Jul 12, 2016 | By Benedict

Impossible Objects has added a PEEK (polyetheretherketone) carbon fiber 3D printing composite to its catalogue, enabling customers to create geometrically complex, strong, and lightweight 3D printed components using the company’s composite-based additive manufacturing (CBAM) process.

Femoral stem implant 3D printed in carbon fiber-PEEK composite

You may or may not have heard of “CBAM.” Its creators have called it “the first truly new 3D printing process in more than 20 years.” It has brought affordable carbon 3D printing into the mainstream, and can be used in a wide range of fields, from the aerospace industry to performance athletics. Moreover, it is unlike just about any other printing technique in the industry. Devised by Impossible Objects, CBAM uses conventional thermal inkjet heads to print designs on sheets of composites, such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, or fiberglass. These sheets are then flooded with a polymer powder which sticks where the inkjet fluid has been deposited on the sheets. Excess powder is vacuumed away, before the sheets are stacked, compressed, and heated, causing the polymer powder to melt and bond the sheets. All uncoated fibers are then removed via chemical or mechanical means, leaving behind a durable and lightweight object.

Different types of polymer powder can be used in the CBAM process, producing different composites. Adding to its growing list of materials, Impossible Objects has just introduced a PEEK powder for the technique, enabling customers to create 3D printed PEEK carbon fiber composite parts which can, in some cases, perform as well as metal parts. PEEK parts made with the CBAM process are more than 50% lighter than comparable aluminum parts, and are two-thirds as strong: 205 MPa versus 310 MPa for Aluminum 6061-T6. The 3D printed PEEK parts can, additionally, be recycled, reducing wastage and inefficiency.

"Plastic-based 3D printing has not been able to compete with metals because of temperature resistance and strength,” said Impossible Objects CEO Larry Kaplan. “Now we can produce parts that begin to compete with metals in these areas, while having better strength-to-weight ratios than some metals. Our mission is to bring 3D printing into the mainstream of higher volume, lightweight, high-performance part manufacturing. Adding PEEK to our roster of printable materials is a major step toward that goal.”

Using the CBAM process, Impossible Objects claims it is possible to 3D print geometrically complex parts which have a similar strength-to-weight ratio as metals and which can be used in aerospace, aviation, defense, oilfield services, automotive, and even performance athletics. These parts can be up to 10x stronger, and can be produced at speeds 100x faster than conventional 3D printing. As well as being air- and water-tight, nylon carbon fiber CBAM parts exhibit a tensile strength of 150 MPa (21,700 psi) and heat resistance of 120°C (248°F), with 3D printed PEEK parts demonstrating a 30% performance increase with tensile strength of 205 MPa (29,700 psi) and heat resistance of 250°C (482°F).

“These advances of speed and material properties will allow additive manufacturing to change how things are made,” said Robert Swartz, chairman and founder of Impossible Objects. “Our focus on making functional parts, not just prototypes, stems from our proprietary materials sciences breakthroughs, which provide our process with advantages over other 3D approaches, including strength and speed.”

Other 3D printing businesses have sought to harness the power of PEEK to deliver high-strength, high-performance printed parts. Indmatec has been producing PEEK 3D printers for a few years now, while Roboze recently unveiled its low-cost, PEEK-compatible Roboze One+400 FDM 3D printer. Neither model uses the stacking technique pioneered by Impossible Objects.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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