Best 3D Printer Filament – Best Flexible Filament 2019

Posted on
Image of Best 3D Printer Filament-Best Flexible Filaments

With the growth of the consumer 3D printing industry, it seems that anyone who has a knowledge of plastics and polymers has joined the bandwagon and started making 3D printing filament.

There are seemingly endless choices available to the home 3D printing enthusiast when it comes to filament. With so many choices, how is a consumer to decide?

Filament quality plays a crucial role in your printing process and can often be the determinative factor in a successful or unsuccessful print.

Beyond price, what other filament characteristics should buyers be looking for?

Things like diameter, brittleness, the environment in which the filament is extruded, quality control and packaging all play a role in the quality of the filament you are buying.

In addition to characteristics of the filament itself, printing parameters such as print speed, extrusion temperature, print bed temperature and extrusion settings will affect how a given filament will perform. This is especially true when dealing with flexible 3D printer filament.

Not all flexible filament is created equal, however. There are differences in materials, durometer (hardness) and percent elongation among other parameters. Click here for an overview of flexible 3D printer filament.

In this post, I review the best flexible filament including filament characteristics and associated printing parameters to help narrow your choices and make an informed decision when making your purchase.

 

 

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament NinjaFlex fire redNinjaTek NinjaFlex

NinjaTek, located in Manheim, PA, is a division of Fenner Drives. With over 100 years of manufacturing experience including industrial polyurethane belting and industrial O-rings, they bring this deep domain expertise to their line of 3D printing filaments.

NinjaTek manufactures and sells some of the best and most popular flexible filament in the 3D printing marketplace.

The company’s NinjaFlex brand is a proprietary TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) blend with a Shore hardness of 85A.

NinjaFlex has superior elasticity with percent elongation specifications of 65% to yield and 660% to break. With a melting point of 429 degrees F and resistance to a number of chemicals including petroleum, antifreeze, butane, kerosene, soap, transmission oil and turpentine, components printed with this material will withstand some pretty tough environments.

To add to the material’s excellent elasticity and chemical resistance, NinjaFlex sports abrasion resistance 20% better than ABS and almost 70% better than PLA.

NinjaFlex prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp: 225 – 235 C
  • Print surface temp: 20 – 40 C
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 10 – 20 mm/sec for top/bottom layers; 15 – 35 mm/sec for infill layers
  • Cooling fan: on for layers after the 2nd layer to prevent stringing

NinjaTek flexible filaments are manufactured with a proprietary, patent pending process that creates irregularities along its length to reduce the force required to pull the soft filament through the printer’s extruder mechanism. The irregularities are imparted into the filament by inducing die flow instabilities during the filament fabrication (extrusion) process.

Customers can order NinjaFlex in 11 colors – fire (red), lava (orange), flamingo (pink), sun (yellow), midnight (black), sapphire (blue), grass (green), snow (white), silver (gray), water (clear), neon and steel.

Sizing options include 1.75 and 3mm diameters and 0.5 kg, 1 kg or 2 kg spools.

You will like NinjaFlex for printing seals, gaskets and vibration isolation features.

Prices vary depending on spool size, filament color and diameter. 1 kg spools of 1.75 diameter NinjaFlex filament run from around $50 – $70.

>>> Purchase NinjaFlex from ColorFabb <<<

<<< Purchase NinjaFlex on Amazon >>>

>>> Purchase NinjaFlex from Filaments.ca <<<

 

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament NinjaTek Cheetah snow white colorNinjaTek Cheetah

NinjaTek’s Cheetah brand of flexible filament is another option in their flexible filament offerings.

What’s sets Cheetah filament apart from other flexible filaments is its relative ease of printing. Normally, when printing with flexible filaments, you have to slow down your print speed. With Cheetah filament, on the other hand, you will be able to print at speeds around 60 mm/sec or speeds that you normally run your PLA and ABS prints with. This is twice the speed you can print other flexible filaments. In addition, you can print this material with the same printer settings you run for your ABS prints.

Cheetah has a Shore hardness of 95A and great elasticity with percent elongation of 55% to yield and 580% to break point.

Compared to its sister filament, NinjaFlex, Cheetah rates a little better in toughness, abrasion resistance and impact resistance. Your printed objects will have better abrasion resistance than your ABS (40% better) and PLA (75% better) prints and an impact resistance over 80% better than ABS.

