Since the industrial revolution, technologies and innovations have shaped manufacturing processes in different forms. One form of revolution hitting the manufacturing industry is the use of specialized materials, one of which includes nylon. However, there are various types of nylon with different properties. Nevertheless, our focus in this article is the polyamide version, also known as nylon 12 PA – a thermoplastic material. We will examine its properties and unique features, which make it suitable for several use cases. We will also compare it with other versions of nylons used in manufacturing. If you’re ready to tango, then let the music begin.
I. What exactly is Nylon 12?
If you’re not a manufacturer, especially one involved in mold manufacturing, you might think of nylon 12 as just another thermoplastic material, in which case you will be making a mistake. Nylon 12 is a unique thermoplastic material formed by a chemical process known as polymerization – which is just the combination of smaller molecules to form a bigger one. This process often starts with synthesizing a compound known as Laurolactam before it is then polymerized to produce the final product known as Nylon 12.
Its unique properties allow it to withstand the impact of forces and stresses. It is also known for its capacity to resist UV (ultraviolet) rays, often resulting in excessive exposure to the sun. This ability is one of the reasons nylon 12 is often suitable for outdoor products. Its unique structure of ordered and disordered sections makes it suitable for projects where high-temperature resistance is a critical consideration. Nonetheless, nylon 12 is very elastic yet lightweight and strong but exceptionally moisture-resistant.
II. Fundamental Concepts
The applications of nylon 12 are vast and vary across different industries, including automotive, aerospace, military, energy, and consumer goods manufacturing. One critical use case of nylon 12 is its application for packaging items unfriendly to moisture.
The high resistance of nylon 12 to moisture is an excellent feature that makes it highly suitable as a packaging material. It is also used in construction and refrigeration to wrap condensate pipes from causing forming moisture on the wall of the building, which often results in the formation of molds on the wall.
Also, it is resistant to a vast majority of chemicals, making it excellent as an anti-chemical packaging material and in manufacturing medical devices such as implants and surgical devices.
One other important use case of nylon 12 is its use as an automotive component cover since it is resistant to abrasions and less susceptible to wear. Additionally, it is used in the electronic industry for housing devices thanks to its ability to resist significant temperature levels. In all, nylon 12 is exceptionally useful for a wide variety of industries spanning several industries for its unique mechanical and chemical properties along with its cost-effectiveness for different projects.
III. Nylon 12 Synthesis: How Is Polyamide 12 Produced?
There are three major ways in which polyamide 12 (PA 12) can be made, all of which are just different forms of polymerization. However, the three methods always start with the same base material, Laurolactam, which is synthesized to get nylon 12. The synthesis is done under extreme pressure and temperature using cationic, anionic, or ring-opening polymerization methods to arrive at the final nylon 12 product.
When utilizing cationic polymerization, this often requires the introduction of a compound like Lewis’s acid, which acts as the polymerization process initiator, also known as a cationic initiator. The conditions are relatively mild for the cationic polymerization resulting in a nylon 12 material with a molecular weight distribution that is not so wide. Also, the resulting molecular weight of nylon 12 here is lower. However, the best use case for cation polymerization is for prepolymers and oligomers of nylon 12.
An anionic initiator is also required for initiating the anionic polymerization of Laurolactam. However, the compound used as the reactor is the same Laurolactam to kick off the reactions. Nevertheless, a catalyst which may be lithium chloride, has to be present to effect nylon 12 formation. Still, you have to be very cautious in using anionic polymerization for nylon 12, as it can be complicated, and any mistake can result in a low-quality nylon 12 material.
Lastly, open-ring polymerization for nylon 12 is unlike the preceding polymerization processes highlighted. Here, the reaction initiator is usually a catalyst like stannous octoate, and the process is straightforward, making it a preferred method in most industries. The process also involves extreme pressure and temperature to obtain a high-quality nylon 12 material.
IV. Nylon 12 Properties
What makes nylon 12 a unique and highly sought-after material by various manufacturing industries are the properties that give it several advantages. Advantages such as high durability, resistance to moisture, and heat-resistant ability come from its properties highlighted below.
- Mechanical Properties: The ability to withstand stress and pressure is often attributed to mechanical properties such as strength, rigidity, and toughness, which are amply present in nylon 12. Its ability to resist the impact of forces without any failure on deformations is considered favorable for many applications across different industries. Thus, it is critical to make it a suitable material for situations where fatigue resistance and the ability to repeatedly take on loads without fail.
- Chemical Properties: The ability to resist chemicals is exceptionally beneficial in cases where the environment might be awash with chemicals that harm an installation’s integrity. Thankfully, nylon 12 is incredibly resistant to oils, compounds, and numerous chemicals, including UV making it an excellent material for use in such cases.
- Thermal Properties: Nylon 12 has an advantage in situations where extreme heat usage is critical, as it remains internally stable even with temperatures as high as 150°C.
- Self-Lubricating Properties: For manufacturers in the aerospace and automotive industry who often manufacture moving components, the ability to self-lubricate becomes very important in their design. Due to its high self-lubricating abilities, nylon 12 is severally employed by these sectors to reduce the wear and tear in these moving parts.
