Close this search box.
RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Standard finish quality of a black MJF nylon part
RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
The perfect intersection of cost, speed and quality - considered impossible by many

Table of Contents

Introduction: 3D Printed Nylon 12 in Today's Manufacturing Landscape

In today’s rapidly evolving world of digital manufacturing, 3D printing has revolutionized the way products are created in small to medium volumes and nylon 12 is leading this charge with its unique blend of versatility, low cost and lightning fast manufacturing speeds. This ubiquitous material is trusted by engineers and designers in a wide range of industries and it is proving to be a reliable keystone for anyone looking to make a high quality rigid part at low cost from quantities of one unit to thousands.

Due to its higher melt point, desktop 3D printer users are much more familiar with lower temperature plastics like PLA and ABS, which have inferior thermal and mechanical properties to Nylon, also known as polyamide (PA.) They are also familiar with the grainy, lined surface finish, excruciatingly slow print speeds – particularly when scaling a project, and poor to inconsistent quality. Commercial and industrial nylon 12 through powder bed technologies like MJF solve all these decades old problems of cost, speed and quality when bridging low and medium runs before a company is ready for high volume manufacturing (HVM.) Many companies are even outsourcing to these technologies and cutting costs associated with maintaining a desktop print farm. 

Being at the perfect intersection of cost, speed and quality make it the best fit, even when compared to injection molding, for low volume general purpose applications in most industries like robotics, automation, aerospace, automotive, agriculture, energy + energy storage – basically anything but high volume consumer products. There are certainly drawbacks and reasons why a designer may choose to run a more rudimentary 3D printer or elect to invest in expensive tooling – but there is a wide market of professional designers where 3D printed nylon 12 is simply the best and most economical option for their project.

RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Filament 3D printers leave visible layer lines with poor inter-layer adhesion (mechanical properties in the Z are 75% worse than XY)
RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Powder fused Nylon 3D printers offer consistent finish and isotropic mechanical properties (mechanical properties of Z = XY)

Understanding the Properties of Nylon 12 in 3D Printing

Nylon 12, also known as polyamide 12, is a thermoplastic material commonly used in 3D printing. It is known for its excellent mechanical properties, such as high tensile strength, impact resistance, and flexibility. Nylon 12 is also resistant to chemicals and has a low coefficient of friction, making it suitable for various applications. Its ability to withstand high temperatures and retain its structural integrity makes it ideal for use in functional prototypes, end-use parts, and even complex geometries.

When it comes to 3D printing, nylon 12 offers several advantages over other materials. Compared to desktop resins like ABS, PETG and PLA it has a relatively high melt point, which opens it up to a wider range of applications. PLA will melt in your car on a hot day. PETG will melt in your dishwasher. The drawback is due to this heat parts need to be made on commercial or industrial 3D printers – not desktop machines. Some people invest in high temp filament machines with heated build chambers but the best parts come from powder bed technologies like Multijet Fusion (MJF) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS.) Through these processes, nylon 12 has excellent layer adhesion, resulting in parts with high strength and dimensional accuracy, regardless of print orientation. Its low shrinkage during printing also helps minimize warping and distortion, ensuring consistent and reliable prints.

To demonstrate how important 3D printing process is to mechanical properties, below are mechanical datasheets for Nylon 12 made via MJF and Filament Extrusion on a high end Stratasys 3D printer (FDM.) Compare the mechanical properties in the XY orientation vs the Z to understand how MJF and SLS yield more consistent mechanical properties. When 3D printing parts in FDM one must be extra careful to consider orientation impact on tensile, compression and particularly shear strength. Lower interlayer adhesion can result in delamination.

