Why pay top dollar for a premium phone case when you can 3d print your own phone case with a custom design of your choice for a fraction of a cost? Here we will look at 3d printing phone case, what material is best for 3d printing phone case and in the end we will share our own CAD model of a Samsung S8+ phone case and a TPU slicer settings profile.
Table of Contents
Can I 3D Print Phone Case?
Yes, most definitely. In fact I did just that and the results are astonishing. I printed in both, the most famous PLA filament and the less 3d printer friendly TPU. It is now my favorite custom 3d printed phone case and people love it. It’s a great way to showcase your work and attract people to 3d printing.
3D printing TPU is much more difficult that traditional PLA. The TPU material filament is very soft making it very difficult to push thru bowden tube if that is what your printer is equipped with. Although it is not impossible, I have successfully 3d printed a perfect TPU flexible phone case with a bowden tube.
From my research online it seems like most people critically recommend to have the retraction setting turned off when printing TPU. However when I have experimented this and had my retraction off I did not find it to be the most optimal setting.
Even thou the TPU is soft it still builds up a lot of pressure at the hot end nozzle and when moving from one point to another without dispensing the nozzle will still continue to ooze the filament resulting in very heavy stringing. It is ideal to have the retraction setting on at a very minimal. Just enough to release the build up pressure but not enough to pull the molten elastic material deep in the hot end nozzle and create a clog. My retraction setting is set at 0.5 mm with a bowden tube printer.
How Long Does It Take To 3D Print Phone Case?
3D Printing speed heavily depends on the material being printed and the printer settings. Typically you can expect an average around 3-4 hours to 3d print phone case in PLA and 9-11 hours to 3d print phone case in TPU filament.
3D Printing is a very slow process and majority of the speed setting will depend on the 3d printer and the filament material type. When I 3d printed a phone case in PLA filament with .01mm layer height it only took slightly under 3 hours to complete. Then I printed the same phone case with the same layer height in TPU filament and the print took almost 10 hours to finish. That is because the TPU filament material must be printed much slower than PLA.
How Much Does It Cost To 3D Print A Phone Case?
When 3d printing nearly entire cost is the cost of material. My 3d printed phone case in TPU filament material cost me about $1.08 per phone case. This does not include the cost of 3d printer energy consumption which would be about $0.09 for an average of 10 hours print time.
I used TPU filament from Amazon Basics and it worked out perfect for me on a Creality Ender 3 pro with a bowden tube. The cost breakdown:
1 kg spool of Amazon Basics TPU filament material cost me $30.32. The weight of 1 3d printed case is .035 kg. Take 1 kg and divide by .035 kg weight one case and get 28.57 cases can be made from 1 kg spool. Now the cost of $30.32 divided into 28 cases gives us $1.082 cost per case. So, is it really worth it to 3d print a phone case? yes
|1 kg spool of TPU||$30.32|
|.035 kg = 1 3d printed phone case||$1.08|
|28 Cases from one spool|
TPU Case vs. Hard Case
A hard case usually consists of solid plastic or PLA if 3d printed and lack the ability to provide a bumper cushion in an instance of an impact. A rubber-like material intended to cope with impacts or falls are often made of flexible materials such as silicone or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Cases made of TPU are resistant to scratches, shock, and abrasion. Most of the cases that come with the phones are made of TPU.
What is TPU Material Filament?
TPU filament material (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) is a flexible, abrasion resistant thermoplastic. TPU filament is elastic and resistant to abrasion can withstand impacts and is resistant to many chemicals. Its versatile and used in many different industries including 3d printing. TPU filament is a great choice for 3d printing phone cases, tracks and tires for rc toys, and virtually anything that is needed to be done in flexible, soft, but durable and abrasion resistant material.
How Fast Can You Print TPU? | Speed Settings
TPU filament material is very elastic and soft therefore it is much more difficult to 3d print than the commonly used hard plastic like PLA. When 3d printing TPU on my Creality Ender 3 pro with bowden tube I have my 3d printer speed setting at about 18% of the PLA speed.
Print speed for flexible TPU filament should be in the range of 15 to 20 mm/sec (900 mm/min) for bowden tube 3d printer. Direct drive 3d printers may print at a slightly faster speed. Layer height should be set at 0.1 mm. Extrusion temperature may range from 200-230˚C with the heated bed set around 40-60˚C.
Is TPU Material Good for Phone Case?
Yes, TPU is a best choice of material for a phone case in my opinion. TPU material has a rubber like properties that serves as a bumper that covers your phone’s vulnerable corners in case of a drop. Unlike hard plastic cases which do not effectively absorb shock and are likelier to translate the impact onto the device itself. TPU is resistant to impact and abrasion therefore it will provide a much better protection to your phone and remain scratch free.
Is TPU Filament Material Toxic?
Great features of TPU are it is completely odorless and non-toxic when printing and in fact it is even used in biomedical applications.
TPU Material Properties Table.
|Property||Polyester-based TPU||Polyether-based TPU|
|Low temperature flexibility||good||excellent|
Is TPU Same As Silicone?
Both TPU and silicone are polymer-based materials and used in multiple industries for their physical qualities and both materials are soft. Silicone and TPU are the best materials that we can use protect our mobile phones from breaking but are they that same material? TPU and Silicone are not the same materials. For example: TPU has the benefit of flexibility like silicone but the non-grip effect of the plastic. If you take into account that silicone lasts for about a month before it starts to stretch and starts falling off your cellphone, the TPU will last for about 2 years before showing signs of wear.
Thermoplastic urethane is usually melted and extruded, TPU has hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen in its backbone. silicones are often cast as a thermoset that is cured to form a cross linked polymer. Silicone has carbon, hydrogen silicon and oxygen as it’s composition.
TPU are generally stronger than silicone of similar molecular weight
TPU is any of a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties, including elasticity, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease and abrasion. Technically, they are thermoplastic elastomers consisting of linear segmented block copolymers composed of hard and soft segments.
Silicone, also known as polysiloxanes, are polymers that include any inert, synthetic compound made up of repeating units of siloxane, which is a chain of alternating silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, combined with carbon, hydrogen, and sometimes other elements.
Now that we covered the basics of TPU go ahead and head on over to Downloads tab above and put that TPU slicer profile to use, feel free to download the CAD model of the phone case as well. Be sure to have your TPU filament completely dried out before printing. TPU filament absorbs moisture when sitting out for some time and then the results may not be so pleasant as it will string heavily and produce very rough texture surface.
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Happy 3D Printing!