What to Expect from Nylon Filament
Nylon filament is a hardy choice that is great for almost any application that requires strength and durability. There are a small variety of nylon choices available that differ slightly from each other, but with nearly every nylon filament, you can expect:
- High durability
- Partial flexibility
- Average strength
- Tough printing conditions
Nylon filament is best used for projects that see a lot of wear and tear or require strength. Things like cable ties, plastic gears, or other service parts are great examples of builds where Nylon shines.
Nylon filament also has some severe cons that can make it a tough choice, especially for home printers. The material’s largest falter is its water-absorption property, meaning that storage before and during printing needs to be air-tight. If the filament gets wet, it will cause issues with printing, and pieces can warp or fall apart before the build is even finished.
Advantages of 3D Printing with Nylon
Choosing to print models with Nylon offers a host of advantages over other choices. Its unique combination of properties allows for prints that may be difficult to achieve or last longer than if printed with other, more common materials.
Some of Nylon’s most notable advantages include:
- High durability across multiple spectrums
- Lack of odor
- Above-average strength
Combined, Nylon’s advantages result in one of the most rigid filaments available today, with a strength that expands its uses significantly.
The slight disadvantage of a high melting point actually leads to Nylon’s most famous positive; it is highly resistant to almost all normal wear and tear. Thanks to the hardness achieved by Nylon, the regular use of a nylon object has virtually no bearing on its structural integrity.
Unlike other common choices such as ABS or PLA, Nylon can be used for more rough applications such as screws or bolts. The hardiness also means that edges and fine details can be more easily achieved and are less likely to break apart.
Nylon’s durability extends past the physical aspect as well. Its high heat resistance means that Nylon can be used in warmer environments than other plastics, although humid areas should still be avoided to prevent warping. It also has excellent impact resistance and can be used for materials that are pushed, pulled, or stepped on often.
Finally, the abrasion resistance of Nylon is one of its best attributes. One clear example of where Nylon shines above other filaments is while printing reusable cable ties, and abrasion resistance is one of the best reasons why. The small bumps necessary to keep the tie in place wear out quickly on other plastics but last ages on Nylon. When combined with its flexibility, it is the single best option in this regard.
The slightly flexible finish of Nylon is one of its most considerable strengths. Without reducing the plastic’s strength at all, Nylon manages to stay flexible enough to move and shape itself with any pressure. This is especially noticeable on small components or edges; where other plastics become brittle and break, Nylon will bend.
This is great for prints that will see movement, such as spinning gears or spindles, but it also opens up the available options for printing shapes. Shaping Nylon into circular or rounded shapes tends to be easier than other materials that come close to its strength. More than the flexibility itself, Nylon’s flexibility, combined with its strength and durability, results in an excellent filament.
For any print that requires rounded parts or intricate details, Nylon is likely a better choice than PETG.
Lack of Odor
Nylon does not produce any noticeable odors during printing, making it a great choice for those who must be near their printer while it is ongoing. Especially for home use, this means that printing will be smoother and exist in the background, rather than being a constant source of irritation.
Breathing or smelling plastics is never a good thing; while Nylon does not produce an odor, it is still best to avoid being close to the printer while plastic is being melted.
The lack of odor will be most noticeable and thanked during long printing sessions.
Nylon is not the strongest material available, but it is stronger than many other choices, such as ABS. While PETG can be stronger than Nylon, Nylon is stronger in small amounts. This means that for thin walls or supports in 3D printing, Nylon is often a better choice.
Most prints that use Nylon for the filament will be more than strong enough to support whatever use is being asked for. Strength differs slightly between the different Nylon types, but all of them are great at supporting weight with a small material ratio.
For some additional advantages of Nylon, check out this guide.
Disadvantages of 3D Printing with Nylon
If Nylon only had the above advantages, there would be few questions surrounding its place as the best printing material available. However, a few major disadvantages to using Nylon have to be addressed before choosing it for your 3D printing needs.
Nylon has very few disadvantages, but they are large cons that need to be carefully considered. They are:
- High price point
Each of these alone can be why Nylon will not be a great choice for your prints, but they can often combine into making Nylon a dealbreaker.
High Price Point
Compared to the price of other materials such as ABS, Nylon is significantly more expensive to use. An average 750-gram roll of most nylon costs between 50-70 dollars. Variations come from different suppliers, nylon types, and locations. Still, you can expect to pay more than you are used to if you are switching from an easier material on average.
While Nylon’s advantages may make this high cost worth the price, it can still easily be a barrier that is too high to pass, especially for home printing. If you are printing in large quantities or testing out prints, Nylon is one of the more expensive choices you can make.
If you fall in love with using Nylon, consider stocking up when you see sales; the material will be good to use for a long time if it is stored properly.
Hygroscopicity is the scientific word for the water absorption property. Essentially, Nylon easily and quickly absorbs moisture from materials around it, including the air. This is most noticeable if you live in a humid or muggy environment and makes printing with Nylon a problematic task.
Nylon’s water-absorbing quality also reduces its effectiveness even after it has been printed. While it is still a fantastic and durable material, Nylon left out in moisture often becomes cloudy and wispy on the surface. This problem is only exacerbated if Nylon becomes moist before or during printing.
If Nylon absorbs any moisture at all before printing, many printing issues are likely to arise. The print may:
- Not stick to the printing bed
- Warp as it prints
- Become stuck in the nozzle
- Develop other printing defects
Storing Nylon in air-tight storage and using an enclosed bay are essential for printing with Nylon. Otherwise, the number of defects that will arise will ruin the material and prints, which is an expensive mistake due to Nylon’s price.
