3D Printing Material: Nylon PA12 (Plastic)

Home image with many 3D printed objects in many colors Smoothing beautifier egg size Layer thickness of a plastic 3D Printing
Small home image with many 3D printed objects in many colors Smoothing beautifier egg small size small Layer thickness of a plastic 3D Printing

Stone Gray 
Anthracite Black
Metal Gray

Color Touch
Color Resist
Smoothing Beautifier
Standard (100 - 120µm)
Fine (60µm)


Here you will find all the information, tricks, know-how, and advice to help you print your 3D model in our Nylon PA 12 (plastic) material. Thanks to this little 3D printing guide for plastic material, you will learn about the:

General information & Printing Techniques

Our Nylon PA 12 (Plastic) Material

The Nylon PA 12 (plastic) objects printed through Sculpteo are created from a fine polyamide powder, more commonly known as plastic. The material is both solid and flexible, unlike some of the other materials offered by Sculpteo. Nylon PA12 (Plastic) is great for both experienced professionals and beginning designers because of its high precision and low cost. Indeed, this plastic material is great for an experience of 3D printing for beginners . Unpolished, the material is white, granular, and somewhat porous when it is directly coming out of our industrial 3D printers- these options can be further refined with Sculpteo's in house polishing and dyeing processes. It is also possible to polish and paint your objects at home using material-specific techniques. To learn more, refer to our paragraph about finishes and colors for polyamide models.

This material is well used in the 3D printing industry , as it allows to do some rapid prototyping as well as finished consumer products . Prototyping with Nylon PA12 (plastic) is a good solution, because this 3D printing material is cheaper and faster than other processes. You just have to modify your design with your 3D software and make new iterations. It is a common 3D printing material used for various applications, it has really good quality standards .

Processing Times and Pricing

The printing price of your design is calculated automatically the moment it is placed online. As you modify your object (changing size, using batch control or hollowing feature, etc.) you will note that the price changes automatically. The pricing is based on a series of factors, including: total volume, object size, and bounding box - to name a few.

White, unpolished Nylon PA12 (plastic) has the quickest turn around time of our materials. Your object is estimated to arrive in 2-3 business days. Polishing, painting and particularly large objects can extend the processing time by 1-2 days on average. The estimated shipping time is also calculated automatically as the object is uploaded.

Delivery time should be added to processing time and depends on the delivery option you choose.

Printing techniques

PA process

Sculpteo uses a process called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) for all Nylon polyamide 12 (plastic) prints. After your design is uploaded to the Sculpteo website, it undergoes a couple steps before it is physically created:

  • Model transferred to 3D printer
  • Once you upload your 3D model to our website, it is received by a Sculpteo team member, who expertly places the model into the next available batch. The specific printer from which it will be printed is determined mainly by the dimensions of your object or batch, the larger prints being reserved for the larger printers. We have multiple industrial 3D printers available including: the EOS Formiga P100, P110, P395, and P730

  • Object is 3D printed
  • SLS uses a highly specific laser that sinters thin layers of polyamide powder together one layer at a time. After each round of lasering, the printing bed is lowered and another layer of powder is evenly swept across the top for another round of sintering. This process is repeated at a layer height of either 120 - 100 µm or 60 µm until the object is completed.

  • Removal from Batch
  • After the printer cools, the block of sintered powder is removed from printer and the printed objects are removed by hand. A part of the powder that was not sintered is recycled back into the printer for a future print.

  • Brushing and Sandblasting
  • The object is then brushed, which removes a large portion of the powder, and sandblasted, which removes the fine powder that the brush may have missed.

  • Polishing and Dyeing
  • From there the object can be polished and/or dyed depending on the finishing and color you chose. Our polishing technique involves small stones in a rotating/vibrating cauldron - as the stones brush up against the object, small imperfections in the surface are smoothed. We also dye objects by plunging the entire object into the desired tint. To learn more, refer to the paragraph on finishes and colors for polyamide models.

Uses and Maintenance

Set of polyamide objects printed in 3D.

