July 16, 2020
Nylon is one of the most common plastics you will find in consumer products, and there’s a reason for that: it’s material properties make it an excellent choice for durability. Nylon is ductile, strong, and fairly chemically resistant which is why you’ll find a lot of power tools are made of nylon or use a nylon based composite; they’re objects that need impact resistance to survive a drop, and potential grease and grime. For these same reasons, nylon is a sought after 3D printing filament that can be challenging to print at times, but there are some helpful tips I can give you so you can be successful too.
Bed adhesion is a huge factor in the success of your 3D prints and of all the materials our testing team has put through its paces and from my own personal experience, garolite is the way to go for nylon based 3D printing filaments. Other bed materials just don’t seem to have the texture or adhesive properties that nylon likes, but garolite has small pores in its surface that help form a mechanical bond with the molten nylon instead of a strictly adhesive bond of a sticky surface. When you pair that with a thin layer of PVA glue stick to help prevent the nylon from sticking too well, you can have perfectly flat bottoms to your nylon 3D prints. With Layerlock Garolite you can find a sheet of garolite that fits your 3D printer’s bed or even a spare Buildtak Flexplate for easy material swapping and part removal.
nylon, you need an all-metal hotend; nylon has a printing temperature with a range that starts at 245°C, which is the absolute maximum printing temperature for PTFE-lined hotends. This doesn’t mean that it just barely meets the requirements, it means that printing with nylon would stress the PTFE and release noxious fumes as the PTFE tube breaks down.
If your printer already has an all-metal hotend either by default or you’ve upgraded your 3D printer using one of the many options available, then your 3D printer’s hardware is ready to print nylon. If you want to print composites like carbon-fiber filled NylonX, glass-fiber filled NylonG, or Kevlar filled NylonK, then you need to make sure you have a nozzle installed that can withstand the abrasive nature of these filaments. While there are stainless steel “abrasive resistant” nozzles, these don’t usually last longer than a couple spools of filament and will need to be frequently change when the nozzle orifice has grown too large to reliably print with. My recommendation is to use a hardened steel nozzle at a minimum and use an E3D NozzleX, Slice Engineering Vanadium, or Olsson Ruby if you plan to frequently print with these composite nylons.
With the hardware side of things taken care of, you’d think you’re ready to start printing, right? Not quite. Over time 3D printing filaments will absorb water from the air until they reach their saturation point and can’t absorb water anymore. For some materials this can take enough time that the spool is completely printed with before it even becomes a problem, like PLA or ABS. Nylon is the complete opposite and will reach its saturation point within several hours. Anytime you want to print with nylon, you will want to spend time drying it and if possible, printing directly from your drying apparatus. The PrintDry makes this easy by actively removing the moisture from the environment around the spool and then from the filament itself, and with small ports on the side you can print directly from it. There is a clear difference between 3D prints made with wet and dry filament; wet filament pops and hisses as it is extruded, is more opaque, has poor layer, poor bed adhesion, and poor retraction performance while dry filament extrudes smoothly without noise, restores the translucency of the filament, is strong, and has predictable and reliable print performance.
Nylon and its composite derivatives are exceptional filaments that can provide the perfect material properties for a multitude of jobs. These three aspects of preparation are some of the biggest changes you can make to improve your chances of a successfully finished 3D print. I hope you’ve learned something new today, or if you have something for me to learn about nylon or nylon composites I’d love to hear it in the comments down below.
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