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Is Nylon Filament Flexible? Everything You Need To Know

In 3D printing, ABS and PLA are some of the most popular filaments, but nylon is catching up to them. It has its own perks and cons, but what about its flexibility? 

Nylon filament is very flexible, especially when used in thin layers. This flexibility and its toughness make them stand out against ABS and PLA. However, it is said to be less strong than other filaments. Also, nylon can be hard to work with because of its hygroscopic properties. 

Want to know more about nylon filament? Keep reading as we talk about its properties and how it’s used in 3D printing. 

How Flexible is Nylon Filament?

Nylon filament is flexible to a certain extent. While it is pretty flexible when in thin layers, it may not be so when it gets thicker. Nylon is still more flexible than PLA or ABS but less than TPU. 

Nylon’s flexibility allows it to be used to make living hinges, cable ties, and even prosthetics. However, if you need thick layers with high flexibility, it may not deliver. Instead, thermoplastic urethane (TPU) is recommended for such use. 

Nylon Filament in 3D Printing

When used to make 3D prints, there are many advantages and disadvantages to nylon. For some, the cons make it too complicated to use. However, some might find the pros just worth it. 

Advantages of Nylon Filament

Let’s start with the advantages of using nylon filament. We’ve discussed some of these above but allow us to reinstate them. 

Nylon Is Good for Absorbing Colors 

Because nylon is hygroscopic, it is good at absorbing colors. This makes post-processing a bit easier, at least in that aspect. The colors are also able to last longer with nylon, making it an ideal material if you’re planning to paint your prints and don’t want them to lose color over time. You can also use synthetic fabric dyes. 

painting 3d printed object

Nylon Is Impact, Chemical, and Abrasion Resistant

Nylon is pretty tough and durable. Its low coefficient of friction allows it to resist abrasion well, making it great for parts like gears. Thus, if you are looking for durability, nylon may be what you need.

Nylon isn’t invulnerable by any means; as you’ll see, it can be weaker than other materials. You have to think about what your specific print needs.

Nylon Has Good Flexibility 

As we have said, nylon is quite flexible. This is noticeable when used in thin layers, but there is still some flexibility in thick layers, albeit less. Partial flexibility gives it a good edge against PLA or ABS, which are pretty rigid.

Nylon is able to remain flexible without making a huge compromise on strength, giving it an edge over other materials.

Disadvantages of Nylon Filament 

As good as nylon is, it’s not without its disadvantages.

Nylon Needs Attention and Other Materials When Printing 

Nylon needs extra care and attention when printing, similar to ABS. Since it requires high temperatures to print, it tends to warp because of temperature differences between the nozzle and bed. You might need to use a heated bed or enclosure. 

The enclosure also helps keep moisture away from the filament. Even while printing, nylon can still absorb water. Also, nylon needs help sticking down, so you need some glue stick or other adhesive with PVA. 

Nylon Needs Special Storage

Although most filaments are quite hygroscopic, nylon is especially so. Hence, while some can survive in the open for a few hours, nylon needs to be stored immediately after usage in a dry box or airtight container with desiccants. 

Exposure to air needs to be kept at a minimum at all times possible to avoid moisture absorption. Otherwise, the filament gets wet, and the print may have bubbles or even holes. 

If your nylon is wet, make sure to dry it using a filament dryer or a food dehydrator. You can even do it before printing.

What Is Nylon Filament? 

Nylon is a group of high molecular weight polyamide polymers. It is used in different industries, including 3D printing, textile, and clothing. It was initially synthesized as a silk alternative, but its versatility has allowed its use for other purposes. 

There are a variety of nylon types available, differing in structure. Nylon may also be in composites.

Types of Nylon Filament

In 3D printing, some of the common nylon filament types used are: 

  • Nylon 6 
  • Nylon 6/6 
  • Nylon 12 

Nylon 6.6 (also known as Nylon 6/6), made in 1935 at DuPont, was the first type to be synthesized. Each type may have different properties—for example, Nylon 6 has a lower melting point than Nylon 6.6. 

Nylon filaments may also be produced as a composite or mixed with other materials to achieve desired properties. For instance, carbon fiber can be added for additional strength. 

Properties of Nylon Filament 

Besides its distinct flexibility, other aspects of the nylon filament make it attractive for many users.

Nylon Filament Is Versatile

Nylon is known for being a versatile material. It is used in various applications, from flexible and tough prints to silky, bright fabric. In 3D printing, it is an ideal material for many types of projects such as making gears, prosthetics or body parts, and many more. This has made it one of the most common 3D printing materials.

Nylon Filament Is Hygroscopic

Hygroscopic means the material absorbs water or moisture very well. This is both good and bad for nylon. As a pro, it allows it to absorb dyes easily, letting colors stand out and last longer. However, it can also be disadvantageous because wet filaments can be messy and produce low-quality prints. 

Nylon Filament Is Tougher But Less Strong

While nylon’s strength shouldn’t be understated, it is considered less strong than ABS or PLA. Unlike the other filaments, it is not ideal for making stiff or rigid prints. However, it is tougher and can resist more impact than the others, thanks to its flexibility. It also resists abrasion pretty well. 

The lack of strength may also be circumvented by using composite nylon materials produced with carbon fiber or fiberglass particles. 

Nylon Filament Has Good Chemical Resistance

One of nylon’s positive characteristics is its excellent chemical resistance. However, there may be limitations. For example, Nylon 6 and Nylon 6.6 are resistant to most chemicals but vulnerable to strong acids, alcohols, and alkalis. Many nylons can resist oils and fats. 

Final Thoughts

Nylon is an interesting filament with its ups and downs. While it offers perks like flexibility, durability, and easy coloring, the extra attention needed during printing may not be worth it for some.

You’d have to think whether it is your filament of choice or not. It will depend on the kind of print, how resistant do you need it to be, and how exposed it will be to the elements.