Nylon 3D Printing: The Different Types of Nylon Filaments
2023 Jan 24th
Additive manufacturing techniques have evolved from prototyping to manufacturing, and from industrial to hobbyist uses. The types of materials available for different methods continue to expand, now including nylon 3D printing. The different types of nylon filaments have various uses and a range of difficulty. Some are a breeze to use in standard 3D printers, while others are prone to warping or require adhesives to secure the print to the print bed until it cools.
Nylon produces strong, durable prints that resist harsh chemicals, making it a useful material for functional parts that are exposed to high temperatures or lubricants. While nylon filaments can be more difficult to work with—and some require specialized 3D printers—they are experiencing an increase in use for industrial and functional parts that are subject to more wear and harsher environments.
Biodegradable vs. Compostable vs. Reusable
As a practical matter, 3D printing materials can’t be reused or recycled at home unless you have a filament recycler and extruder. While some 3D materials are technically biodegradable, meaning they will break down in the environment eventually, they can degrade faster in industrial composting operations. These operations may be able to accommodate some types of 3D filaments, such as PLA (polylactic acid, made from plant material) or PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol, like plastic bottles but with added glycol).
Although nylon won’t break down, it can usually be recycled by re-melting the material. It can then be formed into other parts or products, or into another spool of filament for reuse.
Characteristics of 3D Printing Filaments
When selecting a 3D filament to use, several important characteristics factor into the decision. These include melting temperature, tendency to warp, flexibility, rigidity, and strength. Your choice of filament will depend on what you’re making and what you want your print to do.
Benefits of Nylon 3D Printing
Nylon 3D printing filaments are known for their toughness and their chemical and impact resistance. They are a bit more flexible than PLA and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), two of the most common 3D printing filaments. Nylon filament is excellent for functional parts that are exposed to harsh environments, such as automotive applications, and heat, oil, or grease.
Nylon 3D printing filament works well to create durable, thicker parts. These parts will be tough and shock resistant, and their smooth surfaces will be less prone to wear. Nylon also has high abrasion resistance and low friction, meaning some nylon parts won’t require lubrication at all. Thinner parts printed with nylon will be more elastic and flexible than PLA and ABS. Nylon can be combined with glass or carbon fiber to create composites with higher performance properties.
Challenges of Nylon 3D Printing
Nylon itself is a stiff material, but once it absorbs moisture, it becomes tougher and more flexible. This flexibility can cause some nylon filaments to jam in the printer if the extruder tension is too high. If the filament is too wet, you will get weak parts because the material coming out of the nozzle will be full of bubbles. In some cases, you may even hear popping sounds as you print because the moisture is turning into steam and trying to escape the material in the nozzle. It is important to store nylon filament in a dry environment, as it could absorb moisture very quickly. It is recommended to use a dry box to keep it from coming into contact with moisture during printing and while in storage.
Objects printed with nylon filament are prone to warping and will need a bed adhesive to keep them secure on the bed during printing. A heated chamber or an enclosure will also help reduce warping and produce stronger parts since more heat is retained during printing, which means layer adhesion is stronger.
Types of Nylon
Nylon filaments come in several varieties. Common types, or grades, are Nylon 6, Nylon 6/6, and Nylon 12. The numbers refer to the number of carbon atoms each material contains. For example, Nylon 6 has 6 carbon atoms from caprolactam, while Nylon 6/6 has 6 carbon atoms in hexamethylenediamine combined with 6 in adipic acid.
These types of nylon vary in their moisture absorption properties, cost, and endurance through different temperature ranges. Nylon 6/6 is often chosen for electrical components, while Nylon 6 exhibits better toughness and less shrinkage than Nylon 6/6, although it has higher moisture absorbency.
Nylon 6/6 has good heat resistance, strength, and ductility. While it requires high temperatures for printing, it can be drawn or formed without breaking or fracturing. It is versatile, being useful for both thin and thicker parts, and for its compatibility with additives like lubricants and fibers. Nylon 6, however, shares many of these qualities at a lower cost, and is more resistant to impact at lower temperatures.
Nylon 12 has the lowest moisture absorption properties, impact resistance, and flexibility, but also lower endurance of high temperatures and lower strength. There are other nylon co-polymers that have a good balance of printability and properties. Fortis3D’s SnapPrint PA, for example, is made with a special Nylon co-polymer that has low moisture absorption but still retains high strength, impact resistance, and temperature resistance. When choosing nylon 3D filaments, finding a happy medium among strength, flexibility, impact resistance, moisture absorption, and shrinking or warping—depending on the most desired characteristics of the objects to be printed—is necessary.
Fortis3D is a leader in supplying 3D printing filament to makers across many skill levels. Our collection offers different types of nylon filaments that are forgiving for beginner 3D hobbyists, and advanced materials like Nylon 6 for automotive manufacturing businesses. Appliance manufacturers may also prefer Nylon 6 to create original and replacement parts that endure heat, impact, and heavy use without abrasion or excessive wear.
For makers who are concerned about sustainability, our BioDuro and Lignum series are industrially compostable. We also supply PLA filaments that are safe for food contact, and some are UV-resistant, making them suitable for outdoor use. Browse our offering of 3D filaments and contact us with any questions you may have regarding which filament is best for your product or project.