Oct 14, 2016 | By Andre

Material science is just as, if not more important to advancing 3D printing than the machines themselves. Over the last few years there have certainly been advancements to affordable desktop 3D printing to be sure, but when it comes down to it my Replicator 2 from 2012 is just about as reliable and versatile at 3D printing many materials as newer machines.

The available materials on the market, however, continue to multiply at incredibly impressive rate. Back in 2012, ABS and PLA were the de facto standards when it came to materials and while nylon and woodfill options were starting to creep in it was nothing like what we see today. From composite metals, polycarbonates, rubbers, carbon fibre, heat resistant materials and more, there seems to be an affordable option to meet your every need.

It now seems that the well respected 3D printing group over at MatterHackers is spicing the material world up a little more with their newly announced NylonX.

Advertised as their strongest material yet, its material properties include “excellent chemical, abrasion, and impact resistance coupled with durability and toughness” and is designed to become the go-to option for incredibly tough, functional 3D printed parts.

While nylon has always been considered one of the stronger 3D print materials on the market, its remained a niche player on account of its difficulty to work with (peels easily from build tray, shrinks when cools, delaminates if printed with too low temperature settings). The solution, according to MatterHackers is to blending chopped carbon fibers (20% by weight) into the nylon mix.

"By adding chopped carbon fibers to nylon, we increase the rigidity, reduce the shrink rate, and the amount of water it can absorb, while still maintaining the durability and toughness of nylon," MatterHackers team says. Some of the promotional wording behind the filament even suggests it as a potential replacement for aluminium (typically produced using CNC machines) for a lot of applications.

But, just like everything else the proof is in the pudding and MatterHackers has gone through a good amount of trouble demonstrating how its NylonX (available for $65 USD per 0.5kg) compares to the other available materials on the market today.

It is worth noting that some extruders and 3D printers might be incompatible when it comes to producing the proper conditions to print with NylonX (technically). Higher temperatures between 250 - 265°C are necessary to produce parts without delamination, a heated bed setting of between 60 and 70°C is advised (along with PVA based glue), a stainless steel nozzle is advised (standard brass nozzles can wear out too quickly with the carbon fibers) and larger 0.6mm nozzles are recommended (vs. the typically standard 0.4mm nozzle).

But if you have a 3D printer that can take the above into account, you are ready to produce parts with NylonX and the stress tests the MatterHackers team went through to compare whats out there immediately impress and suggest the promise of being their strongest material yet might indeed be true.

Their testing consisted of 3D printing carabiners in a variety of materials at roughly the size as the ones you would find in stores rated at 150 pounds. They used the same 3D printer for most materials (even going so far as using a traditional 0.4mm nozzle) at the same layer height, density and fill pattern.

From there, a block and pulley system was used to test how much the 3D printed carabiners could withstand with the different material options. And as you can quickly see in the chart below, NylonX ranks right near the top when compared with the other specialty materials available for testing.

Sure, it is their own material but their enthusiasm behind their product should provide some confidence if you are looking to purchase something new, durable and tough. They note that “we suspected that NylonX would perform well in this sort of test, but we didn’t expect it to perform as well as it did. Put simply, it’s just awesome,” and that “it was over 100% stronger than PLA in our test, and , on average, 60% stronger than ABS!”

And while the numbers do suggest NylonX might work its way up into every makers material cabinet one day, the team even admits that they didn’t perform enough tests with each filament to get a proper statistical dataset. But in the end, the conclusion is pretty clear that after three months of 3D printing with the material, they remain impressed with the strength, ease of use and sleek matte finish it produces right out of the machine.

As someone that experiments with new 3D printing filaments on a regular basis, the comprehensive breakdown put on by MatterHackers to support their product is impressive. They put their money where their mouth in demonstrating the material. Currently available to purchase, I am eager to read up on some third party reviews of the filament to confirm what Matterhackers have already suggested.





Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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Alfred Goodrich wrote at 3/12/2019 1:47:32 AM:

Hello, has anyone published the modulus of elasticity for NylonX

Trebor Smith wrote at 2/12/2018 7:39:42 AM:

"I worry a lot of companies don't really understand material science, but merely jump on a band wagon. Chopped strand carbon, does pretty much nothing for material strength. Carbon fibre works as woven cloth, not powdered strands" I assume they know, but they count on their customers not knowing. That being said, it is possible that the small fibers reduce shrinkage significantly. And they seem to help some properties, at the expensive of much higher cost and wear on the nozzle.

Victor wrote at 4/14/2017 7:33:15 PM:

Hi...which 3D printer would be best to use the NylonX filament in... Thanks

Taylor wrote at 10/17/2016 6:22:22 PM:

Taulman 645, which is a nylon copolymer, was tested. We would have performed more tests on nylon materials but it's too flexible for this test. Nylon is an excellent material because of its toughness (among other properties), but these tests don't highlight those strengths. We will be adding Nylon 910 to the carabiner test because of multiple requests, but it has not performed as well as many expect it will because of its flexibility.

Rafael Vidal Peres wrote at 10/15/2016 12:55:14 PM:

What about testing layer adhesion with standard objects?

The Cook wrote at 10/15/2016 11:49:15 AM:

Pretty meaningless figures without a comparison of the nylon with no carbon fibre. I worry a lot of companies don't really understand material science, but merely jump on a band wagon. Chopped strand carbon, does pretty much nothing for material strength. Carbon fibre works as woven cloth, not powdered strands. Carbon fibre is naturally slippy so easily pulls out of material it isn't cross linked with. Even wood fibre beats CF in these applications as the fluffy fibre cross links the carrier material like fine roots hold together soil.

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