Rubber-Like: A New Flexible 3D Printing Material

by Matthew Wellington on July 24, 2013

Rubber-Like 3D Printing Material From iMaterialiseUp until now, 3D printed objects were created mainly by resin based materials. The end result, cool looking creatively designed objects but with one major flaw: rigidity.

No denying it, the ordinary 3D printing materials are good but because they lack resilience, the applications they can support through 3D printing can only go so far.

3D printing fans now however, have something to smile about. Just recently the 3D printing service company i.Materialise introduced a new flexible 3D printing material called ‘Rubber-Like’.

Rubber-Like is meant to bridge the gap that most of the traditional 3D printing materials have been unable to through its remarkable flexibility.

i.Materialise has provided this unique material for a trial period that ends on the 1st of September. During this period, users will have the opportunity to test the material and provide any relevant feedback on the benefits of its usage. Rubber-Like is said to print objects of up to the size of 320 × 270 × 300 mm. Ordinarily the material has an off-white colour but it’s dyed black once printing is complete.

Rubber-Like is very similar to Shapeways’ Elasto Plastic and the common nylon filament. The main difference between it and the latter is you can easily bend objects fabricated from Rubber-Like without worrying of them breaking.

Rubber-Like vs Elasto Plastic

The Elasto Plastic 3D printing material from Shapeways has a lot of similarities to Rubber-Like. Elasto Plastic is robust, flexible and fairly soft. Thanks to its incredible flexibility, there are many advanced applications that one could use this material for. Particularly when it comes to objects that require a reasonable level of flexibility such as footwear and clothing. Elasto Plastic was also offered for a trial period by the company that ended on 9th July.

The Elasto Plastic material was sold at $1.75 per cubic centimetre with an additional amount of $1.95 for handling fees per model. Rubber-Like on the other hand is a bit pricey as it sells for $2.60 per cubic centimetre.

Its experimental phase is set to end in the beginning of September where the company will then decide whether or not to go on with the production of the material. The most outstanding fact about Rubber-Like compared to Elasto Plastic is that it can be used in the fabrication of numerous models and designs that require shock absorption. This will make it possible to fabricate many more gadgets.

Exciting Facts About Rubber-Like

So much has been said about Rubber-Like but the most important question really is how different is it from the average materials? How would 3D printing technology transform or rather improve through the usage of Rubber-Like?

Well its most primary advantage is its flexibility. Rubber-Like has virtually the same properties as rubber, which is actually the basis for its name, meaning it can be stretched or bent more easily than any other 3D printing materials.

All objects that have been made through most resin 3D printing materials tend to generally have a rigid plastic like form. This may be good for making some toys, Prototypes and Models, but the rigidity is a huge limiting factor in quite a number of instances.

The resilience of Rubber-Like was for instance, a significant factor in it being used to fabricate the dress that was designed by Iris Van Herpen paraded on the Spring Fashion Week. The dress was a perfect display of the extent of buoyancy that could be achieved in 3D printing with the Rubber-Like material.

The success of the splendid fabrication of this dress proved that Rubber-Like could be very instrumental in the creation of many other haute couture dresses and designs. In fact, Iris Van Herpen has already designed skirts and capes from the material as a further way of showcasing its amazing applications.

Rubber-Like naturally has an off-white color. i.Materialise decided to dye it black as a finishing treatment to give it a better visual allure and so far, the trick is working. Many of the models that have been made from this material are striking more people as being classy due to the black dye. The black colour (dye) makes it a little less obvious for one to tell that models have been 3D printed.

While Rubber-Like is comparably more expensive than Shapeways’ Elasto Plastic flexible 3D printing material, the ability and ease of incorporating shock absorption in creating 3D objects and models is enough reason for a lot of designers to embrace the material. This feature alone will greatly broaden the variety of models that can be created through 3D printing.

What Can Rubber-Like Create?

Rubber-Like can be used to create various accessories, squeezable models and gadgets. Its most plausible applications however are in the making of clothing and footwear. It is quite difficult and almost next to impossible to fabricate 3D printed clothes or footwear using other materials because of their rigidity.

With Rubber-Like’s flexibility nonetheless, most of the objects such as clothing and footwear, which require a certain degree of elasticity can be fabricated with ease. Its ‘Rubber-Like’ nature is also expected to come handy to Remote Control Car lovers as they will now be able to create customized wheels and tyres at home. Moreover other things that the material can create include handles, grips and knobs.

What’s more fascinating about Rubber-Like is it can be simulated to achieve various degrees of material strength (hardness), tear resistance as well as elongation. Essentially this means that the material can be altered to have varying levels of tear resistance, elongation and hardness depending on the specific object or models that the user would like to create. As a matter of fact, this will be a door way for a myriad of applications to be discovered all thanks to Rubber-Like.

How Do I Obtain Rubber-Like?

i.Materialise is the main producer of Rubber-Like. Like Elasto Plastic, the company at the moment can only sell products or models that have been made using the material but it may not be possible for you to get your hands on the material itself.

Until the deadline for the experimental phase is over, the simplest way of getting to see the astounding things that the material can create is to order your models from i.Materialise. One problem though, the company currently cannot ship or distribute products made from this material in the US due to patent issues. However i.Materialise is working on a convenient agreement as we speak.

Please feel free to leave a comment below, or share this article with your friends.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: