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Getting the Best out of Nylon

Nylon 3D Printing – How To Get Nylon 3D Printed

Nylon 3D printing is both popular and well-suited to 3D printing functional parts. Its superior properties over PLA and ABS make it a great 3D printing material. Continue reading to find out more about 3D printing nylon.

What is Nylon?

A dragon 3D printed in black PA 12 using MJF technology
A dragon 3D printed in black PA 12 using MJF technology Source: HP Inc.

Nylon is a polyamide and often (though not always) found in the variants PA 11 and PA 12. Nylon is a very strong and durable material, offering some amount of flexibility in thin walls. Since Nylon has a high-melting point with a very low co-efficient of friction, it is majorly used in printing functional gears.

Another important property of nylon is being Hygroscopic — in other words, it absorbs moisture. This can be helpful as printed parts are easily post-processed with fabric dyes and spray paints to alter the final aesthetics of the product. But it also makes nylon prone to absorbing moisture from the air, thus affecting its performance.

Nylon 3D printing can be achieved with fused deposition modelling (FDM), selective laser sintering (SLS), and MultiJet Fusion (MJF).

Basic Printer Settings for Nylon 3D Printing

Image of: Basic Printer Settings for Nylon 3D Printing
Source: Simplify3D
  • Nozzle Temperature: 220°C to 270°C
  • Bed Temperature: 75°C to 90°C
  • Print Speed: Around 40 mm/s (may vary)
  • Soluble: No
  • Hygroscopic: Yes
  • Fatigue Resistant: Yes
  • Heat Resistant: Yes
  • Impact Resistant: Yes
  • Flexible: Yes (with thin walls)
  • Warping: Mild

Working with Nylon: FDM, SLS, and MJF

Hooks made from nylon material
Hooks made from nylon material Source: 3D Systems

Working with nylon is a bit difficult with FDM, but comparatively more straightforward with SLS and MJF.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

Nylon is highly hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. As such, Nylon should be stored in a dry place with silica gel. In practice it absorbs around 10% of its weight in water. When the material is heated during printing, the moisture bursts, affecting not only the bed and layer adhesion but also giving the surface a rough finish.

It is therefore recommended to dry nylon material before printing. Oven drying is the best precaution from ensuring a successful print.

Nylon also has warping issues. A heated bed is recommended while 3D printing nylon. In addition to a heated bed, applying glue to the surface will further ensure a warpless print. Avoid using cooling fans.

Crash Course on Oven Drying: The most common way of drying a filament is to bake it in a convection oven. In convection ovens, the hot air circulates in the chamber so that the filament spool dries uniformly.

  • It is important to note that the oven must be preheated first before inserting a spool for drying. Set a preheat temperature for your oven and only insert the filaments once it is reached. Make sure the temperature is properly set as over-heating can lead to melting.
  • General Settings for the Drying
  • Preheat Temperature: 70°C to 80°C
  • Time Required: 4 to 6 hours
  • After completing the above drying process, the filament must be removed and stored in an airtight container with a desiccant.
  • NOTE: Carefully set the drying temperatures such that the temperature is much less than the glass transition temperatures (Tg). Other materials like PLA have lower Tg and so the temperature should be lower than what is kept for Nylon filament otherwise you may end up ruining your entire spool.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS is the most suitable technology for 3D printing nylon. 3D printable nylon mostly exists as PA 11 and PA 12, or as composite materials like carbon-fiber-filled and glass-filled nylon.

Nylon PA 11 is more flexible than PA 12, whereas the latter has great all-round mechanical properties ideal for functional prototypes.

When printed using SLS, nylon is input as a powder. This technology produces great prints with excellent material properties, albeit slightly rough surfaces.

Reference SLS Settings:

  • Tolerance: ± 0.3% (min: ± 0.3 mm)
  • Wall thickness: 0.7 mm
  • Layer height: 80 – 120 μm

MultiJet Fusion (MJF)

MJF offers nylon 3D printing materials like the following:

  1. HP 3D High Reusability PA 12: This material is ideal for producing strong, quality parts at the lowest cost per part.
  2. HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 Glass Beads: This material is ideal for producing stiff, low cost, quality parts.
  3. HP 3D High Reusability PA 11: This material is ideal for producing ductile, quality parts at the lowest cost per part.

HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 is REACH compliant. REACH — Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals — is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from risks posed by chemicals.

HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 is biocompatible and RoHS compliant.

Where to Buy Nylon Material: FDM, SLS, and MJF

Hammer made from nylon
Hammer made from nylon Source: 3D Systems

FDM Filaments:

Quality nylon 3D printing material for FDM printing is available at cheap prices at the below mentioned websites:

SLS Powder:

Almost all the SLS 3D printer manufacturers provide their own high quality powders. But you can still buy the powders from other sources and use it in your printer (though this is generally not recommended).

MJF Powder:

Nylon powder for the MJF is currently only available through HP.

Alternative Methods to 3D Printing Nylon

Sculpteo's interface
Sculpteo's interface Source:

If you want to get your 3D model printed in nylon but don’t have the necessary equipment to do so, you can always get it printed through various online platforms like Shapeways, Sculpteo, i.Materialise or even find a hub close to their home through 3DHubs.

Online 3D printing services offer great quality and finish without the hassle of getting into the specifics of the printing process. It’s the best option if you’re looking for a one-off print.

All3DP's Price Comparison Service

All3DP's Price Compare Service
All3DP's Price Compare Service Source:

If you’re not already familiar with it, we provide our own price comparison service. Simply upload your designs for an immediate price comparison between a number of online 3D printing services.

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License: The text of "Nylon 3D Printing – How To Get Nylon 3D Printed" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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