Mechanical and Thermal Properties of High Reusability Unfilled Nylon 12
Mechanical PropertiesDensity of parts1.01 g/cm3ASTM D792
Tensile Strength, Max Load - XY + Z48 MPa/6960 psiASTM D638
Tensile Modulus - XY1700 MPa/245 ksiASTM D638
Tensile Modulus - Z1800 MPa/260 ksiASTM D638
Elongation at Break - XY20%ASTM D638
Elongation at Break - Z15%ASTM D638
Thermal PropertiesHeat Deflection Temperature 0.45 MPa - XY + Z175 ºC/350 ºFASTM D638
Heat Deflection Temperature 1.82 MPa - XY + Z95 ºC/205 ºFASTM D638
Powder Melting Point187 °C/369 °FASTM D3418

SYSS FDM Nylon 12 Technical Datasheet

Mechanical and Thermal Properties of FDM Unfilled Nylon 12
Mechanical PropertiesDensity of parts1.01 g/cm3ASTM D792
Tensile Strength, Max Load - XY49.3 MPa/7140 psiASTM D638
Tensile Strength, Max Load - Z41.8 MPa/6060 psiASTM D638
Tensile Modulus - XY1260 MPa/182 ksiASTM D638
Tensile Modulus - Z120 MPa/174 ksiASTM D638
Elongation at Break - XY30%ASTM D638
Elongation at Break - Z6.5%ASTM D638
Thermal PropertiesHeat Deflection Temperature 0.45 MPa - XY95ºC/203 ºFASTM D638
Heat Deflection Temperature 0.45 MPa - Z92ºC/197 ºFASTM D638
Heat Deflection Temperature 1.82 MPa - XY84 ºC/184 ºFASTM D638
Heat Deflection Temperature 1.82 MPa - Z75 ºC/168 ºFASTM D638
Filament Melting Point187 °C/369 °FASTM D3418
RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
When print processes are not isotropic - like FDM - print orientation has a large effect on different types of forces your part may experience. Stress through Z layers should be avoided - particularly shear and bending forces.

Benefits and Advantages of Using Nylon 12 in 3D Printing

Nylon 12 is widely regarded as one of the most versatile materials for 3D printing due to its numerous benefits and advantages. One of the key benefits is its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, making it suitable for applications that require lightweight yet robust parts. This makes it an excellent choice for industries such as aerospace, automotive, and robotics, where weight reduction is a critical factor.

Another advantage of nylon 12 is its chemical resistance, which allows it to withstand exposure to various chemicals and solvents. This makes it suitable for applications in the chemical processing industry, where parts may come into contact with corrosive substances. Nylon 12 also has excellent wear resistance, making it ideal for parts that experience high friction or repetitive motion. Additionally it is certified as safe/non-toxic for a variety of medical and consumer applications.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, 3D printed nylon 12 offers significant advantages over traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding. With 3D printing, there is no need for expensive tooling or molds, reducing upfront costs and lead times. This makes it a viable option for low-volume production, prototyping, and customization. Furthermore, the ability to produce complex geometries and intricate designs with ease further enhances the value proposition of nylon 12 in 3D printing.

Nylon 12 is Certified for Medical, Engineering and Consumer Applications

  • USP Class I-VI and FDA’s Intact Skin Surface Devices guidance for biocompatibility and medical applications

  • ISO 10993-5 and ISO 10993-10 tests for in vitro cytotoxicity and for skin sensitization

  • REACH, RoHS and PAHs compliant for chemical safety

  • UL 94-HB and UL 746A Certification for flame resistance

  • Statement of Composition for Toy Applications

Chemical Resistance Properties of Nylon 12

Comparison of Nylon 12 with other Materials Used in 3D Printing

While nylon 12 offers numerous advantages, it is essential to consider how it compares to other materials commonly used in 3D printing. Two widely used materials in the desktop 3D printing space are PLA (polylactic acid,) PETg (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).

PLA is known for its biodegradability and ease of use. It has a low melting point, making it suitable for beginners or those without access to advanced 3D printers. Without any special heating chambers it prints very cleanly on a desktop 3D printer. However, PLA has lower mechanical properties compared to nylon 12 and is more prone to warping and degradation over time. It is often used for non-functional prototypes, decorative items, and educational purposes.

