Nylon was first introduced back in 1938. Before that, man had to make due with natural fibers, which of course have their limitations. Nylon, a synthetic fiber, is preferred over natural fibers like hemp, cotton, and manila because it is twice as strong as a natural fiber like manila.
A common phrase in the rigging industry when referring to nylon goes: “It’s all about the chains.” Indeed. Textile fibers are formed by what are known as molecular chains. These are the minute links that bond together, also known as polymers. The number of chains, combined with their bond strengths, is what gives the natural fiber its strength.
As in the case of natural fibers, they are limited in their ability to form these bonds. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, like nylon, can be chemically manufactured to form much stronger bonds, meaning that these molecular chains are stronger.
Natural fibers v. nylon
If you were basing your decision on whether to use rope made from synthetic or natural fibers solely on feel or appearance, chances are you’d choose the natural fiber. But strength of rope oftentimes superceded aesthetics and that’s where nylon has a distinct advantage.
Nylon possesses and elasticity that natural fibers do not. Nylon is also much more resistant to resistance and abrasion. If you were talking about the manufacture of clothing items, then natural fibers are the preferred method. But when we’re talking about using natural fibers v. nylon in the rigging industry, we’re talking about the ability to haul heavy loads, safely. Nylon holds up under increased temperatures, as well.
Nylon and other synthetic fibers
It’s a safe bet to say that all synthetic sling materials are strong. They are also lightweight and extremely flexible. When we compare nylon to other synthetic materials, like polyester, we see that that while nylon can stretch up to as much as 10 percent, polyester does so only to 3 percent. When it comes to shock load, add the fact that nylon also has better absorption and it’s easy to see which is the better choice.
Nylon is also more resistant to regularly encountered chemicals like acids and bleaches, giving it a longer lifespan. Nylon is also highly resistant insects and fungi, as well as molds, mildew, and rot, things it often comes into contact with in the outdoors. Prolonged sunlight has been known to diminish and degrade the quality of the nylon, although there are chemicals that can be used to coat against this.