November 29th, 2023
In the next part of our regular series, we're going to look at another very useful member of the FDM 3D printing material family. This time it's Nylon.
What is It?
Nylon is a tough and semi-flexible material that offers high impact and abrasion resistance. It is an ideal choice for printing durable parts for machinery and electrical components. It’s also resistant to oils and some other chemicals, lending itself well to printing electrical and control panel housings.
Part of a family of synthetic polymers, Nylon is composed of semi-crystalline polyamides and available in different grades denoted by a PA prefix such as PA6 or PA11.
Nylon as a product is well-known in the manufacture of clothing, where it’s added to give cotton a reinforcing stretchiness. The material is also commonly used for things such as pulley wheels or even the wheels that move the axis on your 3D printer.
In terms of mechanical and industrial uses Nylon has good stability, strength and resistance to heat and chemicals as we've already mentioned.
Uses in FDM 3D Printing
Nylon as a 3D printing filament can be used for making toys and other domestically used items but also has applications in the following areas:
Strong and flexible parts.
Structural components exposed to a harsh environment.
Parts demanding high fatigue endurance.
Bearings, nuts, rivets, washers, and gears.
Cams, rollers, snap-fit joints, and sliding components.
That's not to say that these parts are ideally suited to being 3D printed but if using the medium, the versatility of nylon shouldn't be underestimated.
The downside of nylon in this regard is it’s water absorption which also makes it unsuitable for use outdoors. There are as always advantages and disadvantages to using nylon in FDM printing so let's take a look at those.
Pros and Cons
Tough and partially flexible
Has a hard finish but also some flexibility which is ideal for certain moving parts
High impact resistance
It’s strength allows for it to be used in high wear situations
No unpleasant odour while printing
Good for the working environment
Good abrasion resistance
As mentioned, it can be used to make wheels which will take wear when used
Prone to Warping
The slower printing speeds needed leave the object prone to ambient temperature changes which can lead to warping
Air-tight storage required to prevent water absorption
Vacuum packing is the best option but mistakes happen so a filament dryer is an option
Improperly dried filaments can cause printing defects
Moisture can cause “popping” while printing and lead to uneven layers and under extrusion
Not suitable for moist and humid environments
The moisture factor again
As you can appreciate, there isn't much to add to the fact that nylon as a material is well known and commonly used. However, it's use in the FDM 3D printing world is mainly limited to larger scale manufacturing so not one that the average individual might choose.
Of course, as with most of the materials that we've covered so far in this series, nylon can be used in prototyping when the need arises. This would generally be when an exact like-for-like material comparison is needed in order to test it's properties before production.
So, nylon as an FDM 3D printing filament might not be the choice for most but it certainly is in the manufacturing world.
Remember to check out our other articles in this series on our Blog page. You can also find more information on FDM 3D printing materials in our article, "FDM 3D Printing Filament Materials: A Comparison".