PETg and ABS, on the other hand, offer improved mechanical properties compared to PLA. They have higher impact resistance and can withstand higher temperatures. However, ABS is notorious for its strong odor during printing and requires a heated print bed to minimize warping. It also has a higher environmental impact compared to PLA and nylon 12. PETg – common in recyclable food packaging – is a very clean and material but often suffers from a high failure rates on desktop printers resulting in repeated frustration when users wake up to a pile of spaghetti instead of their intended print. As mentioned above mechanical and thermal properties also suffer with the filament process with which these materials are printed.

When comparing nylon 12 with PLA and ABS, nylon 12 emerges as the superior choice for applications that require high strength, durability, and resistance to chemicals. Its ability to withstand higher temperatures and maintain dimensional stability makes it suitable for functional prototypes and end-use parts.

RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
All too common desktop print failure - typical with materials like PETg and ABS when printed in room temperature conditions

When to Graduate from Desktop 3D Printers to Industrial Nylon 3D Printers

Desktop 3D printers have gained popularity in recent years due to their accessibility and affordability. Starting at around $500, they are commonly used by hobbyists, educators, and small businesses for prototyping and small-scale production when quality is not important. However, when it comes to printing with nylon 12, the limitations of desktop printers become evident.

Desktop 3D printers typically have lower temperature capabilities, making them more suitable for materials like PLA and ABS. Nylon 12 requires higher print temperatures to achieve optimal results – most filament machines under $5,000 simply cannot run it. They lack the appropriate nozzle, build plate and ambient build air temperatures. Additionally, desktop printers often have smaller build volumes and slower print speeds, which can be restrictive for larger or time-sensitive projects. Also discussed at length the quality issues related to filament vs powder bed manufacturing.

The advantage of desktop printers is simply cost: most people and small companies do not have the money to invest 5 or 6 figures into 3D industrial printers and their related infrastructure and  and the cost of filament is barely more than raw plastic pellets. Although the cost per unit of an industrial nylon part may be low, minimum order values and shipping costs can make 1-off prints cost prohibitive. It is also nice to get feedback on your print within a few hours or overnight vs waiting a week or two including shipping to get your first parts back from a service bureau.

Industrial 3D printers, on the other hand, are specifically designed to handle materials like nylon 12. They offer higher print temperatures, larger build volumes, and faster print speeds, enabling the efficient production of high-quality nylon 12 parts. Industrial printers also often incorporate advanced features such as heated chambers and precise temperature control, further enhancing the printing process. As shown below, these machines have a significant barrier to entry and most people will use them by outsourcing to a service bureau.

In summary, desktop 3D printers are well-suited for beginners, educational purposes, and smaller projects that do not require the mechanical properties and performance of nylon 12. For more demanding applications, industrial nylon 3D printers are the preferred choice, offering superior quality, efficiency, and reliability. Most hobbyist, commercial and industrial users will elect to run one or two small inexpensive desktop machines for low cost prototyping and modeling purposes before outsourcing low volume production or functional product testing to their trusted service bureau with production grade 3D printers.

RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Industrial 3D printers like the MJF require a minimum of $250,000 investment, including 3D printer, build units, and post process station; not included in that cost - ventilation, electrical, temperature control and pneumatic infrastructure and the physical space required to properly run these machines
RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Despite the high cost of equipment an MJF 3D printer can print a whole layer of parts at once - resulting in production speeds up to 10,000 times faster than desktop filament printers. This allows manufacturers to scale more cost effectively without investing in injection mold tooling.

When to Invest in Injection Mold Tooling Vs Industrially 3D Printed Nylon

Injection molding is a widely used manufacturing process for mass-producing plastic parts. It involves injecting molten plastic into a mold cavity, allowing it to cool and solidify before being ejected as a finished part. While injection molding has its benefits, there are certain scenarios where industrially 3D printed nylon 12 offers a compelling alternative.

