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ULTRASINT TPU USE CASES

A flexible, robust material designed for the real world.

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) is a versatile thermoplastic made by BASF with rubber-like properties which is ideal for the production of parts requiring shock absorption, energy return or flexibility.

 

Parts produced with this material offer a wide range of design possibilities. Typical applications include sports protection equipment, footwear, orthopedic models, car interior components and various industrial tools like pipes and grippers.

Ultrasint TPU01 is printed with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, which combines a high level of detail, process stability and throughput to make this material ideal for applications from functional prototyping through to full production of end-use parts.

Ultrasint TPU A flexible, robust material designed for the real world.
Benefits at a Glance
  • High elasticity, rebound and fatigue resistance

  • Excellent surface quality and level of detail

  • High process stability and throughput, ideal for serial production

Typical Applications
  • Sports protection equipment

  • Footwear

  • Orhopedic models

  • Medical devices

  • Car interior components

  • Tools and grippers

  • Flexible pipes

Material Properties
  • Hardness shore:  88A

  • Tensile strength:  9 MPa

  • Young's modulus: 85 MPa

  • Elongation at break: 280%

  • Charpy impact (notched):  no break

  • Rebound reisistance:  63% 

Use Cases

Vehicle components

There is a growing demand for 3D printing in vehicle components for a variety of reasons, including lighter weight structures, increased comfort and functionality, individualization to meet specific driver requirements, and creating unique designs to stand out from the competition. TPU is especially desirable for automotive interiors, where it is used for headrests, seating, dashboards, door armrests, and mid consoles. 

One of the biggest benefits of TPU is the design freedom with open structures like lattices. This allows the design of components with variable levels of hardness - individual sections can be designed for a specific function, such as softer cushioning in one section and stiffer support in another. 

Use Case: Motorcycle seat 

Oechsler leveraged the benefits of additive manufacturing and TPU to design a motorbike saddle to provide a more comfortable riding experience. Ultrasint TPU01 was the material of choice because of its long-term flexibility, shock absorption, and energy return, as well as it's detail and surface quality. 

The saddle design is composed of multiple layers, each with different lattice structures to provide various levels of cushioning. Because of the design freedom inherent in additive manufacturing, the saddle was able to be designed and printed in one piece, which reduced the time and cost associated with production and assembly traditionally required for motorcycle seats. The saddle was also up to 25% lighter than the traditionally manufactured seat and required less material, resulting in significant savings in material costs.

TPU motorbike saddle 3D printed with HP Multi Jet Fusion

Photo and data courtesy of Oechsler and Forward AM

Medical

TPU is having an enormous impact in the production of medical devices the flexibility and shock absorption combined with the complex, light geometries provides opportunities not available with traditional manufacturing. Products like prosthetics and braces can be 3D printed and customized to the patient's needs and stand up to long-term daily use without causing skin irritation. 

Use Case: Prosthetic socket

Christopher Hutchison, the co-founder and CEO of ProsFit, was involved in an accident that resulted in the loss of both legs. Due to the time and complexity of making prosthetics in a traditional manner which could take several weeks and multiple manufacturing steps, Chris started looking for alternative manufacturing options.  According to Chris, "The traditional process for creating and fitting a leg prosthetic is long, complex, and uncomfortable for the patient". 

Prosfit successfully commercialized ProsFit sockets by 3D scanning a patient's limb, designing a prosthetic with Computer-aided Design (CAD) software, and 3D printing a final prosthetic. Originally the prosthetics were printed using FDM technology, but they turned to Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology improve quality, accuracy and end appearance.

Compared to the original manufacturing process, ProsFit has reduced the time to produce a socket from weeks to days, reduced the cost of production, and allowed clinicians to fit 5 times as many patients with the same resources. 

 

The outer shell of the prosthetic is made with Nylon PA12 for it's strength and economics, and ProsFit later added an inner socket printed with Ultrasint TPU to increase the comfort for the wearer. This also accelerated the design and production process. TPU delivers outstanding vibration cushioning and maintains mechanical characteristics under repetitive load, while showing no performance or visual degradation over time.

 

“Sockets made using HP 3D printing are flexible and strong, while at the same time more comfortable and natural to walk on.” 

Prosfit Prosthetic socket liner 3D printed with TPU and nylon PA12

Photo and data courtesy of HP and Forward AM

Sports protection equipment

TPU is an excellent choice for 3D printed sports protective equipment because it is robust enough to withstand rough use, and lattice structures can be used for interior strength, flexibility and rebound. An additional advantage is that equipment can be customized for the fit and safety requirements of the individual athlete. Common uses include helmets, guards and more.  

Use Case: Sports headgear

Synchro Innovations used additive manufacturing to design the Kupol helmet in order to overcome the traditional limitations of conventional manufacturing. One of the main goals was to replace the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam padding which repels moisture and traps heat.

3D printing technology was chosen for it's design freedom, speed of prototyping, and ability to innovate. Several different 3D printing technologies were tested in the design and prototyping process, but TPU and Polyamide (PA) printed with Multi Jet Fusion technology were selected for their speed of production,  strength and affordability.

 

The final Kupol design replaced EPS foam with an open structure inside the helmet made of TPU which allowed for customization and breathability. The shell used Polyamide to balance impact strength with thin, lightweight walls. The end product was 20% lighter than the original helmet, 3 times faster than with SLS 3D printing technology, and the cost per part was within the required production budget.

Sports headgear 3D printed with TPU using HP Multi Jet Fusion

Photo and data courtesy of HP 

Robotics

TPU is used in robotics for a variety of applications that require flexible or grippy parts or shock absorption. This includes flex grippers, internal ducts, connectors, and actuators. 

Use Case: Cobots 

Cobots are collaborative robots that are designed to work alongside humans. With cobots, a critical safety requirement is to prevent injury to people if they accidentally come in contact with the machine. A common way to prevent collisions is to use optical sensors which cause the machine to slow or stop when people come within a defined zone. This results in lower productivity and higher overall cost to the company, as well as unpredictable production timing.

Oechsler developed a padded layer to wrap around a cobot's joints made of TPU. The flexibility and rebound of this layer reduces the risk of injuries to people, and allows the production sped to be increased by up to 150% due to the dampening of the collision forces. The open lattice allows heat to escape and also protects the cables and wires. Because this is a material buffer the cobot requires no additional sensors. The lattice design is easily customized to different cobot types. An additional benefit is that it can be installed with no dismantling, saving time and expense.

3D printed TPU sleeve for a cobot

Photo and data courtesy of Oechsler and Forward AM

Next Steps

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