Polyurethane vs. Nylon
Use Them to Your Advantage!
Nylon and polyurethane are two popular choices for tubing materials. Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on what they are used for. The most important features impacted by material type are flexibility and temperature resistance. Regarding flexibility, there is a tradeoff between bending capability and endurance. Polyurethane is recommended for applications that require a tighter bend radius. Nylon, meanwhile, can better withstand repeated flexing and is available in a range of grades, from flexible to semi-rigid to rigid.
Nylon enjoys a higher heat deflection temperature than polyurethane, as well as better chemical resistance and higher working pressure. Polyurethane and nylon both provide excellent abrasion resistance, offering protection from oils and fuel. In terms of crack resistance, nylon takes the cake and serves as something of a standard for industrial applications that require increased heat and chemical resistance. Polyurethane tubing comes in two major types: polyester-based and polyether-based. Polyester-based polyurethane tubing is more resistant to fuels and oils. Polyether-based tubing is better when dealing with water or high humidity and is less affected by cold temperatures than polyurethane. On the flipside, polyesters can withstand sustained high temperatures more capably than polyethers.
Polyurethane commonly sees use in applications for wire abrasion protection while nylon sees the brunt of its use in chemical transport, refrigerators, air conditioners, and large-scale hydraulic lines. While both materials clearly have their uses, nylon is generally regarded as superior for tubing that requires high temperatures and pressures.
Polyurethane tubing comes naturally in a transparent amber cast but is also available in custom colors. Like nylon, its degree of hardness can vary, although only from flexible to semi-rigid in this case.