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How Abrasive Is Nylon 3D Printer Filament?

Nylon (or Polyamide) is a popular 3D printer filament type for creating gears, cable ties, and moving plastic parts. 

Nylon 3D printer filament isn’t abrasive as it has a low friction coefficient, requires no lubricant, and doesn’t wear down easily. Nylon 3D printer filaments consist of long, continuous fibers with no air spaces, giving them a smooth, silky, and non-abrasive finish. 

This article will discuss the properties of nylon 3D printer filament to establish its level of abrasion. 

What Are the Properties of Nylon 3D Printer Filament? 

To help us understand how abrasive nylon 3D printer filament is, we need to look into its properties. 

Nylon 3D printer filament is flexible, abrasion-resistant, and hygroscopic. It’s also highly durable and has a high melting point with a low coefficient of friction and thermal expansion. 3D-printed nylon objects have a smooth and silky finish. 

Let’s discuss what these characteristics mean in detail below: 

Flexible and Abrasion Resistant

Nylon fibers are extremely fine, elastic, and elongated. During the 3D printing process, nylon filaments can be repeatedly flexed and molded without breaking. 

A 3D-printed nylon object feels smooth as its fibers are long and continuous, with no air spaces between them. 

The closely-packed fibers give them an excellent strength to flexibility ratio, and the final 3D printed object usually is damage and impact-resistant. 

Hygroscopic

A material’s hygroscopicity refers to its ability to absorb moisture from the surrounding air. 

Nylon 3D printer filament is considered a hygroscopic material and should be stored in a dry and airtight container to prevent moisture absorption. 

Nylon filaments that have absorbed moisture or have not dried out completely can result in a poor quality 3D printed object. 

If your nylon printer filaments have absorbed moisture, you can dry them by placing them in an oven at a low temperature for around five hours. Alternatively, you can set the wet filaments in a vacuum-sealed bag with a desiccant

Highly Durable 

When comparing the durability of 3D printer filaments, the ultimate strength measurement is used. This refers to the maximum amount of stress the filament can withstand before breaking. 

Nylon 3D printer filament has an ultimate strength measurement of between 40 and 85 megapascals (MPa) units. This makes it more durable than ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), polypropylene, and carbon fiber-filled printer filaments, with ultimate strength measurements of 40, 32, and 45 MPa, respectively. 

Its durability makes nylon ideal for 3D printing objects with thin walls as it is impact-resistant. However, using nylon filaments for thicker objects makes them incredibly tough and shock-resistant. 

Low Thermal Expansion and Friction Coefficient

Nylon 3D printer filament has a low friction coefficient, which means very little friction between two pieces of nylon filament when they rub against each other.

When using nylon 3D printer filament in moving parts applications, the low friction levels make it abrasion resistant and unlikely to wear down. No lubricant is needed between nylon parts as it typically has a smooth and silky texture. 

The coefficient of thermal expansion refers to how much a material expands when it’s heated. 3D nylon printer filaments are unlikely to distort due to their low thermal expansion coefficient. 

High Melting Point

When printing with nylon 3D printer filament, the extruder temperature should be between 428ºF (220ºC) and 482ºF (250ºC) as nylon has a high melting point and is heat resistant. 

Nylon’s high melting point, and extreme elasticity and flexibility, however, can cause the 3D object to warp and look distorted if you handle it too soon after printing. 

The Verdict: 3D Nylon Filament Isn’t Abrasive

3D nylon filament isn’t abrasive as its long and delicate fibers are packed closely together, giving it a smooth finish. 

Its low friction coefficient makes it abrasion-resistant as there is very little friction between two moving nylon parts. 

You can, therefore, use nylon filaments with a regular brass nozzle as they won’t cause damage or wear it down. 

Most Abrasive 3D Printer Filaments 

We’ve concluded that nylon 3D printer filament is not abrasive, so which 3D printer filaments are abrasive?

Abrasive printer filaments have particles that cause high friction levels and erosion between moving parts. These filaments are typically a combination of materials to create a customized end product. 

Examples of abrasive 3D printer filaments include: 

  • SteelFill. SteelFill printer filaments contain finely-ground steel powder and PLA (polylactic acid). You can use them to create silver, metallic objects and, depending on your technique, the 3D objects can be shiny or matte.  
  • Carbon fiber. Carbon fiber 3D printer filaments consist of a polymer base with carbon fiber pieces. Their abrasive texture requires special 3D printing parts as they can easily damage a regular brass nozzle. Carbon fiber objects are lightweight and durable.
  • Carbon fiber PLA. These printer filaments contain PLA and tiny carbon fiber fragments and are extremely abrasive. Unless you use a suitable nozzle in your 3D printer, you’ll have to replace your current one after only one printing session with carbon fiber PLA.
  • Metal PLA. Consisting of PLA and fine metallic powder, metal PLA filaments are ideal for 3D printing metallic objects. Completed 3D metal PLA objects are lighter than regular metal items, and the filaments have varying levels of abrasiveness, depending on the metal content.   
  • Wood filament. Wood filament consists of a 70/30 combination of PLA and wood dust particles. It’s lighter and more fragile than PLA, but the end product is robust and rough-textured. 

Summary

Nylon 3D printer filament is abrasion-resistant because it has long, fine fibers that are packed closely together, creating a silky finish. When two pieces of nylon rub against each other, there is very little friction, making it hard-wearing and resistant to abrasion. 

No special equipment is required when 3D printing with nylon filaments. 

Examples of abrasive 3D printer filaments include SteelFill, carbon fiber, carbon fiber PLA, metal PLA, and wood filament. 

When printing with abrasive 3D printer filaments, it’s a good idea to check if a special printer nozzle is needed as some abrasive filaments erode regular brass nozzles.