Image of NinjaTek's Filament Extrusion Simplifiying IrregularitiesAs with NinjaFlex, the proprietary extrusion process used for Cheetah imparts irregularities into the filament’s surface to aid in feeding the filament through your printer’s extruder mechanism.

Click here for a copy of NinjaTek’s patent application on their filament extrusion process.

The melting point of Cheetah filament is 428 F and it’s resistant to a number of chemicals including gasoline, antifreeze, butane, kerosene, soap, transmission oil and turpentine so, like NinjaFlex, will hold up in fairly extreme environments.

Cheetah prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp 230 – 240 C
  • Print surface temp: 20 – 40 C
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 30 – 45 mm/sec for top/bottom layers; 60 – 80 mm/sec for infill layers
  • Cooling fan: on for layers after the 2nd layer to prevent stringing

NinjaTek has produced a series of videos explaining many aspects of printing with flexible filament including printer features and settings that can affect your print.

You can order NinjaFlex in 11 colors – fire (red), lava (orange), flamingo (pink), sun (yellow), midnight (black), sapphire (blue), grass (green), snow (white), silver (gray), water (clear), neon and steel.

Sizing options include 1.75 and 3mm diameters and 0.5 kg, 1 kg or 2 kg spools.

You will like NinjaFlex for printing hinges, seals, gaskets and components that require a snap fit, removable covers or plugs.

Prices vary depending on spool size, filament color and diameter. 1kg spools of 1.75 diameter Cheetah filament run from around $30 – $75.

>>> Purchase NinjaTek Cheetah from ColorFabb <<<

<<< Purchase NinjaTek Cheetah on Amazon >>>

>>> Purchase NinjaTek Cheetah from Filaments.ca <<<

 

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament ColorFabb nGEN FLEX black colorColorFabb NGEN FLEX

ColorFabb is located in Belfeld, the Netherlands and was founded by the former CEO of Helian Polymers, Ruud Rouleaux, so you can be assured they know what they are doing when it comes to 3D printer filament fabrication. ColorFabb offers a top end source of 3D printer filament for the European market.

The company’s flexible filament offering, NGEN FLEX is a co-polyester formulation developed in conjunction with Eastman Chemical Company and their Amphora 3D Polymer materials.

NGEN FLEX is considered a semi-flexible material which makes it easier to print than other flexible filaments. You will be able to print with this filament at print speeds close to what you would use with PLA. Since the filament is semi-flexible, it can be pushed through Bowden-type extruders which normally have difficulty with other flexible filaments.

NGEN FLEX has 400% elongation before breaking and withstands temperatures up to 257 F so your printed components can be steam sterilized if needed.

With a Shore hardness of 95A, printed components will be quite flexible if you print with minimal infill. Flexibility can be adjusted by using more or less infill.

NGEN FLEX prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp 240 – 260 C
  • Print surface temp: 80 – 100 C
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 30 – 50 mm/sec
  • Cooling fan: 50% fan speed max

NGEN FLEX is available in black, dark gray, medium brown and clear.

Sizing options include 650 gm spools and 1.75 mm or 2.85 mm diameters. Special orders of larger size spools of 2, 2.2, 4.5, 8 kg are also available.

You will like this material for flexible covers, hinges, seals, gaskets and wheels.

Prices vary depending on filament color 650 gm spools of 1.75 diameter NGEN FLEX filament run from around 40 – 45 euros.

Click here for more information about NGEN FLEX

<<< Purchase ColorFabb NGEN FLEX >>>

>>> Purchase ColorFabb NGEN FLEX from Filaments.ca <<<

ColorFabb is also a European distributor of NinjaTek filaments.

>>> Purchase NinjaFlex from ColorFabb <<<

<<< Purchase NinjaTek Cheetah from ColorFabb >>>

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament- Filaments.ca TPE blue colorFilaments.ca TPE

Filaments.ca was created to provide a source of printers, accessories and filaments for the 3D printing industry directly in Canada. Before the company was formed, Canadian 3D printing enthusiasts has to import their printers and materials from either the US or Europe.

In addition to retailing filaments from other manufacturers such as NinjaTek and ColorFabb, Filaments.ca also manufactures their own line of top rated 3D printing filament making them the top distributor of filaments in Canada.

