Nylon is stronger and more durable than PLA or ABS. It has high impact and abrasion resistance and very low friction. It’s flexible and bendy when printed thin, yet robust and solid when printed thick. Perhaps its best characteristic however is its impressive dimensional stability: it maintains shape when exposed to the high temperatures needed to 3D print it (above 240°C) but care still needs to be taken for best results.
You can use nylon to manufacture parts like living hinges, bearings, gears and most other parts that will be put to mechanical use. In fact, most parts printed with nylon are for industrial use due to the material’s fatigue resistance – and no known thermoplastic on the market can match its durability. Here’s some helpful pointers to help you 3D print parts from nylon successfully. If you have any questions, send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nylon prints at a temperature of 240°C to 260°C. A hot-end temperature lower than this won’t melt the material down to a suitable viscosity. A temperature higher than this could burn the material and will most certainly cause warping.
- Top tip – you might have read somewhere you can only use an all-metal hot-end to print nylon. It’s true. All-metal hot-ends don’t have plastic elements near the melt zone. Standard hot-ends do, and those elements melt above 240°C.
- If you are starting out, a temperature of 245°C is a good starting point. A general rule of thumb is the faster the speed you print at, the higher the temperature required to keep the nylon in liquid form.
Print bed temperature
- 3D printing with nylon requires a heated print bed. A temperature of 75°C is optimal on glass but 55°C – 65°C does often work with high quality nylon filament. If printed on a cool print bed, nylon will warp and lose stability as it cools rapidly.
- We also recommend using a PVA glue on the print bed – especially if your print bed operates at between 55°C – 65°C. The glue helps the nylon to adhere to the build plate and also makes removing the part easier once it’s printed.
Print speed and settings
- Most 3D printers these days come with a preprogramed setting for nylon (so long as they officially support it). There are some differences between printers, but most will call for the temperature ranges highlighted above. If not, then:
- Nylon prints at a 30-60 mm/s print speed and can only typically support a layer height of 0.2 to 0.4mm. If you try to print the infill too fast, the extruder may not be able to keep up and you’ll get under-extrusion.
- Because nylon is susceptible to warping it is good practice to keep the cooling fan on at a low, constant speed. You can also turn it off. The chamber always needs to be kept at a warm, consistent temperature.
3D printers and finishing
- 3D printers we sell with a suitable hot-end include the Markforged Mark Two, X3, X5 and X7 and Ultimaker S5.
- Nylon cannot be polished like PLA or ABS. It is rougher in texture and even with sanding remains so. However, using a very fine grit wet and dry sandpaper can smooth away layer lines and make the surface good for painting.
- While nylon is strong, lightweight and weight bearing, it can be attacked by strong acids. Moisture acts as a plasticiser and therefore reduces its strength and stiffness while increasing toughness and elongation.
To succeed when 3D printing nylon, special care must be taken to control the hot-end, environment temperature and humidity range. Nylon can warp and it can cause print failures if the conditions aren’t right. Overall, it is a less fool proof material than ABS or PLA so some trial and error can be expected.