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ResourcesMaterials7 Properties of Nylon: Everything you Need to Know
Production of nylon in a thread factory. Image Credit: saravutpics/Shutterstock.com

7 Properties of Nylon: Everything you Need to Know

Learn more about the material's key properties and selection considerations.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
June 23, 2022
 6 min read
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Nylon is the designation for a family of synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (repeating units linked by amide links). Nylon is a silk-like thermoplastic, usually made from petroleum, that can be melt-processed into fibers, films, or shapes.  In addition, nylon polymers can be mixed with various additives to achieve different property variations. As a result, nylon polymers have found significant commercial applications in fabric and fibers, shapes, and films.

This article explains the different nylon properties, specifically nylon's lustrousness, elasticity, strength, damage resistance, resiliency, moisture resistance, and quick-drying.

1. Nylon is Lustrous

Nylon is lustrous, which means it has a shine. The plastic has the ability to be very lustrous, semi-lustrous, or dull, depending on its desired use. This is one reason it is often used as a fabric.

2. Nylon is Elastic

Nylon is elastic because when it is above its melting temperatures, it is an amorphous solid or viscous fluid in which the chains approximate random coils. Below its melting temperature, nylon has amorphous regions that alternate with regions that are lamellar crystals. The amorphous regions contribute elasticity to the plastic.

3. Nylon is Very Strong

Nylon already has basic high tensile strength and durability, making it suitable for applications that require the material to survive impacts. In some applications, nylon plastic is filled with 10-40% glass fibers to increase tensile strength further. While strength is increased in such situations, the glass fibers change the potential defects. No glass fill means that the plastic will bend and yield before a potential break. With the addition of fibers (especially in a higher percentage), the break (or failure) comes earlier, with minimal bending. However, for reinforced nylon, the resultant tensile strength can be up to 70% higher than normal nylon plastic.

4. Nylon is Damage Resistant to Oil and Many Chemicals

Nylon is created from coal, water, and oxygen, combined with a polymer to make two chemicals: hexamethylene diamine and adipic acid (diacid). The two chemicals has six carbon backbones. One bond occurs when diacid and diamine alternate in the polymer chain. The strong bonds containing two very strong chemicals make nylon resistant to most chemicals.

5. Nylon is Resilient

Nylon may have thin fibers, but it is strong and can withstand years of wear. One reason for it is resilient is that it's synthetic. Because nylon can mold into any shape it is useful for products that require flexibility. Nylon's flexibility comes from its natural elasticity.

6. Nylon Does Not Absorb Water

Nylons are hygroscopic and absorb or desorb moisture as a function of ambient humidity. Variations in moisture content have several effects on the polymer. Firstly, the dimensions will change, but more importantly, moisture acts as a plasticizer, lowering the glass transition temperature (Tg), and, consequently the elastic modulus at temperatures below the Tg. 

When dry, polyamide is an excellent electrical insulator. However, polyamide is hygroscopic. Therefore, water absorption will change some of nylon's properties, such as its electrical resistance. However, nylon is less absorbent than wool or cotton.

7. Nylon Dries Quickly

Nylon dries quickly, which is why it is often used in fabrics where moisture-wicking is a desired property. Nylon dries faster than other fabrics because it is primarily hydrophobic.

Which of Nylon's Properties Should be Considered When Using Nylon?

All nylon properties should be considered when using it. Nylon is used as a replacement for metal because it is cheap and flexible. It costs less to make and buy material made of nylon than metal. Also, since nylon is more flexible, nylon cleaning tools can clean hard-to-reach places where metal tools are not practical.

Nylon's chemical resistance property and its ability to withstand sterilization make it an excellent medical appliance product. It can therefore be used for catheters, bandages, hospital beds, walkers, and syringes.

Nylon's durability and heat and chemical resistance make it worthwhile for military equipment such as tents, uniforms, bags, and ropes. Because of nylon's durability, lightweight nature, and resistance to heat and chemicals it can even be used to make machine parts such as screws, nuts, and bolts. In addition, nylon is often used in the electronics industry for items such as circuit boards and electrical cords.

For more information see our guide on the Uses of Nylon.

What are the Physical Properties of Nylon?

The physical properties of nylon are stronger tensile strength, high-temperature resistance, and more friction resistance than more standard, non-engineering plastics. The physical properties are as follows:

  • Tenacity: 4-9 gm/den dry, in wet 90% of dry.
  • Elasticity: The breaking extension is 20 to 40%.
  • Stiffness: 20-40 gm/density
  • Moisture regain: 3.5-5%. Nylon is not absorbent due to crystallinity.
  • Specific gravity: 1.14.
  • Abrasion resistance: Excellent.
  •  Dimensional stability: Good.
  • Softening point: Nylon 6,6 – 2290C and nylon 6 – 1490C.
  • Melting point: Nylon 6,6 – 2520C and nylon 6 – 2150C.
  • Resiliency: Excellent.
  • Hand feel: Soft and smooth.

What Are the Chemical Properties of Nylon?

The chemical properties of nylon are as follows:

  • Acid: Nylon attacked by mineral acids is disintegrated or almost dissolved. It is inert to dilute acetate acid and formic acids. It is dissolved in concentrated formic acid. Nylon is attacked by mineral acid but resistant to dilute boiling organic acid.
  • Bleaches: Nylon is not attacked by oxidizing and reducing bleaches but may be harmed by chlorine and oxidizing solid bleaches.
  •  Organic solvent: Most organic solvents have little or no effect on nylon. Phenol metacressol and formic acid dissolve the fiber, but solvents used in stain removal and dry cleaning do not damage it.
  •  Alkali: Nylon is substantially inert to alkalis.
  •   Light: No discoloration. Nylon gradually loses strength.
  • Biological: Neither micro organism nor moth larvae attack nylon.
  • Electrical: High insulating properties leads to static charges on the fiber.
  • Flammability: Burns slowly.

Are Nylons Resistant to the Majority of Chemicals?

Yes, nylons have excellent resistance to many chemicals and hydrocarbons in normal usage. However, nylon is attached by oxidizing agents, organic acids, mineral acids, and aromatic alcohols. Nylon has excellent resistance to hydrocarbons, oils, cleaning solutions, and alkalis. It will absorb small amounts of water, methyl, ethyl, or isopropyl alcohols, and chlorinated solvents and plasticize to them.

Is Nylon Able to Retain its Shape After Washing?

Yes, nylon is able to retain its shape after washing. Nylon is popular not just for its elastic properties but also because it is durable, easy to clean, resistant to shrinking, and retains its shape even after being stretched or washed. 

Summary

This article reviewed some of the key properties of nylon and what to consider when making a material selection. Xometry offers nylon sheets and rods in a range of different sizes. Visit our supplies page for all of your nylon material needs.

Disclaimer

The content appearing on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Xometry makes no representation or warranty of any kind, be it expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information. Any performance parameters, geometric tolerances, specific design features, quality and types of materials, or processes should not be inferred to represent what will be delivered by third-party suppliers or manufacturers through Xometry’s network. Buyers seeking quotes for parts are responsible for defining the specific requirements for those parts. Please refer to our terms and conditions for more information.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.