The primary advantage of injection molding is its ability to produce high volumes of parts with excellent surface finish and dimensional accuracy at extremely low unit cost. It is a cost-effective solution for large-scale production runs, especially when the initial tooling costs are spread across a high volume of parts. However, injection molding requires significant upfront investment in tooling – typically thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars and 2-3 months of tool making lead time, which can be prohibitive for low-volume production or when design iterations are expected. 3D printing has limited materials, colors and finishes available – if you need a very specific resin because nylon 12 will not cut it for your application or you need a very specific finish, injection molding may be your only option. Even vapor polishing or tumbling nylon 12 will not achieve a high or even low polish surface finish achievable with injection molding.

Industrially 3D printed nylon 12 offers a more flexible and cost-effective solution for low to medium volume production. With 3D printing, there is no need for expensive molds, reducing upfront costs and lead times. This makes it an attractive option for prototyping, customization, and small-batch production. Additionally, 3D printing allows for design freedom and the production of complex geometries that may be difficult or costly to achieve with injection molding. For small part manufacturing into the thousands of units per year, many customers are opting to print their products forever vs investing in injection mold tooling. Even if they are compromising on higher unit costs, keeping unwieldy tooling assets off their books and much less hassle managing inventory is more than worth it.

It is important to consider factors such as production volume, time-to-market, design complexity, and cost when deciding between injection molding and industrially 3D printed nylon 12. For low to medium volume applications, where design flexibility, customization, and shorter lead times are critical, 3D printing with nylon 12 can provide a competitive edge.

RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Nothing rivals injection molding unit economics and quality but the tooling investment can be extremely prohibtive

Design Tips and Best Practices for 3D Printing with Nylon 12

Because powder bed technology like HP Jet Fusion yields the best nylon 12 part quality this section covers how to print the best production grade parts with that technology.

Recommended Wall Thickness Although MJF can technically print as thin as its 0.0015″ die width, walls that thin will not survive handling and post processing. Any part printed must be able to withstand a media blast for initial finishing. Minimum wall thickness of 0.5mm (0.020″) is recommended. This ensures structural integrity without sacrificing the detail or accuracy of the design.

Cantilevers Cantilever structures in Nylon 12 require careful consideration of the aspect ratio (length divided by width). For widths under 1 mm, maintain an aspect ratio less than 1. For broader cantilevers, there’s more flexibility, but high aspect ratios may necessitate thicker walls or additional support features like ribs or fillets for stability.

Connecting Parts In applications where Nylon 12 parts need to interconnect, maintaining a minimum gap of 0.5 mm (0.020″) between interfaces is crucial for proper assembly. This accounts for a tolerance of ±0.25 mm (0.010″) per part, ensuring a snug fit without hindering assembly.

Moving Parts The spacing between moving parts is critical. Generally, a minimum clearance of 0.7 mm is advisable. However, for parts with walls thinner than 3 mm, the clearance can be as low as 0.3 mm, although this may require iterations with the manufacturer to fine-tune for optimal performance. Heat variance in builds can cause parts to fuse when printed together so it is best to exercise caution and add extra clearance here if possible.

Thin and Long Parts Long, thin Nylon 12 parts are prone to warping due to uneven cooling and shrinkage. To mitigate this, designers should:

  • Increase the thickness of long walls to reduce aspect ratios.
  • Avoid abrupt changes in cross-sections and eliminate thin, curved segments.
  • Implement design changes to distribute stress evenly.
  • Consider hollowing or adding internal lattices to reduce weight and minimize warpage.
These considerations are very similar to injection molding and other casting/molding processes – good molded part design is also good 3D printed part design – more shape and structure is always better!
Hollow Parts Hollowing parts can significantly reduce weight and material usage. The process, supported by software like SolidWorks and Autodesk Netfabb, recommends a minimum wall thickness of 2 mm (0.080″.) Drain holes post-printing allow the removal of unfused powder, lightening the part further. However, leaving the powder inside can save post-processing time, though it results in slightly heavier and weaker parts. For evacuating powder a minimum of 5mm (0.2″) outlet holes are recommended and a minimum of 2 or 3 would be needed to fully evacuate powder. Holes can be designed with plugs that can be glued in after evacuation to seal the part. The holes will leave visible witness marks unless finished with bondo, primer and paint.
Lattice Structures Replacing solid mass with a lattice structure can significantly reduce the part’s weight and material cost. This re-design, facilitated by software like Materialise Magics, maintains mechanical integrity through a network of rigid cells.
RapidMade|The Advantages and Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12: Shaping the Landscape of Digital Manufacturing
Warpage mitigation strategies - original part is warp prone thanks to much higher thermal mass on the left side than right during cooling

