3D Printing with Nylon: Robot applications?

Since the start of the 2013 FRC season I’ve been experimenting with and building FRC robot parts with my 3D printer (Makerbot Replicator 2) using PLA plastic – it definitely came in handy for sensor/servo mounts, wheel guards, and promo giveaways at competition.

I recently discovered Taulman 618 Nylon filament which is compatible with most printers. It’s incredibly flexible but also plenty strong. So far I’ve used it to make custom-length and size timing belts (will definitely consider this next year for low-torque applications since belts of the correct size were so difficult to find this past season).

Making this post because 1) I wanted to share my discovery and find out if other teams (or engineers) have made use of nylon as 3D printing material, and 2) Besides belts and iPhone cases, does anyone have any other good FRC-related applications for such a material?

~15 inch belt, $3.50 in material cost:

That is pretty cool. We have both the Replicator Dual and the Replicator 2, and have been using it all season, last year, for a bunch of stuff, including custom spacers (specially hex), hub caps, various mounts (encoders and ) and even a couple of wheels that were printed out last minute during competition.

We also found it helpful in using the Replicator to generate engineering interest among high school students and also in helping with recruiting process. A good percentage of students always seem interested to learn more about 3D printing.

We have also been testing to try and set up a support structure using water soluble PVA plastic. I have never tried Nylon, but will definitely give it a try. Thanks for sharing this btw.

Do you have a source and possible extruder/heated bed settings for it?

personally I love 3D printing but the best way to test if it would work it to test it. You can take the parts and use them and do stress testing.

I do not use a heated bed on my Replicator 2. I use a glass printing surface + hairspray as a slight adhesive to avoid warping. This works great for PLA and nylon (as it turns out).

For the extruder, I set to 245 degC, which seems to give me the best results so far. PLA I normally run at 230C for comparison.

Orangemoore – the strength will definitely not be comparable in tension to, say, nylon rope, just based on the additive manufacturing process (in a way, it’s like comparing the strength of plywood to particle board). Printed parts in general are better in compression. But, I will definitely stress test these timing belts a bit and look for the optimal thicknesses and infill ratios.

I think I remember 179, Children of the Swamp, using a 3D printer for many of thir robot parts. If anyone knows about it I would guess it’s them.

330 used SLS-built nylon mecanum wheels on a testbed a few years back, courtesy of a sponsor. Admittedly a different process to build, but the wheels held up under hard driving on a concrete floor.

8 years ago! “A few”…

Have you looked into the Taulman 645 or a polycarbonate filament? The specs for both look pretty impressive. I pledged for an OpenBeam Kossel Pro (delta arm printer) on Kickstarter and plan on making some robot parts this year for the team.

Polycarbonate!! I did not know that was available. Can’t wait to make my first lexan print

Just remember you need at least 265°C to extrude it. I’ve seen claims in the 285-300°C range as well. It is also hygroscopic, so you want to be careful that the filament is dry enough to extrude properly.


I’ll be testing it for sure once I get my printer(s) up and running :slight_smile:

I’m building a Prusa I3 as part of a ‘camp’ this week, and a couple of other robotics teams in the area are here as well. It has a heated bed (long copper PCB print) and is fairly straightforward to put together (so far…).

My first big project this year is to create an inexpensive prosthetic hand fit for someone specific. Once I feel confident I can make one at a decent quality, I’ll seek someone out.

After that, it’ll be on to Tri-/Quad-/Hex- & “other” -rotor parts.


  • The plan is to print near-solid low-loaded gears out of ABS, similar to how the FP gearboxes have them
  • It may be possible to also do shaft adapters (light loading, of course) out of ABS – similar to how the Simbots have done them in the past (1 solid part for multiple attachments)
  • Another use could be precision sliders for a belt or chain tension system (3 or 4 slots that keep the entire slide aligned properly)
  • For Nylon applications, depending on the specific material, you may be able to make custom-formed linear slides
  • And of course, the all-important (and often underrated) custom circuit or sensor mount
  • If there’s ever a use for a RS-395 motor, ABS should be plenty strong enough to reliably hold the motor up without sagging over time (i.e. it will still work at your demos 8 months after build) – so a custom gearbox where the output shaft isn’t cantilevered (again, depends on loading) is more feasible here than with a heavier motor
  • Same with the VEX motors – it’s a lightweight motor, so the cantilevered mounting of it shouldn’t be an issue over time
  • The ultimate 3D printed item for me, used in FRC, would be the light-load linear actuator that’s driven by a legal motor and provides mounts for 2 limit switches that are in precise positions. Given that I have other plans, perhaps someone else at the ‘camp’ will design one.