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).
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.
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:
MultiJet Fusion (MJF)
MJF offers nylon 3D printing materials like the following:
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.
Quality nylon 3D printing material for FDM printing is available at cheap prices at the below mentioned websites:
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).
Nylon powder for the MJF is currently only available through HP.
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.
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.
License: The text of "Nylon 3D Printer Guide – All About Nylon 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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