Polyamide offers great flexibility when 3D printing, especially complex models, as it is flexible, durable, and food safe. As a result, the objects in this material have a wide range of uses from mechanical (prototypes, geared systems, articulated objects, etc.), ornamental, or even educational (bone structures, etc.).

Technical properties of polyamide change depending on the thickness of your model. With a 0,8 mm wall thickness, your model will be flexible. With a 2 mm wall thickness, it will be rigid. Please check our blog post on e lastic modulus measurements for more information on flexibility.

With regards to water qualities, polyamide is water-resistant but not waterproof. Thus the 3D object must not rest in contact with water for extended periods of time.

The Nylon PA (plastic) is not really heat resistant . Indeed, in terms of temperature, if the Nylon PA12 (plastic) is subjected to heat above 120°C (248°F), it is possible that the physical form of the object can significantly altered.

The somewhat rough surface of polyamide objects can attract dirt and other discolorations. This can often be remedied with soapy water and a cloth, letting it dry thoroughly. However, we strongly recommend avoiding strong friction with your colored objects to prevent surface degradation.

Finishes and colorings

Color & Finishing Options

PA finishes

PA finishes 2

There are multiple coloring and finishing options available through Sculpteo.

Finishing options available after the additive manufacturing process:

  • Raw: Sandblasted but unpolished, surface remains somewhat rough, most economical.
  • Polished: Polished through mechanical polishing, smoother to touch, layers still somewhat visible on rounded objects.
  • Smoothing Beautifier: Smoothed through a physico-chemical process, the objects finished with our exclusive Smoothing Beautifier process have a glossy surface. This brand new process aims at closing the gap between the surface quality of injection molded parts and 3D printed parts. The process brings smoothing to every section of the object and works by sealing the porous surface of your Nylon PA12 (plastic) part.
    This finish is recommended for organic shapes, figurines, but also for electronic enclosures. The Smoothing Beautifier delivers a surface finish that is as smooth as injection molded surfaces.
    Due to the nature of this patented process, the result may vary from one part to another. The physico-chemical reaction can indeed induce some transformation on the part such as minor geometrical changes or a loss of details. Designs that includes very intricate geometries, hollowed parts or sharp angles/edges can suffer appearance transformations.
    This finish is available on white Nylon PA12 (plastic) and black Nylon PA12 (plastic) parts for now.
  • Dyed with Color Resist finish: A dyeing finish with a matte look that resists friction and allows for a more consistent color between different production batches.
    The available colors for this finishing option through our ordering platform are: blue, black, red, green and orange. 
    The available colors for customizing your order after contacting our Sales Team are: yellow, brown, pink, white, violet, navy, bordeaux, antracite and stone gray.    
  • Dyed with Color Touch finish: This finish is available only after contacting our Sales team for customizing your order. With this dyeing finishing your 3D printed part gets a satin look. It withstands daily handling and is the perfect finish for parts that are exposed to external conditions, scratching and rubbing.
    The available colors for this finishing option through our ordering platform are: blue, black, red, green and orange.
    The available colors for customizing your order after contacting our Sales Team are: yellow, brown, pink, white, violet, navy, bordeaux, antracite and stone gray.    

Small home image with many 3D printed objects in many colors

Objects are printed in a white color and colored through dyeing. The available colors for dye include: black, blue, yellow, red, green, beige, brown, pink and orange.

The piece is dyed in multiple steps:

  • The color’s pigments are mixed in a lukewarm water bath
  • The object is completely submerged within the color mixture
  • Final cleaning and shipment

The dye bath and polishing process introduce a size restriction on your object, as the object will need to be completely submerged in the tint and/or abrasives. To learn more please check out size restrictions.

Your object can also be colored through our painting process. The painting process gives a color to the material in any of the available paints with specific RAL. The colors are spread on the material using a spray gun, allowing a uniform and smooth surface while maintaining every detail of the printed object. Unlike dye, paint is very durable and retains the same shade without losing intensity.

