What is 3d Printed Nylon?
Nylon is one of the most popular materials in the 3d printing industry. It is also known as Polyamide and is usually found in the variants PA 11 and PA 12. Nylon filament offers great toughness and flexibility. Many nylon copolymers also exist which modify the strength and rigidity of the material to meet application requirements.
Nylon is hygroscopic in nature which means it absorbs moisture from its surroundings. This property has both advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage of this property is that parts made with nylon can easily be post-processed using dyes and spray paints. This gives great aesthetics to the final product. The disadvantage is that storing nylon filament becomes very important and requires extra care to ensure humidity levels are always low. Nylon that has over-absorbed moisture leads to print quality issues and part defects.
Pros of using Nylon 3d Printing:
Nylon has some important advantages that distinguish it from other 3d printing materials such as…
- Toughness and partial flexibility.
- It has a very high impact resistance.
- It features very good abrasion resistance.
- Little to no unpleasant odor while 3D printing.
- It is corrosion resistance to alkalis and organic chemicals.
- It has high melting points and offers good ductility.
- UV resistant and higher chemical resistance compared to PLA or ABS.
Few Cons of using Nylon:
As with every material, nylon 3d printing also has some of the disadvantages when compared with other materials…
- It is prone to warping and easily twists or bends when heated.
- As it is hygroscopic, hence air-tight storage is required to keep it dry.
- If not properly dried, nylon filaments can cause printing defects.
- Due to its hygroscopic nature, it is not suitable for environments with high humidity and moisture.
3d Printing Technologies that use Nylon:
Nylon filament is used mainly in three 3d printing technologies namely FDM, SLS, and MJF.
Working with nylon is a bit difficult when it comes to fused deposition modeling (FDM) but it is comparatively easier in selective laser sintering (SLS) and MultiJet Fusion (MJF).
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Nylon:
As discussed earlier, nylon is hygroscopic and hence absorbs moisture. This makes it difficult to use nylon with FDM unless it has been properly dried using an oven. Nylon can absorb up to 10% of its weight in water. This excess water bursts during printing, not only affecting the adhesion between bed and layer but also producing parts with a rough surface finish.
Warping is another problem when it comes to 3d printing with nylon on FDM 3d printers. Using a heated bed and applying glue to the surface can minimize warping while producing smoother products.
The most interesting aspect of printing with nylon with FDM printers is the growing number of nylon copolymers available. There is a constantly growing number of nylon variants available to experiment with as opposed to just the standard PA 11 and PA 12.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Nylon:
The most suitable technology for 3d printing Nylon is SLS. Nylon PA 11 and PA 12 are the most suitable for 3d printing along with some composite materials like carbon-fiber-filled and glass-filled nylon. PA 11 is more flexible while PA 12 great mechanical properties making it ideal for functional prototypes.
SLS produces highly detailed 3d prints with excellent material properties by using Nylon in powder form. The surface finishes are a little rough using this technology directly off the printer. Post processing sanding and media tumbling can be applied for fine surface finishes.
MultiJet Fusion (MJF) and Nylon:
MJF technology uses Nylon PA 12 to produce parts with great strength and highest quality while providing lower cost per part and higher production throughput.
Nylon PA 12 glass beads are used in MJF to produce stiff and quality parts at lower costs.
PA 11 is used with MJF to produce flexible parts with high ductility at the lowest cost possible.
Best Practices when using Nylon filament
Finally, below are some of the best practices that must be used when working with nylon filament to get the highest quality products.
1) Air-tight and dry filament storage is necessary.
2) Use an enclosure to prevent warping.
3) Use a heated bed while printing (FDM).
4) Apply glue to the surface to get a smoother print and avoid warping (FDM).
Common Applications of Nylon 3d Printing
Nylon 3d printing has wide applications and some of them are discussed below:
1) Functional prototyping.
3) Industrial modeling.
4) End-use parts.
5) Plastic gears, screws, nuts, and bolts.