- Water Absorption: Nylon generally is known for its resistance to moisture. However, the nylon 12 grade has a relatively higher water absorption than most other grades of nylon which often account for slight changes in its dimension.
- Electrical Properties: Nylon 12’s low electrical conductivity makes it an excellent insulating material for electrical and electronic devices, including other components always in contact with electricity.
V. Characteristics of Nylon 12
Some apparent characteristics of nylon 12 are its versatility and high-performance ability when utilized for projects that require high strength. Still, the not-so-obvious characteristics of nylon 12 also exist, as we’ve highlighted below.
- High Durability: Where the impact of forces and stresses is a critical design consideration, nylon 12 often comes through as manufacturers particularly prefer it for its high durability. Seeing that nylon 12 is one of the strongest grades of nylon. It can resist wear and tear easily.
- Lightweight: Despite its toughness and high strength, nylon 12 is still a lightweight material that is often a preferred choice for manufacturers in projects that require easy handling without sacrificing strength. These lightweight characteristics also make nylon 12 very cost-effective for high-performance projects.
- Excellent Dimensional Stability: Nylon 12 retains its internal structure that influences its external dimensions despite harsh environmental conditions that often affect other materials’ stability. Its excellent dimensional stability often remains unchanged even when submerged in water.
- Good Surface Finish: The surface texture of a material often determines its suitability for applications that require an appealing surface finish. Nylon 12 is usually preferred for such applications because it has an appealing surface finish. The postproduction finish process that includes polishing and painting is also very easy with the type of surface finish that nylon 12 has.
- High Processability: One spectacular feature of nylon 12 is its flowability during manufacturing, like plastic injection molding. This ability makes it an outstanding material for molding and several other industrial production processes requiring intricate shapes.
- Recyclability: The ability to reuse a material after serving its original purpose is encouraged. This recyclability is one that nylon 12 possesses as it can be reused as material for fiber, pellets, and several other alternative products after it’s been used for its original purpose. This is better than adding to the environmental pollution caused by the huge waste already generated.
- High Impact Resistance: This feature of nylon 12 is probably why it is one of the most sought-after materials by several manufacturing industries. Nylon 12 resistance to forces and impacts guarantees its longevity, especially for products subjected to different stresses over their lifetime.
- UV Resistant: The ability to resist the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun is another characteristic that manufacturers of outdoor products seek in nylon 12. Nylon 12 is very effective for protecting the integrity of outdoor products, including devices that are excessively exposed to the sun over their working life.
- Biocompatible: This characteristic indicates a material’s suitability for medical purposes, as biocompatible materials are antibacterial and don’t react with chemicals. This makes nylon 12, a fantastic biocompatible material, suitable to produce medical devices like surgical equipment.
An excellent choice for manufacturers and production engineers seeking high-performance materials for their design or project is nylon 12. The numerous characteristics that have been itemized above make it very suitable for projects that prefer a material with a high strength-to-weight ratio.
VI. What Are the Merits of Nylon 12
Nylon 12 has been established as a versatile material for several high-performance projects. However, its numerous advantages account for its suitability and preference by several manufacturers for different purposes. Below is the highlight of some of the advantages of using nylon 12 in your project.
Firstly, its strength is exceptionally high, especially considering it is a lightweight material that an inexperienced designer can easily overlook. Its strength is also a good indication of its durability as it indicates that nylon 12 can withstand the impact of a great force without sustaining severe damage or failure to its internal structure. Hence, nylon 12 is used where stress and durability are major design concerns.
Also, nylon 12’s lightweight is advantageous in areas where the ease of handling is a huge design consideration. It can be easily worked upon using different machining processes, including CNC machining and 3D printing, as handling nylon 12 comes with no fuss.
Again, it has a low water absorption rate, making it advantageous for areas where moisture and water content are challenging. It can retain its dimensional stability even when submerged in water, making it suitable for marine applications.
Another advantage of nylon 12 material is its self-lubricating properties that come in handy with automotive devices that experience wear and tear due to the constant friction of moving parts. Nylon12 is especially useful in manufacturing bushing and covers for these moving parts.
VII. What Are the Disadvantages of Nylon 12
Nylon 12, with all its numerous advantages, does not come without a few drawbacks, which should not be ignored during the product design phase, where suitable material is often selected for the project.
Relative to other nylon materials, the grade of nylon 12 is the most expensive among its counterparts which can be responsible for the preference for other less-performing nylon materials during design.
Also, the production process often differs in procedures and methods and can be responsible for the occasional warping of nylon 12, causing inadequate sizing and inaccuracies in nylon 12’s dimensions.
Another drawback of nylon is the inability to repair it once damaged. However, if damaged, it can be recycled as a raw material for other uses.
VIII. What Are the Most Common Uses of Nylon 12?
You can’t miss nylon 12 if you are in the manufacturing industry, as it comprises much of the material used in most manufacturing facilities.