Filaments.ca 3D printing filaments are manufactured under strict quality control. Company leaders have leveraged their backgrounds in plastics and chemicals to purchase raw materials in bulk quantities from a trusted supplier base. All filaments are produced from 100% virgin raw materials and dried before extruding. Multiple quality check points and laser-based measurement ensure filament diameters within +/- 0.05 mm. Filament spools are packaged with a desiccant packet and vacuum sealed for delivery.

For more on Filaments.ca story click here.

Filaments.ca TPE flexible 3D printer filament is available in Shore hardnesses of 80A and 90A. The 80A filament will print softer, more flexible components. Note that components printed from TPE will be more likely to permanently deform if overstretched.

Components in TPE will also be a bit lighter and have more of a matte finish than components printed in TPU.

Filaments.ca TPE prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp 220 – 240 C
  • Print surface temp: 85 – 95 C or higher
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 30 mm/sec or less
  • Cooling fan: on

You will like Filaments.ca TPE filament to print objects with a rubber-like feel and good abrasion resistance. The material withstands oil and grease and is best used in lower temperature environments such as drive belts, footwear and sporting goods.

Filaments.ca TPE is available in black, blue, green, natural, orange, red, white and yellow. Sizing options include 500 gm spools and 1.75 mm or 2.85 mm diameters for $25.95.

Spools come in resealable packages along with desiccant pack for storage of your filament when not in use.

The company also provides free shipping to US for orders over $200.

<<< Purchase Filaments.ca TPE >>>

 

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament-Filaments.ca Flexible PLA gray colorFilaments.ca Flexible PLA

Most of the flexible filaments listed here are either a TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). Filaments.ca offers an alternative – Flexible PLA – which is made from their standard, user-friendly and environmentally safe PLA (polyactic acid) filament.

Objects printed with Filaments.ca Flexible PLA will be rubbery and durable. The material bonds well with regular PLA filament giving you the ability to readily print both materials in a dual-material component having both rigid and flexible portions.

Unlike standard PLA filament, Flexible PLA is not brittle so you can print with the confidence of knowing that the filament will not fail in the middle of your print jobs.

Flexible PLA can be printed on any fused deposition modality printer and extrudes well all extruders types including Bowden extruders.

This filament is easier to print with than other flexible filaments such as TPU though it does have a higher Shore hardness so printed components will be less elastic than objects printed in TPU or TPE. Printed components will still retain enough elasticity to bend even if printed with high infill percentages.

Click here to watch a video demonstrating the flexibility of Filaments.ca Flexible PLA

Filaments.ca Flexible PLA prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp: 190 – 230 C
  • Print surface temp: 60 – 80 C recommended but not required
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape
  • Print speed: 15 – 30 mm/sec
  • Cooling fan: on

You will like this filament if you want to print rigid objects that are also bendable. Filaments.ca Flexible PLA is also a great option if your printer does not have a heated print surface but you still want the ability to print flexible components.

Available in black, green, gray, red and white. Sizing options include 1 kg spools and 1.75 mm or 2.85 mm diameters for $44.95.

PLA materials are especially susceptible to moisture absorption and, like all spools from Filaments.ca, their Flexible PLA is shipped in resealable packages along with desiccant packs for storage of your filament when not in use.

>>>Purchase Filaments.ca Flexible PLA <<<

 

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament-Filaments.ca TPU orange colorFilaments.ca TPU

Filaments.ca TPU is a polyurethane material having high durability and flexibility. The material has a Shore hardness of 91A and 600% elongation before break. Components will return to their originally printed shape after being stretch or deformed.

TPU is virtually odorless during printing and finished components will have a glossy, smooth texture with a tough rubber feel.

Filaments.ca TPU is easier to print than their TPE material and prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp: 220 – 240 C
  • Print surface temp: 75 – 85 C
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 30 mm/sec or less
  • Cooling fan: on
  • Reduce extruder retraction

You will like this material for printing components for use in lower temperature environments requiring toughness and elasticity as well as resistance to oils, grease and abrasion. This material is a favorite for printing custom smartphone and other removable, protective cases

Since Filaments.ca TPU contains no plasticizes, it is not a skin irritant or an allergen.

Filaments.ca TPU is available in black, blue, green, natural, orange, red, white and yellow. Sizing options include 1 kg spools and 1.75 mm or 2.85 mm diameters for $49.95.

