The first commercial use for nylon was as bristles for toothbrushes. This was low quality fibre from the DuPont pilot plant. The marketing did not emphasise a new polymer fibre was being used.

The development of PA 6,6 was unusual in that it focused exclusively on the manufacture of one end-product - nylon stockings, which became available 1938. In the war years, output of PA 6,6 was increased massively, but it was diverted from stockings to military uses like parachutes and glider tow-ropes. In the post war years it took some time before production of nylon stockings could meet demand.

At about the same time a German company, I G Farben, succeeded in developing PA 6. Like their US counterparts, production was diverted to military use during World War II.

Contemporary uses
Different types of polyamide have different properties, and therefore different uses. In general, only PA 6 and 6,6 are used for fabrics, but all types are used to make engineering plastics.

The range of uses is huge. Polyamides may be reinforced with carbon or glass fibre, or treated in other ways to change specific properties. A new development is the incorporation of clay particles less than a nanometre in width, but with a much greater length. These nanocomposites are stronger than untreated polyamide, but retain properties often lost when other reinforcements are used.

PA 6
PA 6,6
Stockings and tights, clothing and other fabrics, carpets. Engineering components, power tool housings, electrical connectors, combs, fuel tanks for cars, kitchen utensils
image: carpet
PA 6,10 Zip fasteners, electrical insulators, filaments for brushes image: zip
PA 6,10 glass fibre reinforced Precision engineering parts, electrical connectors   PA 11 Air, hydraulic and fuel hoses, engineering components, tool handles, powder coatings for metals image: hose
PA 11 glass fibre reinforced Watch cases, ski boot bindings, fan blades, electric plugs, heat resistant machine housings,, high precision engineering parts
image: ski boot PA 12 Engineering components needing low temperature toughness, sports shoe soles image: bolts
PA 12 glass fibre reinforced Ski boots, flexible tubing, sealing rings and gaskets, cable fasteners, soles for sports shoes. image: sports shoes PA 12 nanocomposite Flexible tubing, waterproof barriers  

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