Applications of 3D Printed Nylon 12 in Various Industries

The unique properties and advantages of 3D printed nylon 12 make it suitable for a wide range of applications across various industries. Its versatility, durability, and cost-effectiveness have led to its adoption in industries such as:

Robotics and Automation Nylon 12 is often used in the production of robotic components such as gears, brackets, and housings. Its high strength, low friction, and resistance to wear make it ideal for these applications, ensuring the longevity and performance of robotic systems.

Aerospace The aerospace industry relies on lightweight materials with excellent mechanical properties. Nylon 12 offers the perfect balance of strength, weight reduction, and resistance to high temperatures, making it suitable for aerospace applications such as drones, satellite components, and interior parts.

Automotive Nylon 12 finds extensive use in the automotive industry for applications such as intake manifolds, engine covers, and interior components. Its ability to withstand high temperatures, resistance to chemicals, and excellent impact resistance make it an ideal choice for these demanding applications.

Agriculture Nylon 12 is utilized in the agricultural sector for various applications, including irrigation systems, machinery components, and greenhouse equipment. Its resistance to chemicals, durability, flexibility and lack of cytotoxicity make it well-suited for these agricultural applications.

Energy and Energy Storage Nylon 12 is increasingly being used in the energy sector for applications such as wind turbine components, solar panel brackets, and battery housings. Its ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions, resistance to chemicals, and lightweight properties make it a reliable choice in this industry.

These are just a few examples of how 3D printed nylon 12 is shaping the landscape of modern design across various industries. Its unique properties and cost-effectiveness open up new possibilities for innovation and optimization in product development and manufacturing.

3d print ed nylonpa
3D printed nylon 12 intake manifold - the mechanical and thermal properties for demanding automotive applications

Case Studies Showcasing the Successful Use of 3D Printed Nylon 12

To further illustrate the advantages and applications of 3D printed nylon 12, let’s explore a few case studies where this material has been successfully implemented.

VECROS and the ATHERA Drone – Revolutionizing Aerospace with 3D Printed Nylon 12

Founded in 2021 by IIT-Delhi and NIT-Nagpur alumni, VECROS represents a breakthrough in autonomous drone technology in India. Their flagship UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), ATHERA, is designed for complex tasks such as real-time inspections and 3D mapping in challenging environments.

The key innovation in ATHERA’s development was the use of HP 3D High Reusability PA 12, a Nylon 12 variant, coupled with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology. This combination was critical in achieving the desired robustness and aesthetic appeal, overcoming the limitations of earlier FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) techniques. MJF technology enabled VECROS to refine ATHERA’s design without the need for support structures, resulting in smoother surfaces and improved material properties.

Throughout its development, ATHERA underwent several design iterations, each leveraging the benefits of MJF and Nylon 12. The final design achieved not only the targeted look and feel but also the structural integrity necessary for aerospace applications. This was accomplished more cost-effectively compared to traditional manufacturing methods.

ATHERA stands out for its advanced features like a Visual Navigation System and an Obstacle Avoidance System, crucial for autonomous navigation and real-time object tracking in diverse sectors such as mining, construction, and telecommunications. This demonstrates the drone’s versatility and its potential to revolutionize aerial tasks across industries.

This case study underscores the transformative role of 3D printing with Nylon 12 in aerospace, showing how innovative material choices and design approaches can lead to significant advancements in technology and application versatility.

