Mar. 22, 2015 | By Kira

Imagine a high-performance material that has an extremely high melting point (343°C), better wear and abrasion properties than titanium and steel, is repeatedly sterilize-able, chemically inert, and biocompatible (meaning it can be used in both harsh corrosive operating fields and in human implants), and, last but not least, is compatible with FDM 3D printers? Although it sounds almost too good to be true, that material exists, and is commonly known as PEEK.

PEEK (Polyethertherketone) is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymeric material that has a long list of attributes, including but not limited to those listed above. Its current applications include medical implants, electronic gears, aerospace parts, and automotive engineering, and its introduction into the market as an industrial material has revolutionized materials choice by engineers across a wide range of sectors. As an industrial material, PEEK is exceptionally strong, tough, and rigid. As mentioned above, it has a high melting point and excellent thermal stability up to 250°C. In addition, it has good ‘creep’ properties, very low moisture absorption, good electrical insulation, is approved by the FDA for food contact applications, and holds a V-0 flammability rating (meaning it stops burning within 10 seconds once inflamed.

workepieces printed with PEEK filament

Until recently, PEEK has only been compatible with SLS 3D printing processes due to its high melting temperature. Unlike the much more widely used and affordable FDM 3D printing technology, SLS uses computer-controlled laser pulses to either heat or melt powder-based materials in order to fuse the particles into a solid object. The extremely high temperatures achieved during this process are thus very well-suited for printing with PEEK, as FDM printers simply do not generate enough heat.

Now, German company INDMATEC GmbH has developed a unique way to extrude raw PEEK into a quality filament form, which is compatible with FDM 3D printing technology. According to the company, by introducing an all metal hot-end extruder capable of attaining temperatures up to 400°C (much higher than what is required to melt PEEK), their filament can be used to fabricate parts using FDM 3D printers, a move that will open many doors for engineers and manufacturers wanting to experiment with this versatile and high-performance material.

In medical applications, PEEK can be used for implants in orthopedics, as support structures in bone fracture (it has a flexural moduli more similar to human bone than any other implant material) and as cages and rods in spinal implants. Furthermore, it can be used for dental prosthetics such as crowns and bridges. PEEK is also ideal for use in seals and gaskets in oil and gas applications, lightweight engineering (it weighs about 70% less than most technical metals), and automotive gear systems and vacuum pumps—evidently, this is just a sampling of the possible uses for PEEK, and the possibilities will only grow now that it can be processed using FDM printing technology.

Although INDMATEC says that PEEK is more expensive when compared to aluminum and other technical polymers, its economic benefit outweighs the entity price. According to the company, combining PEEK with 3D printing technologies will result in no waste generation, the ability to mass-customize parts, and, due to the low investment on machine and operator training required, both small and big businesses will be able to take part in the movement.

INDMATEC GmbH, based in Karlsruhe, Germany, explores and develops new materials and technologies in the field of FDM industrial 3D printing. Founded by CEO Tony Tran Mai, CTO Dr. Brando Okolo from the German University in Cairo, and Lars Pfotzer, an automation and robotics expert, the company’s services include not only the development and production of materials and filaments, but also advice and training on the implementation and application of 3D printing and manufacturing.

Currently, a 200g spool of the 1.75mm filament retails for €140, however buyers should be warned that the high-performance filament cannot be processed using just any FDM printer. To make up for this, INDMATEC will offer assistance in handling the material and can even help upgrade existing FDM 3D printers so that they are compatible with the revolutionary new filament.



Posted in 3D Printer Materials


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Peter Bate wrote at 5/7/2016 9:04:31 AM:

Hello Alex K we here in Australia are also working on the emissions produced. Can you contact me:

Krueger wrote at 3/20/2016 12:19:23 AM:

I visited Indmatec GmbH, it is a startup that tried to make the 3D printer that prints PEEK but the printer is like a toy game for little children, they are asking for a lot of money for a poor quality of printer that breaks down every minute. the filaments are not produced by INDMATEC. Indmatec acts as a wholeseller for the filaments , PEEK or ultem, PPSU.... They purchase the filaments from ENSINGER, and then sell the filaments to the clients with INDMATEC sticker, 5 times more expensive than the real price from ENSINGER. I am very unhappy with such startup business.

Alex K. wrote at 3/25/2015 1:23:14 AM:

this sounds good! although - with so much more types of filament becoming available - people should really focus on venting of the fumes which are produced. After all - what you are doing when 3D-Printing is essentially extruding plastics in your living room! For companys which are extruding plastics there are very harsh safety requirements and workers have to wear respiratory devices in certain areas and the have air cleaning systems and advanced filters for thousands of dollars. Do not expect to be able to print in your living roo, sit next to the printer all day and be able to do so without damaging your health. This is a great health risk - I am currently analysing this topic in great detail and people should not take this on the light shoulder! There is some serious pressure involved - 300° and squeezing the filament through a 0.4 mm nozzle euqals 150-160bar pressure! A pressure and temperature where you are literally cracking up plasti cmolecules, forming new substances, noxious substances and gases.

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