Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) belongs to a class of polyurethane plastics having many important properties such as elasticity, transparency, and resistance to grease, oil, and abrasion. It is unique due to its extremely flexible nature. Technically speaking, TPUs are made up of thermoplastic elastomers. However, it is better to separate them from acids, solvents, and fuels, which can affect their properties.
Commercially available TPUs are of different types depending on the application;
- Polyester-based TPUs, which are derived from adipic acid esters,
- Polyether-based TPUs, which are derived from tetrahydrofuran ethers,
- Polycaprolactone-based TPUs, which are derived from thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer.
Polyether-based TPUs are commonly used in wet environments, and polyester-based TPUs are commonly used to resist oil and hydrocarbon. A smaller class of polycaprolactone-based TPUs can perform optimally at low-temperature and are comparatively more resistant to hydrolysis.
ADVANTAGES OF TPU FLEXIBLE FILAMENT
TPU has different advantages such as resistance to abrasion, ability to perform at low temperature, elasticity, and mechanical properties along with rubber-like elasticity. Think of flexible TPU has a hybrid material between hard plastic and soft silicone.
In 3D printing technology, usually Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polylactic acid (PLA) are considered as standard plastics for printer filament but due to insufficient flexibility, they can’t be used in bending prototypes. On the other hand, TPU printing filament is flexible in nature. It can bend easily without any effect on the design, strength and durability. A mild soap can be used for its cleaning.
In a study published in the Journal of biomedical materials research. Part A. , it has been found that TPU filaments are better than polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) in preparing porous meshes that are more elastic, structurally stable, and retain effective porosity under mechanical pressures. Moreover, TPU mesh have superior biocompatibility with PVDF.
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