Aug 25, 2017 | By Benedict

This year’s International PEEK Meeting, which took place in Washington D.C. in April, revealed that a number of important medical research projects are being conducted into the 3D printable polymer. The material is proving especially useful for implants.

Researchers are exploring the use of PEEK for dental implants

Polyether ether ketone, commonly known as PEEK, is a thermoplastic polymer that is starting to have a real impact in the 3D printing industry. It has been used to make 3D printed satellites, 3D printed car parts, and could potentially find its way into a number of other areas.

Back in April this year, researchers gathered in Washington D.C. for the International PEEK Meeting, an event that brought together engineers, scientists, regulators, and clinicians from academia, industry, and government agencies to discuss research on advancements in medical-grade PEEK and its clinical applications.

The meeting, which was only the third of its kind in history, focused on a number of PEEK-related topics, including (but not limited to) the additive manufacturing of PEEK, bioactive PEEK composites, and formulations for dental, trauma, and arthroscopic implants.

Of course, what we’re mostly interested in is what the group had to say about 3D printing. And thankfully, it’s good news.

“A wealth of research and clinical experience is confirming that PEEK polymer-based implants have an established position due to potential patient benefits and, what is more, they still offer immense development possibilities,” commented Drexel University’s Steve Kurtz, organizer of the event. “While additive manufacturing in medical is in its infancy, we think it could revolutionize the ease, speed, and accuracy with which implants are manufactured.”

The 3rd International PEEK Meeting took place in April—will you be there for the 4th?

As we know, one of the big advantages of putting PEEK through a 3D printer, rather than fabricating it in other ways, is customizability. The researchers reaffirmed this belief during the meeting, discussing how additive manufacturing can result in highly customized patient implants, while also noting how it provides a direct connection to digital patient models.

Researchers at the meeting also talked up a PEEK-compatible FDM 3D printer, one that we haven’t discussed on 3Ders before, built by Germany’s Apium Additive Technologies. The 3D printer been used by researchers at Drexel University (located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) to print intervertebral lumbar cages with experimental PEEK filaments.

Of course, PEEK isn’t limited to any one kind of medical implant. The meeting closely examined the use of the polymer for dental, knee, spinal, and trauma implants, and there are likely many more devices that could be made from the material.

And these devices could be made even stronger with the use of PEEK composites like carbon fiber-reinforced PEEK. The meeting highlighted the huge potential of composite plates for fracture fixation made with carbon fiber-reinforced PEEK, a material that would provide high fatigue strength and a favorable modulus of elasticity.

Synthesis of PEEK

“The potential benefits of a less stiff construct on healing are hugely attractive and the results from some early clinical comparative work with metals, which will be released in October, will only increase the interest in these materials,” said John Devine, Medical Business Director at Invibio Biomaterial Solutions.

More details about the International PEEK Meeting can be found here.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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