All you need to know about Nylon for 3D printing

Published on March 12, 2020 by Carlota V.

Nylon, also called Polyamide (PA) is a widely used polymer in the additive manufacturing sector. This thermoplastic is available in powder or filament form for technologies such as SLS, Multi Jet Fusion or FDM.  These plastics are classified according to their chemical composition, and in particular according to the number of carbon atoms they contain – the most well known on the 3D printing market are undoubtedly PA12 and PA11, as well as PA6 for FDM. What are the characteristics of nylon when used for 3D printing? Who are the manufacturers on the market and what are the applications? Find out more in our complete guide below!

Nylon first appeared in 1935. It was developed by Wallace Carothers who then worked for the chemist DuPont, the material was marketed three years later in the form of a toothbrush! Nylon is mainly found in the textile industry thanks to its flexibility and resistance. It was used in 1940 for the first time in the production of women’s stockings. Later, it was adopted in the automotive industry due to its resistance and friction properties.


Nylon powder

Nylon Filaments for FDM 3D printing

If we look at filaments, nylon is most often available with 6 carbon atoms, more commonly called PA6. It is a filament that has many interesting characteristics, including great flexibility, resistance to impact or abrasion. Additionally, its mechanical properties are quite close to ABS. However, note that nylon will require the presence of a heated plate inside the 3D printer (that can reach around 80°C) due to adhesion issues. It will also be necessary to take care of storage because it quickly absorbs the surrounding humidity (hygroscopic material) which could impact printing later. In terms of extrusion temperature, the 3D printer will have to rise to 250°C, or even 220°C for certain types of nylon.

Nylon filaments are a good alternative to polycarbonate because they are easier to print. They will have a better lifespan, therefore ideal for printing parts that need to be resistant. Therefore nylon is used to print tools, hinges or machine components that need good resistance.

Among the main manufacturers of nylon filaments, we find Taulman3D, XStrand, Neofil3D and machine manufacturers like Zortrax and Ultimaker. Be aware that nylon can be reinforced with carbon fiber or fiberglass. On the price side, it takes between 25 € and 40 € depending on the brand for a classic reel (500 grams, diameter 1.75 mm); if you choose a composite material, the price can quickly climb around 60-70 €.

Polyamides in powder form

FDM is not the most widespread process for nylon 3D printing: selective laser sintering (SLS) is. Nylon will therefore be available in powder form, generally PA12 or PA11. Let’s start with PA12, the most widespread in the industry: it offers very high mechanical and thermal properties (high rigidity, extremely solid even at very low temperatures, resistant to stress, etc.) as well as resistance to various products and chemicals. Compared to filaments, it absorbs little moisture and is also very easy to process after printing (paint, dye, etc.). It is also biocompatible: it can be used to produce parts that will touch the skin, which makes it an interesting material for the medical sector, especially for the manufacture of prosthetic devices. PA12 is very popular for making gears, hinges, or even to replace certain plastics used in injection molding processes.

Part created from PA12

PA11 is also found on the additive manufacturing market. It is biosourced, mainly from castor oil while PA12 is derived from petroleum. We can therefore easily say that PA11 is more environmentally friendly. It shares the characteristics of PA12 with a few differences: PA11 has better thermal stability, greater resistance to light and UV, and a good elasticity. Parts 3D printed with this polyamide will also have a longer lifespan, making it an ideal material for producing end use parts or functional prototypes that incorporate important mechanical properties. It absorbs a little more moisture than PA12.

The French chemist Arkema is undoubtedly the biggest producer of PA11 powder today, marketed under the name Rilsan PA11, since the 1950s. The German company, BASF joined the race with its brand Ultrasint, compatible with HP Multi Jet Fusion machines and some models of SLS printers. The group also produces PA6. For PA12, we will find chemists like Arkema and Evonik while EOS, 3D Systems or Farsoon offer their own powder developed in partnership with chemists. Note that there are also new charged polyamide powders, based on carbon fibers or kevlar but also on glass beads for example.

Credits: HP

Finally, the HP Multi Jet Fusion process is a large user of polyamides, whether PA12 or PA11. The special feature of HP technology is that it offers a higher recycling rate compared to conventional SLS technology; up to around 70% of the powder not used during 3D printing is then mixed to new polyamide powder, thus minimizing waste.

Have you used nylon for 3D printing? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Sign up for our free weekly Newsletter to receive all the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox!

The 10 comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

  1. Berger says:

    Evonik is a world leader in the production high performance polymer powders, which have been used in 3d printing for over 20 years. The specialty chemicals company offers a wide range of nylon powders like PA 12, PA 613 or PEBA suitable for various 3d printing technologies.

  2. Vous ne parlez pas de l’Onyx et composites de chez markforged, qu’en est il?

  3. Robert says:

    Recently i write an article about nylon filament and i got huge information from this post. You easily describe about polyamide filament (which is the chemical name for nylon). Thanks for your contribution in 3D printing industry. as a 3D printing exhaust, i like your contribution very much.

  4. Thread says:

    Recently i write an article about embroidery machines and I got information from this post. You easily describe polyamide filament (which is the chemical name for nylon). Thanks for your contribution in 3D printing industry. as a 3D printing exhaust, I like your contribution very much.

  5. David says:

    That’s one of the best nylon 3D printing guide. I looked at several forums and communities but found this content a great help. I just wanted to say thank you & keep it up.

  6. John Lee says:

    Best 3d blog I have ever seen

  7. Best guide to know about 3d printing

  8. Med ICD says:

    Medical billing, coding & credentialing services by MedICD are not just another billing solution to outsource medical billing and transcribe patient data into billing codes. An expert team of medical billers and coders at MedICD ensures timely preparation of the claims and expedite the overall process to ensure that medical practices get maximum reimbursements in less time.

  9. It’s been a long time since I read such a good article, you write very clearly, easy to understand and really helpful for everyone, thank you very much.

  10. Med ICD says:

    Best 3d blog I have ever seen

    visit our site:

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Updated
Every wednesday, receive a recap of the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox.