold water to harden it again.
The new shape will set as if it had been printed that way. This makes it an ideal plastic for creating prosthetics and customized medical appliances.
The second is called PCTPE, which is a blend of a super flexible Nylon and TPE. The reason they chose to make this blend basically has to do with the fact that TPE by itself is flexible but not very strong.
By adding a flexible Nylon polycarbonate to the mix, PCTPE gains the durability and smooth texture of Nylon while maintaining the flexibility of TPE. It’s a perfect filament for printing phone cases, prosthetics, costume parts and even, if you can believe it, rubber duckies. Talk about a win win!
5. YOYI Flexible Filament
Like every other filament that YOYI makes, YOYI Flex is one of the best flexible filaments in the world.
It is also one of the most popular in part because it has fantastic dimensional accuracy of +/- 0.03 mm. It is not always the easiest filament to print with, but flexible filaments are in general a little bit more challenging.
The most important thing to do to make sure you have successful prints is to keep the print speed slow and consistent. Don’t let your printer speed up based on line types, and no retraction or very little retraction.
Final Thoughts On The Best Flexible 3D Printer Filament
Whether you want to make a pair of shoes or just a rubber stopper, the best flexible 3D printer filament brands will do the trick. They are each different and some of them are easier to print with than others.
But together, they will meet most, if not all, of your printing needs. If you can’t find what you are looking for in this list, then check out some more generic brands of good flexible filaments, like MakerBot, eSUN, SainSmart and Hatchbox. You can find them here.