Together with ABS and PLA, nylon is one of the most popular filaments for 3D printing.
Nylon is a polymer, which means it is a plastic with long, heavy molecules made up of short atoms. Nylon is a tough and durable thermoplastic, and in our opinion, it is one of the most versatile materials currently available. Here are some more information about nylon for those of you who are interested in 3D printing with it:
In a nutshell: Extreme abrasion resistance, good flexibility, high-strength.
Nylon is an incredibly strong and durable material for 3D printing. It is abrasion resistant, heat resistant, and has a low friction coefficient. It is flexible when printed thin, solid when printed thick, and offers outstanding dimensional stability during the print process. Nylon will not stick to glass or metal build plates, has low odour, and it prints with a finish that is akin to smooth sandpaper. It is commonly available in transparent and black.
In a nutshell: Great for industrial, mechanical and engineering applications. Not so great for general use.
Nylon is best-suited to industrial and engineering applications, such as for manufacturing high-performance machine parts, tools and living hinges. It is also strong and stable enough to be machined and drilled without deformation or splitting. The downside to nylon is it isn’t very stiff. ABS is a stiffer material than nylon, even though it isn’t as strong. To create super-stiff 3D printed parts with nylon, the nylon has to be reinforced. The Markforged Mark Two and other Markforged 3D printers do this by reinforcing nylon parts with continuous strands of a composite, such as carbon fibre.
Markforged have also developed a new filament called Onyx. Onyx filament is part nylon, part chopped carbon fibre. It is 20 per cent stronger and 40 per cent stiffer than high-performance ABS. With Onyx, you can 3D print jigs, jaws, tools and fixtures with the abrasion resistance of nylon and the strength of carbon fibre.
Which 3D Printers Print Nylon?
Printers have to be able to exceed an extruder temperature range of 240°C. 3D printers must also have an all-metal hot end, because nylon filament prints at temperatures above 240°C – a temperature range that melts plastic like butter. All-metal hot ends are available for a wide range of 3D printers, and some come with them as standard. It’s important to point out, however, that not all FFF/FDM printers can print nylon. In fact, some manufacturers recommend that you don’t print with it.
Ultimaker’s latest-generation 3D printers print nylon:
Ultimaker 2+ and Ultimaker 3
The Ultimaker 2+ and Ultimaker 3 support 3D printing with nylon. Ultimaker have their own filament for this, called Ultimaker nylon filament. It is available in Black or Transparent. It has been specially formulated for use with Ultimaker 3D printers, although it can be used by some other 3D printers.
For industrial applications, the best 3D printers come from Markforged:
Markforged Mark Two
The Markforged Mark Two prints with Onyx as its core material. You can further reinforce parts with continuous strands of Kevlar, fibreglass, HSHT fibreglass or carbon fibre. Onyx is a high-performance, engineering-grade nylon and chopped carbon fibre hybrid. It prints with a fine finish and is odourless during the print process.
Markforged Industrial Series (X3, X5, X7)
The Markforged Industrial Series consists of the Markforged X3, X5 and X7. These 3D printers print Onyx filament, which is part nylon, part chopped carbon fibre. Onyx is 3.5 times stronger than standard nylon and 40 per cent stiffer than ABS. The Markforged X5 and X7 also print Markforged nylon as a core material.
Image credit: Top image – Ultimate 3D.