Spools ship in resealable packages along with desiccant pack for storage of your filament when not in use.

<<< Purchase Filaments.ca TPU >>>

 

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament YOYI TPU blue colorYOYI TPU

YOYI TPU is a top rated, flexible filament manufactured by Dongguan Zhehan Plastic & Metal Company in Dongguan, China.

The company produces over 25 different 3D printing filament types and has a daily output of 1.5 tons. Filament production quality control includes a 4 – 8 hour material drying operation before extrusion and laser-based filament diameter control to within +/- 0.05mm.

Filament is tested on MakerBot and RepRap 3D printers to insure compatibility with consumer 3D printers.

YOYI TPU filament prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp 200 – 220 C
  • Print surface temp: 30 – 40 C
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 15 – 30 mm/sec
  • Cooling fan: on

This filament has a Shore hardness of 95A and will have elasticity consistent with other TPU 3D printing filaments.

Available in red, blue, green, orange, yellow, black, gray, clear and white on 0.8 kg spools of 1.75 mm diameter. Prices vary from $24.99 – $26.99 depending on color.

>>> Purchase YOYI flexible filament on Amazon <<<

Image of Best 3D Printer Filament Sainsmart emerald colorSainSmart TPU

With the motto “Power To The Makers”, SainSmart is a company dedicated to hobbyists, tinkerers and ‘Do-It-Yourselfer’s’.

They sell a wide range of gadgets including Arduino microcomputers, robotic components, oscilloscopes, 3D printers and 3D printing filament.

SainSmart’s flexible 3D printer filament is a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) formulation and highly rated by users.

SainSmart TPU prints best with the following settings:

  • Extruder temp: 195 – 230 C
  • Print surface temp: 40 – 60 C
  • Print surface: glue or blue painters tape not needed if using a heated print surface
  • Print speed: 30 – 50 mm/sec
  • Cooling fan: on

For 3D printers with Bowden-type extruders, the following additional tips will aid your print:

  • Slow print speed to 15 – 30 m/s
  • First layers should be printed at 150% width and 50% speed
  • Disable extruder retraction to minimize stringing
  • Feed filament directly to extruder, bypassing feeder tubes to ease feeding

Like the other flexible filaments highlighted in this ‘best of’ listing, SainSmart TPU is durable and resistant to oil and grease.

With a Shore hardness of 95A, SainSmart filament will have flexibility similar to ColorFabb’s NGEN or NinjaTek’s Cheetah filaments.

SainSmart has the largest selection of flexible filament colors available: black, blue, clear, emerald, gray, green, orange, pink, purple, red, teal, peach, violet, white and yellow. Sizing options include 250 gm, 0.8 kg and 1 kg spools in 1.75 mm or 3 mm diameters.

Price varies by size and color. 1kg spools of 1.75 mm filament run $30 – $35.

You will like SainSmart TPU filament for projects such as custom smartphone covers, watch bands and snap-on protective covers.

<<< Purchase TPU from Sainsmart >>>

>>> Purchase Sainsmart TPU on Amazon <<<

Conclusion

Flexible filament provides you a new tool in your 3D printing toolbox and gives you yet another outlet for your creative energy.

You will be able print objects that are bendable and stretchable and by managing you print parameters you will be able to control and customize the amount of flexibility.

For advanced prints, you will even be able to print hybrid components having both rigid and flexible elements.

Noting that flexible 3D printer filament can pose some challenges, manufacturers are inventing filament features and formulations that allow printing flexible filament with more standard print parameters.

The flexible filaments summarized in this listing have all received top ratings from 3D printing enthusiasts who have used them. I would not have put them in my ‘best of’ list if they were not rated highly.

In fact, there are many more flexible filaments out there that did not make the cut for my review. I’m sure most, if not all, of these filaments are high quality but I had to draw the line somewhere.

With all the options available in terms of color, printability, size and price, your are sure to find a top rated flexible filament that meets your needs from this listing.

Bottom line is flexible filament allows you to make some pretty cool stuff.

What will you create?

If you have used any of the filaments summarized in this post and would like to share your insights or if you have any questions, please include them in the comments section below.

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
Email me
Google+
https://3dpbuzz.com/best-3d-printer-filament-best-flexible-filament
Twitter
Pinterest
Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *