Acetal Plastic vs. Nylon Plastic

Nylon and acetal are commonly used in a wide range of manufacturing applications. As both materials are a semi-crystalline thermoplastic, some of their characteristics overlap, such as their fatigue resistance, chemical resistance, and wear resistance with a sharp melting point. Additionally, both are appropriate material choices for the creation of small components such as washers, discs, and spacers. However, while there are some similarities in properties and use cases, the two materials remain distinctly different and are not entirely interchangeable.

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One of the most obvious differences between nylon and acetal lies is aesthetics; acetal is shiny, while nylon appears dull in comparison. They also vary in regard to performance. For example:

  • Compared to acetal, nylon offers superior tensile strength and bending stiffness. It can also handle higher loads and higher temperatures. However, it is susceptible to damage from UV radiation unless special additives are incorporated into its formula and reacts poorly to changes in humidity, which cause it to swell and lose tensile strength.
  • Compared to nylon, acetal provides higher impact resistance and cold resistance. It is suitable for moderate loads.

In the following article, we provide an overview of acetal and nylon—outlining what they are, their properties, their key benefits, and typical industry applications—to facilitate material selection.

What Is Acetal Plastic?

Acetal—also known as polyoxymethylene (POM)—is a synthetic polymer commonly used in precision engineering. Similar to other semi-crystalline thermoplastics, it has good chemical resistance and fatigue resistance. It also demonstrates excellent tensile strength, good dimensional stability and machinability, and low material weight and frictional properties. It is often used for the manufacture of stiff, dimensionally stable components that need low surface friction.

What Is Nylon Plastic?

Nylon is also a synthetic polymer, as well as one of the most commonly employed engineering thermoplastics in the industry. It is highly durable, demonstrating resistance to damage from abrasion, chemicals (such as alcohols, oils, and solvents), and tearing. These qualities, combined with the material’s low cost, make nylon a suitable option for all manner of industrial and commercial applications.

Properties of Acetal Plastic

As indicated above, acetal plastic is valued for its machinability and many advantageous physical characteristics. Some of the key attributes of acetal include:

  • Chemical resistance: excellent
  • Coefficient of friction: low
  • Dimensional stability: excellent
  • Electrical properties: good
  • Machinability: excellent
  • Porosity and moisture absorption: low
  • Tensile strength and stiffness: excellent
  • Wear resistance: excellent
  • Availability in FDA and USDA-compliant grades: yes

Properties of Nylon Plastics

The properties of nylon somewhat overlap with acetal, including regard to the following:

  • Chemical resistance: excellent
  • Coefficient of friction: low
  • Wear resistance: excellent
  • Availability in FDA and USDA-compliant grades: yes

However, the material also offers better thermal resistance, durability, and performance for the given price point.

Benefits of Acetal Plastic

Both nylon and acetal are suitable for use in applications that call for general-purpose engineering plastics. However, there are a few reasons why you may choose acetal over nylon. For example:

  • When manufacturing parts that require high dimensional stability
  • When the finished part or product will be regularly exposed to humidity or moisture
  • When the chemical and wear resistance of the material is critical

Benefits of Nylon Plastic

As a self-lubricating material, nylon is increasingly popular as a replacement for metal components that require external lubrication. Compared to parts made from metal, parts made from nylon are also much lighter, produce less noise during operations, and have longer service lives.

Nylon also offers advantages over other thermoplastics. For example:

  • Compared to acetal, it has higher temperature resistance, tensile strength, and stiffness, as well as lower material cost.
  • Compared to all other semi-crystalline thermoplastics, it offers the highest dielectric strength (in 6 cast formulas).

Industry Applications for Acetal and Nylon

As both acetal and nylon are highly versatile, it would be difficult to list all possible industry applications for either material. Additionally, since both materials are semi-crystalline thermoplastics, their similar material properties make them suited for similar use cases.

Common Acetal Plastic Applications

Acetal is used for the manufacture of a wide range of parts and products, including the following:

  • Bearings
  • Buckles
  • Bushings
  • Electrical parts and padding
  • Fasteners
  • Fixtures
  • Gears
  • Jigs
  • Manifolds
  • Rollers
  • Valves
  • Washers
  • Wear strips and padding

These components might end up in medical devices, conveyor systems, or other similarly complex assemblies.

Common Nylon Plastic Applications

Nylon remains best known by the public for its uses as a sturdy and durable fabric. However, beyond its use in clothing and other commercial goods, it also finds application in many industrial parts and products. Similar to acetal, it is regularly used for the production of the following components:

  • Bearings
  • Gaskets
  • Gears
  • Rollers
  • Seals
  • Washers
  • Wear Pads

As with acetal, these components are highly versatile and may be used in any number of industries. For example, nylon parts are often found in medical instruments, plumbing systems, and sprinkler systems. They also serve as alternatives to metal, wood, and rubber components in many engineering applications.

Nylon & Acetal Washers

Although washers are often thought of as made exclusively made from metal or rubber, thermoplastic washers have grown in popularity over the years. The main function of washers is to distribute the pressure experienced by a fastener across a larger surface area while also protecting the fastener and attachment surface. They can also help disperse vibrations produced during operations to minimize the risk of the fasteners loosening over time.

New Process Fibre offers a selection of both nylon washers and acetal washers. Nylon washers are available in Nylon 6, Nylon 6/6, Nylon MDS, or Nylatron®, depending on the needs of the application. They are cost-effective, consistent, and customizable within LP-410 quality standards. Acetal washers are custom-made and come in a range of natural or pigmented resins.

Nylon and Acetal Products From New Process Fibre

Nylon and acetal are highly versatile materials used in the fabrication of a wide range of industrial parts and products. For all your non-metallic fabrication needs, turn to the experts at New Process Fibre.

At New Process Fibre, we are an experienced fabricator specializing in processing non-metallic materials. We accommodate a broad selection of materials, including acetal, nylon, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene homo and copolymer, and fire-retardant thermoplastics. Equipped with over nine decades of industry experience and a 55,000 square foot fabrication facility, we have the knowledge and tools to serve the fabrication needs of customers from industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to construction and consumer goods to power tools and plumbing.

Our full range of fabrication and finishing services includes:

  • In-house tool and die making
  • Sheet extrusion and slitting
  • Slitting and shearing
  • Non-metallic stamping
  • Custom embossing and screen printing
  • Pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) application

Using these services, we fabricate countless non-metallic components, including washers, spacers, gaskets, shims, and more. Whether you’re seeking assistance with nylon, acetal, or some other thermoplastic, we are well equipped to satisfy your fabrication needs.

For more information about our nylon washers, please visit this page. To find out more about our fabrication capabilities or partner with us on your next project, contact our team today.


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