For every painting color, we offer two different finishes:

  • Matte : the surface is cleaned and keeps a matte appearance.
  • Glossy : your object is coated with a  varnish to give it a shiny appearance and protect it from UV.

We offer also black Nylon PA11, black Nylon PA12 or gray Nylon PA11/12 based on black and gray powder. The continuous coloring is resistant to abrasion. Please check the black Nylon PA11 (plastic) material or gray Nylon PA11/12 (plastic) material  or the Multijet Fusion black Nylon PA12 pages for more information.

Paint and glue your polyamide parts

Polyamid object to show that you can paint and glue differents

It is also possible to arrive at finer levels of finishing at home with various DIY techniques. To learn more, you can refer to our tutorial about gluing and painting polyamide models.

Design Guidelines

There are some design specifications to follow, to make the most of your additive manufacturing experience.

Printing Resolution

Standard layer thickness 100 - 120µm
High Definition layer thickness 60µm
Accuracy ± 0.3% (minimum of ± 0.3 mm)

PA resolutionThe picture shows on the left hand side an object printed in resolution 60 µm, and on right hand side resolution of 100- 120 µm

Sculpteo has two layer definitions available. A standard definition of between 100 - 120 µm and a high definition of 60 µm.

Enabling batch control opens the ability to orient your objects within the printer bed. This allows for precise control over the direction of the layers as the object is printed, which is important when considering the aesthetic and functional aspects of your object.

The polyamide objects we 3D print have a maximum precision of ± 0.3mm for pieces 99mm or smaller and a global precision of ± 0.3% for pieces 100mm or larger.

Size Limitations

Maximum size raw (white/unpolished) 675 x 366 x 545 mm
Maximum size polished > 300 x 220 x 200 mm
x+y+z ≤ 540 mm
Maximum dyed regular 180 x 220 x 220 mm
Maximum size dyed in black 350 x 310 x 310 mm
Maximum size dyed polished 180 x 220 x 220 mm
Maximum size matte painted 675 x 366 x 545 mm
Maximum size dyed with Color Resist finish 280 x 280 x 450 mm
Maximum size dyed with Color Touch finish 280 x 280 x 450 mm
Maximum size polished 60µm 180 x 220 x 300 mm

Six differents size for 3D printed polyamide

The maximum size of your models are limited by the physical size of our 3D printers - nothing can be printed larger than the printer bed. The same goes for our polishing and painting tanks - if it doesn’t fit, it can’t be used.

There is no minimum size for polyamide prints, keeping in mind minimum thickness for walls and structural aspects, to ensure the object will not break is 0.8 mm.

PA sizes

Minimum Thickness and Geometry of Your 3D Model

Minimum wall thickness (flexible) 0.8mm
Minimum wall thickness(rigid) 2mm
Minimum wall thickness stemmed elements 0.8mm with support
1mm without support

Minimum wall thickness particular design aspects 1-2mm

Diagram to show the minimum thicknessof your 3D print model

The walls of your design must adhere to a minimum thickness of 0.8 mm in order to guarantee the structure will not break. If the walls of your model are less than 0.8 mm, you can add a support structure to maintain stability.

A stemmed element is a design aspect which is at least twice as long as it is thick. For unsupported and stemmed elements or parts of the design with a particular design constraint, it is also important to respect a minimum thickness of 1 mm in order to guarantee the object will not break.

Icon to show that you can ad a support structure to maintain stability

Add a support structure to maintain stability. For example, if you are modelling a bust of a person, you can attach thin aspects of the design like the ears in more places around the model’s head. Doing that will avoid cantilevered and easily breakable elements in the final print.

With a 0.8 wall thickness, your design will be slightly flexible. To obtain more rigidity, we advise a 2mm wall thickness.

Good to know

Thin walls supporting large, heavy Nylon PA12 (plastic) models can warp under the weight of itself.