AMufacture’s 3D Printed Nylon 12 Manifold for Racing Boats

AMufacture, a leader in UK’s 3D printing innovation, has significantly advanced racing boat manufacturing with a game-changing project. They designed and 3D printed a manifold for a 52ft yacht using HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, with a specific focus on using HP 3D High Reusability PA 12, commonly known as Nylon 12. This project was not just about meeting the stringent requirements of a racing boat but doing so within an incredibly short 10-day timeframe.

In high-performance racing boats, every component critically influences the total weight and efficiency. The challenge was to create a part that could withstand strong liquid pressure and perform flawlessly over time in harsh marine environments. Traditional manufacturing and off-the-shelf solutions were inadequate due to limitations in design flexibility and final quality.

AMufacture’s solution was a lightweight yet robust Nylon 12 manifold, capable of withstanding up to 20 bar pressure while remaining watertight. This component was crucial for the yacht’s ballast system, and its production showcased the capabilities of HP’s Jet Fusion 5210 3D Printer. Using Nylon 12 allowed for a design that was not possible with traditional methods, combining durability with the necessary lightweight characteristics.

The use of HP MJF technology and Nylon 12 enabled AMufacture to produce a manifold with a water-repellent surface and a smooth, black dyed finish, achieved through chemical smoothing and dyeing. This process ensured that the manifold not only met the functional requirements but also the aesthetic standards of high-performance racing.

Delivered in just 6 days, the project demonstrated AMufacture’s expertise in rapidly meeting client needs with innovative solutions. This marked a significant improvement over the 4-week lead time typical of traditional methods. The success of this project highlights the effectiveness of 3D printing with Nylon 12 in creating complex, high-quality components for demanding applications in the racing industry.

Campetella Robotic Center’s Adoption of HP MJF Nylon 12 for Enhanced Industrial Robotics

Campetella Robotic Center, an Italian company with a rich history dating back to 1897, specializes in the production of industrial robots and automation systems. The company’s core business revolves around In-Mold Labelling (IML) equipment, crucial for industries requiring high precision, such as pharmaceuticals and food packaging.

Faced with the need to innovate and improve their manufacturing processes, Campetella turned to additive manufacturing, specifically HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology. This decision was driven by the requirement for robust and isotropic parts, a user-friendly workflow, and reliable support, all of which were met by the HP MJF 4200 3D printer.

The introduction of HP MJF technology marked a significant shift in Campetella’s approach to component manufacturing. The company began to 3D print components for their automated cells, including end-of-arm tooling, dummy cores, and label holders. This shift not only allowed for the customization of final products but also improved the functionality of these components compared to those produced with traditional technologies. The new additively manufactured parts boasted similar or better functionality, contributing to the creation of high-performing machines while reducing energy consumption and cycle times.

One of the most notable achievements following the adoption of HP MJF technology was the dramatic reduction in the weight of spindles used in labeling systems. The weight of these components was halved compared to those produced through conventional CNC methods. Moreover, the tooling time-to-market was significantly reduced, dropping from 8 weeks to just 4, thanks to the rapid 3D printing capabilities of HP MJF. This advancement not only enhanced the efficiency of Campetella’s manufacturing process but also reflected the vast potential of additive manufacturing in industrial robotics.

Campetella’s experience underscores how additive manufacturing, particularly with HP MJF technology, can revolutionize the production of complex and high-quality components in industrial automation, setting new standards for efficiency and performance.

Drone wing
Aerial drone with most mechanical components 3D printed in MJF nylon 12

Get Started 3D Printing Nylon 12 with Multi Jet Fusion Today!

Whether you are developing a new project or are ready to start production, RapidMade can help you get it done better, faster and at less cost. If you need to learn more about our HP Jet Fusion product offering we have addtional information available – including support of other materials like TPU. We have engineers on standby ready to help with our contract engineering services if you are lacking in the design department. From one part to thousands RapidMade is an industry leading source for 3D printed industrial grade nylon 12 parts.

3D Printing Company