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Nylon PA 12 - 3D Printing Materials Explained

Welcome to our series on materials for 3D printing! Today we are talking about Nylon PA 12. It’s the most commonly used material in the additive industry and is known for being able to create parts that are chemically resistant, stable over longer periods of time, functional and strong. Keep in mind that PA stands for polyamide and Nylon is simply the commercial name for polyamide. Hence, in this video we will stick to saying Nylon 12.

Nylon 12 has been created for several different 3D printing processes: Extrusion-based (FFF), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF). However, it’s truly optimized for and used most in SLS. For that reason, in this video, we’ll focus mainly on the use of Nylon 12 for SLS 3D Printing.

What is Nylon 12?

It’s a synthetic thermoplastic polymer. Thermoplastic materials become liquid at their melting point. For Nylon 12 the melting point is around 176 degrees celsius, the lowest of all Nylon polymers. There is some advantage to that. The lower the melting point, the easier it is to “print” the material. It helps the build not cool down too fast. Cooling too fast could cause warping.

The material is made from omega-aminolauric acid or laurolactam monomers that each have 12 carbons, hence the name ‘Nylon 12’.

For SLS 3D printing, Nylon 12 comes in a powder form. A thin layer of the powder is spread on a printing bed and then a laser binds the powder particles together. When the parts come out of the printer they have a grainy surface. However, it’s one of the easiest materials to add a finish to. Nylon 12 parts can be painted, impregnated, coated, covered and sandblasted.

What are the benefits of 3D printed Nylon 12?

Detailed parts

Nylon 12 is great for printing complex and detailed parts. This is mainly because there are no support structures needed during SLS 3D printing. Support structures interfere with design freedom and are hard to remove, especially on small detailed surfaces. For Nylon 12, as long as the minimum wall-thickness of 0.8 mm is met, your options are virtually limitless. Just be wary of large flat areas as the parts are printed in high temperatures and are prone to warping during the cooling process. Our production partners are experts and will apply a slow natural cooling process if your parts require it.

Nylon 12 is really strong

This polymer is especially known for its resistance to cracking when under stress. Before it breaks it would bend, making this material really flexible. It’s tensile strength is 48MPa, flexural strength 41MPa and elongation at break is 18%.

Chemical resistance

Nylon 12 has outstanding chemical resistance to aliphatic hydrocarbons, oils, greases, ketones, and alkalies. Plus, it barely absorbs moisture.

Stability over longer periods of time

The material is especially stable over longer periods of time. We already mentioned some reasons but there’s more: like it being insensitive to cracking, it’s strength even below zero temperatures, hardness, resistance to abrasion and of course it being very chemically resistant. Nylon 12 also absorbs very little moisture. Because of that parts made from Nylon 12 are dimensionally very stable even when humidity levels fluctuate. It’s therefore ideal for applications where safety, durability or reliability over time is critical.

But keep in mind that Nylon 12 does have a tendency to discolor from white to a slight yellow tone over time due to UV exposure. To prevent this from happening we advise dyeing the parts. Alternatively, a UV coating is a good option as well.

Applications for 3D printed Nylon 12

Finally, let’s discuss some of the applications Nylon 12 is used in

The material is suitable for prototypes, detailed and complex parts, fully functional models, and end products. Applications can range from anatomical models, jewelry, architectural maquettes, packaging, machine parts, to eyewear and more.

Closing thoughts

That’s it for our episode on Nylon 12. We hope you enjoyed it. Leave any question you have in the comments below or go to our website to find out more. Thanks for watching, don’t forget to like and subscribe and see you in the next video.

Are you looking for a summary or a datasheet for 3D printed Nylon HP 12? Read more here.