If your Nylon does absorb any moisture, you can carefully dry the nylon spool in a low oven for a few hours. This method should not be relied on but instead used in a pinch. It is much better to take out your Nylon and store it whenever you are not actively printing, and maintain an environment with as little moisture as possible through desiccant packets.
When combined with the high temperatures and enclosed bed needed for printing, Nylon’s water absorption means it is one of the more complicated materials to print. For more information on Nylon’s water absorption and other common issues, read here.
What to Use PETG Filament For
PETG filament is another excellent choice for most 3D printing, with some niche benefits that make it a great option for those looking to use prints near water or chemicals.
PETG is most commonly seen as the plastic used in water bottles; the very same properties of a thick, sturdy plastic that is great at holding fluids stay consistent even in filament form. However, it is not the best option for detail work or extreme durability.
Luckily, it does not have the same extreme requirements that Nylon does for printing, making it a much more general choice despite the weaker overall package.
When to Choose PETG Filament
When deciding whether or not to use PETG filament, it is better to look at the intended use rather than the pros of the material. Overall, PETG is a stiff plastic that is easy to print, durable, and of average strength. While it loses to Nylon in flexibility and durability, the two materials are more or less equal in other categories. What sets PETG apart is its excellent resistances.
Choosing PETG filament makes sense if the print:
- Will be used near water
- Will be used near chemicals
- Should be rigid
- Needs a smooth finish
These conditions assume that the other basics are covered first as well. Thanks to PETG’s great overall qualities, it is likely to be at least a fine choice for almost every idea.
PETG is Water and Chemically Resistant
Thanks to the strong chemical makeup of PETG filament, it is fantastic at holding and resisting leakage from water and most chemicals. This also means that PETG is one of the best choices available for builds near water or in humid or moist environments, a clear win the material has over Nylon.
If you are interested in printing a product that will spend time in or around the water, such as a small decoration for a fish tank or a plastic box to house monitoring components for a pool, the choice is clear. Water is easily wiped away and not absorbed at all by the material, ensuring that all objects inside are kept safe and dry.
Chemically, PETG is resistant to almost all chemicals that do not melt other plastics. It is safe to use with most household cleaners and can even be used to create large bins to organize chemicals inside their proper housing. It is an excellent material to choose if your creation may end up near chemicals.
PETG is Strong and Rigid
Although flexibility is often a positive thing in 3D printing materials, sometimes rigidity is necessary, such as when incorporating overhangs or creating solid chunks of plastic. PETG works wonderfully for applications such as this, bending less than most comparable plastics.
Luckily, PETG is not too rigid to the point of being brittle; it strikes a great balance that allows it to be used for almost any print. If your print has hanging parts that should not droop or requires long bridging, PETG is likely a fantastic choice. For a detailed experiment on some real-world tests of PETG, read here.
PETG also does not lose any strength when compared to most other materials, although its ratio of strength to material is slightly worse than nylons. This means that to achieve the same level of strength, the PETG material should be printed thicker. For the majority of prints, this is not an issue, as strength often only becomes a concern when the material can be printed thick anyway.
PETG Filament Has A Nice, Smooth Finish
Unlike the finish of Nylon, which is likely to become wispy or cloudy, PETG prints retain a nice, smooth finish for a significant amount of time. It remains clear or retains color easily and prints to a final finish without ever requiring additional sanding or buffing.
A nice finish is always good to have, but especially important for prints that will be out and seen in the world. Small figurines, boxes, or almost anything that is meant to be looked at will likely be made better by having an excellent finish. PETG is especially good for light fixtures or prints where light should shine through.
Where PETG Filament Fails
As with Nylon, PETG is also not the absolute best choice in all cases. There are some specific areas where PETG falls short of other plastics that should be noted before deciding on the material.
Some of the cons of PETG filament are:
- Material stringing
- Low durability
Like the pros listed above, these cons are general for PETG and will apply to most prints. Depending on the intended use of your print, there is a chance that PETG will be too brittle or weak to use effectively.
Stringing During the Printing Process
Stringing is when thin, small bands of plastic are left behind on the surface of a print. While they can be cleaned up quickly, they can be frustrating to work with and go against the smooth finish that PETG filament is known for.
Largely, these strings occur thanks to miscalculated print settings or a nozzle that is too cool. Solving the issue will depend on your specific printer; more information on signs and standard troubleshooting can be found here.
PETG Prints Have A Low Durability
PETG plastic is not meant for exceptionally durable prints or objects that will see a lot of wear and tear. This is the most considerable difference between PETG and Nylon and will likely be a deciding factor when choosing between the two materials.
Often, the surface of PETG prints will be soft and easily impacted; small details such as bumps or fine lines will almost certainly rub away quickly. While the material is still more than serviceable for most prints, even those commonly handled, it is not the right choice for internal components or objects with constant interaction.
Both Nylon and PETG are fantastic filaments that have respectable flexibility and strength. The most considerable differences between the two materials are in:
- Durability – Nylon is much more durable
- Printing – PETG is easier to print and store
- Water Absorption – Nylon absorbs water, meaning it is unacceptable to use in humid areas
Choosing one specific filament material to be the best is impossible; it depends heavily on the intended use and environment you are in. If you are printing for internal components or things that will see a lot of wear and tear, Nylon is the clear winner. If you are printing a smooth, finished product that may be near water, PETG is likely the better choice.