One of the most popular plastics available today, Nylon was first patented in 1935 by
Wallace Carruthers, a scientist working for Dupont®. Nylon is a thermoplastic made from petrochemicals. It is a semi-crystalline plastic, that it has both amorphous (unstructured) as well as crystalline (structured) regions. When heat is applied it does not begin to slowly melt like amorphous resins, rather it stays firm until it reaches its melting point and then melts all at once. Nylon has a relatively high melting temperature of 256°C/450°F.
Nylon is a tough material that is difficult to tear and exhibits excellent abrasion resistance. It can bend and will bounce back. It is not damaged by oils, solvents or alcohols. However, when exposed to acids such as dilute sulfuric acid it will begin to break down. The material will also be damaged if it comes into contact with phenols, alkalis, and iodine. It is a hygroscopic material and on the molecular level tends to absorb moisture from the surrounding environment. Water molecules bond with the amide groups in the nylon molecules and causethe material to swell. At the same time, nylon tends not to absorb water droplets from minor splashing, making it dry to the touch. Nylon will decompose under sunlight so often UV resistance additives are used. Nylon is not affected by fungi, molds and mildew and is not eaten by insects.
Let’s count down the most common commercial uses of nylon today:
3) Plastic Fasteners and Machine Parts
Nylon is used for for making plastic machine parts as it is low cost and long lasting. It is often commonly used in the electronics industry for its non-conductivity and heat resistance. It is used for screws, bolts, washers and nuts as well as circuit board hardware. Parts made of nylon are often used in mechanisms that rotate or slide due its low coefficient of friction. It is used to make bearings for the appliance industry because of its excellent abrasion resistance.
Nylon is used in cookware since it has a relatively high continuous service temperature. These include spatulas, slotted spoons, turners, forks, tongs, brushes, etc. Easy to dye, nylon cookware can be color co-ordinated with kitchen decor. Nylon cooking tools are gentle on non-stick surfaces. Companies such as OXO and Caphalon have used nylon for their cookware products.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of nylon is that it can be made into strong fibers. When these are woven together a silky, lightweight fabric is produced. Nylon was introduced as a fabric during the 1939 New York World’s Fair and by 1940 was used to make women’s stockings. Nylon fabric became important as a synthetic substitute for silk in the manufacture of parachutes when silk became scarce during WWII. Nylon is still used today to make parachute canopies due to its elasticity, strength, resistance to mildew, availability and price. However, the use of nylon fibers does not stop with the fabric. Harness straps and suspension lines are also made from nylon fibers as well as tents, sleeping bags, sails, rope, tennis strings, fishing poles and lines, etc.
Today nylon is the most common fiber for textiles and it is one of the strongest and most common fabrics on the market. It can be easily dyed so textiles can be made in a rainbow of colors. It is known to drape well and is used extensively in apparel. Nylon fabric is used in an almost countless number of items: book bags, back packs, flak jackets, wedding gowns and bridal veils, athletic shoes, ponchos, umbrellas, camera cases, swimsuits, socks, gloves, hats, luggage, and much more.
There you have it! Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite commercial use for nylon?
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