Note: this is an article from 2018. Since this article was published 3D printing with silicone has become possible. Read more about it in our article:
At Beamler, we often get inquiries from customers interested to know whether 3D printing with rubber is possible. Unfortunately, this is not possible because rubber cannot become fluid controllably – which is a requirement to 3D print a material.
Rubber is an organic material with a gummy texture. Being organic means that its properties cannot be influenced by an external factor. It is true that we can shape rubber at high temperatures by using molds. However, once it goes through vulcanization, the material will never be on its fluid state again. Actually, by applying heat into vulcanized rubber would simply burn it.
Nonetheless, just like Silicone, the production of rubber parts through traditional techniques requires the usage of inject molding. This is extremely expensive for the production of small batches due to the high cost of preparing the molds.
Rubber-like 3D printing materials
The good news is that it is possible to 3D print parts with a rubber-like material. In fact, these 3D printing materials are excellent substitutes for rubber. Thermoplastic elastomers, also known as TPE’s, are basically a type of plastic that has been engineered to mimic the crucial qualities that made rubber so attractive. TPE’s combine flexibility with durability, bending and compressing just like rubber. These 3D printing materials allow engineers to determine which properties from rubber they want to simulate at the desired levels, whether it is heat resistance, abrasion or others.
Rubber-like materials are suitable for the production of seals, soft gripe handles or also, for instance, multi-material prototypes that need shock absorption.
Rubber-like materials on Beamler’s Database
This material developed by Stratasys for Polyjet printers is a great option for verifying advanced designs and prototyping. Available in black and transparent, it simulates the look & feel as well as the functionality of rubber-like goods.
Applications: Overmolds, coatings, jigs and fixtures, grips and many others.
Developed by 3D Systems to be printed using SLS technologies, this tear-resistant rubber-like material can resist harsh environments while ensuring long-term stability. Available in white, this material is suitable for durable prototypes.
Applications: Ear molds, sports footwears, hoses and many others.
EvisionTEC developed this material for SLAs printers. It is a great choice for a wide range of dental and orthodontic models that require highly precise details.
Applications: Dental models, production-quality design prototypes and end products.
Developed for SLS printers by 3D systems, this material allows engineers to quickly produce complex prototypes.
Applications: Gaskets, flexible prototypes, demonstration models