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June 2024

Exploring PA (Nylon) Filaments for FDM/FFF 3D Printing

3D printing with PA (Nylon) filaments offers numerous advantages for creating durable, flexible, and high-performance parts. We will explore various types of PA filaments used in FDM/FFF Additive Manufacturing, including PA6, CoPA, PA12, PA11, and PPA (HTN), as well as composite variants with Carbon Fibre, Glass Fibre, and Glass (ceramic) beads. We'll also highlight top products from Spectrum, Raise3D, 3DXtech, and Polymaker. For the techie's amoung us, we will summarise key mechanical properties such as Tensile Strength, Yield Strength, and Elongation at Break.

Understanding PA (Nylon) Filaments

Nylon, known chemically as Polyamide (PA), is a versatile engineering thermoplastic with excellent mechanical properties.
It is renowned for its strength, durability, abrasion resistance, and chemical resistance. It has greater strength and durability than the PLA and ABS commonly used in FFF 3D Printers.

Nylon 6 and 6.6 are the most commonly used types for injection molding. The high flowability all it to flow into a mold quickly and completely, and the high shrinkage means that it comes away from the mold easily. Unfortunately, both these factors are our enemy in 3D printing. We want low shrinkage to prevent warping and lifting off the build platform druing printing. We want low flowability so that we have better surface finish, and better overhangs - though this factor is becoming less limiting with higher speed printers and better support structures.

Different grades and blends of Nylon provide unique benefits for specific applications.

However, there are some challenges associated with 3D printing Nylon:

Despite these challenges, Nylon remains a popular choice for engineering applications due to its superior mechanical properties and versatility.


Types of PA Filaments

PA6 (Nylon 6)

PA6 is a popular Nylon filament known for its toughness and mechanical strength. It is suitable for applications requiring impact resistance and durability, such as gears, bearings, and automotive components.

PA6 can also be reinforced with carbon fibers to further enhance its mechanical properties. These are discussed below.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

Features:

Products:

  • Spectrum PA6 Low Warp Filament
  • BASF UltraFuse PA

  • CoPA (Nylon 6 and 6.6 Blend)

    CoPA is a blend of Nylon 6 and Nylon 6.6, combining the best properties of both materials. It offers improved thermal and mechanical properties, making it ideal for high-stress applications.

    Advantages:

    Disadvantages:

    Products:


    PA12 (Nylon 12)

    PA12 is known for its lower moisture absorption compared to PA6, which makes it more dimensionally stable and less prone to warping. A lower level of handling precautions are required, while printability, repeatability and constant strength of output is more easily acheived.

    It is suitable for parts that require precision and stability. As it is selected for this property, it is further enhanced with the additional of reinforcing fibres.

    Advantages:

    Disadvantages:

    Products:


    PA11 (Nylon 11)

    PA11 is a bio-based Nylon derived from castor oil, offering similar properties to PA12 but with better impact resistance and flexibility. It is often used in automotive, aerospace, and medical applications.

    Advantages:

    Disadvantages:

    Products:


    PPA (HTN - High Temperature Nylon)

    PPA, also known as HTN (High Temperature Nylon), is designed for high-performance applications requiring excellent thermal and chemical resistance. It is ideal for parts exposed to harsh environments.

    Advantages:

    Disadvantages:

    Products:


    Composite Variants

    Carbon Fibre Reinforced

    Carbon Fibre reinforced PA filaments provide increased strength, stiffness, and reduced weight, making them suitable for aerospace, automotive, and high-stress mechanical parts.

    Advantages:

    Disadvantages

  • Rough surface fininsh (note: both a pro and a con)
  • Higher amount of "Spider webbing" between print islands - requiring more post-processing
  • Lower flowability. Reduced print speeds compared to the matrix material recommended
  • Poorer interlayer bonding
  • Smaller nozzle sizes not recommended and fibres clump in the small holes. 0.6mm recommended
  • Increased nozzle wear. Brass nozzles wear their holes larger within hours. Recommended: Toughened nozzle, WS2 or Tungsten Carbide (in that order depending on level of use
  • Products:


    Glass Fibre Reinforced

    Glass Fibre reinforced PA filaments offer enhanced strength and rigidity while maintaining good dimensional stability, ideal for structural components and enclosures.

    The addition of Glass Fibres reinforces the matrix (base) material, including while printing. So warping is reduced, increasing printability and dimensional accuracy. It still allows colour to show through, so there are a range available.

    Products:


    Glass (Ceramic) Beads Reinforced

    Glass Beads (Microspheres) reinforced PA filaments improve dimensional stability and surface finish, reducing warping and shrinkage. They are perfect for precision parts and aesthetic applications.

    Advantages:

    Products:


    HyperCore Filaments

    To overcome, or at least reduce the drawbacks of fibre reinforced filaments, Raise3D has developed "HypeCore" filaments where the fibres are concentrated in the centre of the filament cross-section

    Advantages:

    Products:


    Mechanical Properties of PA Filaments

    Materials properties vary between brands due to the additives and manufacturing methods, but here are some characteristics of the different families. For specific figures you should consult the TDS for the specific material

    Material Tensile
    Strength (MPa)
    Yield
    Strength (MPa)
    Elongation
    at Break (%)
    PA6 70-85 70-80 10-15
    CoPA 80-90 55-65 15-25
    PA12 80-90 60-70 10-20
    PA11 45-60 35-45 300-400
    PPA (HTN) 110-130 90-110 2-5%
    Carbon Fibre 110-130 90-110 2-5
    Glass Fibre 100-120 80-90 3-6
    Glass Beads 70-90 60-70 10-20

    Conclusion

    3D printing with PA (Nylon) filaments offers a wide range of possibilities for producing high-performance parts across various industries. Whether you need the toughness of PA6, the stability of PA12 , or the advanced properties of composite variants, there is a suitable filament for your needs. Explore our Australian stocked Spectrum, Raise3D, 3DXtech, and Polymaker products to find the perfect filament for your next project.

    For more detailed insights and recommendations, stay tuned for our upcoming articles on optimizing print settings, post-processing techniques, and case studies showcasing real-world applications of these advanced materials.

    References


    Read More:


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