For instance, in the automotive manufacturing industry, the mechanical properties of nylon 12 come in handy, especially as a protective seal for many moving parts. Also, it is used for packaging many products including in the food and medical industry, especially drugs that need to be kept dry since it has low absorption of vapor and moisture.
Again, nylon 12 has been extensively used for its self-lubrication and strength, especially for ski boots and hockey sticks that are often impacted by forces accompanied by hitting hockey balls. Still, it is employed for insulating properties in electrical products like cables and plug holders.
Its ability to resist chemicals is also helpful in producing products that must be protected from chemicals and from separating two chemicals, including fuels and other compounds.
Its unique properties, including high strength, lightweight, self-lubrication, chemical resistance, and water resistance, have made nylon 12 an inescapable material for most manufactured products.
- What is the procedure if the product parts require Nylon 12 material?
Manufacturing nylon 12 can be simple or tricky depending on the intricacy of the shape, including the method and equipment available for its production. However, we’ll give you the three widely used methods of producing nylon 12 in most industries. But in the three production methods, it is often timesaving to have the design of the shape required at hand before beginning the production.
- By 3D Printing
This method requires a 3D printing machine to create a product with nylon 12 material. After generating your design with a computer-aided design (CAD) or similar software, the next step is to input the design into the 3D printer. 3D printing of nylon 12 can be fast and easy, especially if you want rapid prototyping but not producing in mass. However, the absorption of air moisture while printing can adversely affect the strength of nylon 12. Nevertheless, 3D printing offers you the ability to produce some of the most complicated shapes and forms, never minding that you can produce very fast if you need a high volume of the product.
- By CNC Machining
Like the other methods, producing your design is the first step in the CNC machining process, after which the design is fed into the computer numerical controller to start the cutting process. This is by far the most sophisticated and error-free method of the three, but with all its advantages, it is also the most expensive method. It also requires a high level of expertise to operate the CNC machine. Again, it is associated with some waste as the cutting required to form the designed shapes usually produces cutting chips that may be recycled. It is also used to produce some of the most complex geometry and shapes.
- By Injection Molding
Here, you have the advantage of producing in mass very easily and quickly, considering that you only need mold and the molten form of nylon 12 to produce your product. However, you must first have a design on the ground before embarking on injection molding manufacturing. Also, you may require a significant amount of time for mold design and to produce the mold needed for production. Additionally, the cost of producing these molds can be expensive but will pay huge dividends later. This method is often very accurate, with little to no opportunity for errors.
IX. What is the difference between Nylon 12 and Other Nylon Materials?
Generally, nylon is considered a versatile material with extensive applications across several industries. Nevertheless, not all nylon grades are created the same, and comparing nylon 12 with other nylon grades may help to understand the individual strengths and limitations unique to each nylon grade.
Nylon 12 vs. Nylon 6:
Nylon 12 has a higher density than nylon 6 (polycaprolactam), with more elasticity often measured as the elongation at failure, with nylon 12 having a higher elongation at failure than nylon 6. Also, nylon 12 is a better heat resistor, given its higher melting point than nylon 6. Additionally, nylon 12 is more chemically resistant and can withstand the adverse effects of more chemicals without failing than nylon 6. Nevertheless, nylon 6 has more tensile strength making it more resistant to impacts and forces and, therefore, more durable than nylon 12.
Nylon 12 vs. Nylon 11:
The polyamide 11 grade compares favorably with nylon 12 with a higher density and slightly higher tensile strength than nylon 12, giving it better tensile stress resistance. Moreover, nylon is more elastic, with a higher elongation at failure when compared to nylon 12. However, nylon 12 still has better dimensional stability when submerged in water than nylon 11 since nylon 12 has less moisture absorption. No wonder nylon 12 is preferred in applications requiring water resistance.
Nylon 12 vs. Nylon 66:
Also referred to as polyhexamethylene adipamide, nylon 66 is denser and stronger than nylon 12, making it suitable for applications where tensile stress is critical. However, nylon 12 is more elastic and has better chemical resistance than nylon 66. The processing method is also varied for nylon 12, while nylon 66 is commonly processed using mold injection. Nylon 12’s lower moisture absorption over nylon 66 also gives it better dimensional stability, which is why it is better suited for critical water absorption projects.
Nylon 12 vs. Nylon 101:
The most common usage of nylon 101 (polyamide 101) is where heat and chemical resistance are the critical considerations, as it has a higher melting and chemical resistance than nylon 12. It also has a higher tensile strength than nylon 12 and is suitable for resisting higher stresses and forces than nylon 12. But nylon 12 is still a better elastic material than nylon 101 and has a higher density, making it easier to handle nylon 101.
This highlighted comparison is often essential in selecting the appropriate nylon material for your project.
Being a versatile material is not enough reason for selecting nylon 12 as the material for your project. Other critical selecting criteria can include your budget, manpower expertise, equipment, and shape complexity. However, nylon 12 has been proven over the years across several industries as an important material that has some of the most sought-after properties for a manufacturing material. These properties, such as high strength and chemical resistance, are often required in manufacturing for product preservation and durability, making nylon a commonly used material. Carefully considering these properties will help you decide if nylon 12 is the most suitable material for your project.