Sept. 23, 2014
Everyone with a 3D printer is familiar with PLA and ABS.
If you’ve 3D printed with PLA, you probably know that while it’s fairly strong, it’s also very brittle. You can’t leave parts out in the sun or anywhere that the temperature gets above 100°F.
If you’ve 3D printed with ABS, you know it’s much more durable than PLA, but 3D printed ABS parts don’t have the strength of injection molded parts, and often aren’t strong enough for functional parts.
Nylon filament is an incredibly strong, durable, and versatile 3D printing material. Flexible when thin, but with very high inter-layer adhesion, nylon lends itself well to things like living hinges and other functional parts. Its low friction coefficient and high melting temperature make it an excellent choice for things like 3D printed gears.
Here’s what you need to know to successfully 3D print with nylon filament:
Nylon filament requires temperatures above 240°C to extrude. Most 3D printers come standard with hot ends that use PEEK and PTFE. Both PEEK and PTFE begin to breakdown above 240°C and will burn and emit noxious fumes. If you aren’t sure if your hot end is setup for 3D printing nylon, send us an email or check with your printer manufacturer and we can let you know.
Most 3D printers can easily be upgraded with an all-metal hot end in order to print at temperatures above 240°C (extrusion temperature). We use the E3D all metal hot end on our machines. They’re excellent hot ends and we highly recommend them. You can purchase an E3D hot end here.
Nylon plastic is very hygroscopic. That means it readily absorbs water from the air. Nylon can absorb more than 10% of its weight in water in less than 24 hours. Successful 3D printing with nylon requires dry filament. When you 3D print with nylon filament that isn’t dry, the water in the filament explodes causing air bubbles during printing that prevents good layer adhesion and greatly weakens the part. It also ruins the surface finish.
Dry nylon prints buttery smooth and has a glossy finish.
To dry nylon filament, place it in an oven at 160°F - 180°F for 6 to 8 hours. After drying, store in an airtight container, preferably with desiccant (learn more about desiccant here).
We've found 3D printing nylon can warp about as much as ABS.
When printing on glass, a heated bed is required with nylon filament. A PVA based glue stick applied to the bed is the best method of bed adhesion. Elmer’s or Scotch permanent glue sticks are inexpensive and easily found at a reasonable price.
We've found that a bed heated to 75°C, with thin layer of glue applied in a cross-hatch pattern works best.
For an alternate build surface option, we suggest using Garolite, a linen-based phenolic sheet made by impregnating glass cloth with an epoxy resin under pressure and heat. This composition is what makes Garolite ideal and reliable for strong bed adhesion.
When printing on a Garolite surface, a build plate is required with nylon filament. Whether it's a heated bed, a sheet of glass, PEI glass, or a FlexPlate System, we recommend the Garolite sheet be attached to some kind of build plate that is able to transfer heat to this build surface. Like printing on glass, a PVA based glue stick applied to the bed can be helpful with bed adhesion for Garolite build surfaces. We recommend Elmer's glue sticks for this surface.
For bed temperature, we recommend anywhere between 55°C - 65°C depending on what type of nylon-based filament you're printing with. If it's NylonX, we recommend 60°C. If it's NylonG, we recommend 65°C.
Do not use layer cooling fans and avoid drafty or cool rooms for best results.
240°C - 260°C Extruder Temperature (each type of filament is slightly different. Follow manufacturer's recommendations)
55-65°C Bed Temperature (for Garolite surfaces)
70-80°C Bed Temperature with PVA based glue (for other surfaces)
Speed: 30-60 mm/s
0.2 mm - 0.4 mm layer heights
We hope this helps you succeed with 3D printing Nylon. If you have any further questions hop on our forum.
If you are looking for a machine that prints nylon, and nylon only we recommend one of the MarkForged 3D printers - they have the capability of printing beautiful nylon parts and reinforcing them carbon fiber, fiberglass and kevlar; a stellar technology.
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