Sculpteo offers an online solidity check tool which highlights parts of the print that may be too thin for a print. From there you are able to tweak your design in order to create an object that is an appropriate thickness. To use it, you just need to upload your 3D file, select your material and click on “Verification” tab.

It is also important to keep in mind that the object is to be printed into real life. Thus if a thin aspect is supporting something that is too heavy for it, it may break - even though it is possible within the physics provided by your 3D modeling software. We recommend adding a bit of thickness to the places that will get a lot of handling, or that support the most weight.

Do not forget
Icon to keep in mind that solidity check tool don't detect physical aberrations

Keep in mind that our solidity check tool does not detect physical aberrations such as floating parts, unstable position, parts supporting too much weight relative to their thickness, etc. Particular care must be given to the geometry of your design and the most stressed parts must be thickened.

Etching/Embossing Depths

Minimum size of details 0.3 mm
Minimum height and width details Embossed : 0.4 mm
Engraved : 0.5 mm
Minimum height and width for a readable text 0.5mm
Enlargement ratio 1/1

Diagram to show the etching and embossing depths

A detail’s minimum precision is mainly determined by the resolution of our 3D printers. However, during the cleaning process, a fine layer of detail can also be lost. In order for a detail and text to be visible we recommend following our recommended sizes at the very least.

It’s possible that particularly fine embossings and engravings will not be visible, as the carving could get filled with excess powder that is later unable to be cleaned out. If an embossing or engraving is an essential part of your design we recommend making them as deep as possible. To ensure a better powder removal (thus a better detail visibility), the width of your details must be at least as big as depth.

Difference of embossing between two black 3d print

Enclosed and Interlocking Volumes

Enclosed parts ? Yes
Interlocking parts ? Yes

PA details

Our Nylon PA12 (plastic) material has the ability to print the most complex designs of our materials thanks to Selective Laser Sintering technology. An example of a complex design is a volume enclosed within another volume, like a chain or maraca. Our printers have the ability to print a fully interlocked chain, with no support structures to remove.

Minimum Spacing and Clearances

Minimum spacing between fixed walls 0.5 mm
Minimum clearance between parts 0.5 mm

Diagram to show the minimum spacing and clearance need to a 3D print

For a successful 3D print a minimum clearance between objects is required to allow excess material to be sand blown out. If this space is not left within the design, the object will be a solid. This is particularly important for articulated objects - as the space left between the walls will define the object’s ability to move.

Do not forget

Clearance should be at least 0.5 mm, however that is the minumum for small objects. Larger objects require more space between their parts. This is due to the SLS printing process. Our printer beds are heated during the process, and larger objects are heated for longer periods. A small space between large objects runs the risk of melting together as it remains under heat for a long period of time. In some other cases, holes should be added to allow us to drain for the excess powder material within the clearance.

Piece Assembly Restrictions

Assembly ? Yes
Minimum space 0.5 mm

PA details

Objects printed in polyamide can be printed to be assembled. As long as a width of at least 0.5 mm is left between the different parts of the object.


Hollowing ? Yes

Diagram to optimize the hollowing

Our online hollowing optimization tool has the ability to greatly reduce the price of a print by reducing the amount of material used.

Using the tool requires adding two holes to your model, which will serve as the drain for the excess powder material within the object. The minimum size of these holes is determined by our website. Otherwise it is possible to hollow your object manually in your 3D modeling software.

Files with multiple objects

Files with Multiple Objects ? No

Icon to show that you can't print a 3D file containing several objects

It is not possible to 3D print a 3D file containing several objects with our 3D plastic printers.

Technical specifications

Mechanical Properties Conditions Unit Value
Density of laser-sintered part EOS-Method g/cm3 min. 0.90 / max. 0.95
Tensile Modulus DIN EN ISO 527 N/mm2 1700 ± 150
Tensile strength DIN EN ISO 527 N/mm2 45 ± 3
Elongation at break DIN EN ISO 527 % 20 ± 5
Melting point DIN 53736 °C min. 172 / max. 180

To learn more about polyamide technical specifications, refer to the following documents:

Upload a file

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