Jul 29, 2016 | By Alec

What can’t PEEK filament be used for? It’s a question that is becoming more and more difficult to answer, as this industrial strength filament is increasingly finding its way into new aerospace, aviation and automotive projects where metal has always reigned supreme. Indmatec, the company who pioneered PEEK, have now even succeeded in 3D printing PEEK parts for vacuum tech applications – for which polymers are otherwise never used due to dangerous outgassing properties. Metal should start looking over its shoulder, because PEEK is coming.

Indmatec, of course, is a German industrial-strength 3D printing specialist that have been pioneering a number of remarkable industrial 3D printers – a new model is coming in early 2017. But they are perhaps better known for their work with PEEK (polyetheretherketone) filament. For those of you who’ve never heard of PEEK, 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. Last but not least, it is even compatible with FDM 3D printers. Although it sounds almost too good to be true, that material exists, and is commonly known as PEEK.

This makes it one of the most functional filaments around, though PEEK can be challenging to 3D print. In fact, the first Indmatec HPP 155 3D printer was developed with the specific purpose of 3D printing that PEEK filament. Specifically, PEEK requires a 3D printer with an all metal hot-end capable of reaching temperatures of up to 400°C, a proper heating bed and an enclosed chamber. But in return, you get a material that is perfect for medical implants, electronic gears, aerospace parts, and automotive engineering. And, as we’ve just learned, vacuum applications.

This is so remarkable because outgassing materials are completely forbidden from all vacuum technologies, as these release molecules in a gaseous form and can contaminate prime components or diffuse into machine parts. As a result, metals are universally used for these applications. For if properly treated, metals do not suffer from outgassing – in contrast to many polymers. This is because of an inherent tendency of polymers to evaporate under appropriate temperature and pressure conditions.

PEEK, however, seems to be the exception. As Indmatec’s tests with various 3D printed PEEK samples showed, this material continues to exhibit very low outgassing behavior even when exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time. “When baked for 12 hours at 150 °C prior to testing in vacuum condition, the 3D printed PEEK part exhibits outgassing rate of 4.1x10-11 mbar l/cm-2 s-1; a value falling well within the ultra-high to extremely high vacuum range,” Indmatec reveals. “The PEEK material in its 3D printed state meets the material requirement for high vacuum applications.”

This is fantastic news, as it effectively brings 3D printing and all of its customization advantages to very expensive vacuum technologies. What’s more, PEEK’s low weight and resistance to radiation is perfect for vacuum applications in space, where every gram creates an extra burden on the NASA budget. PEEK is going places.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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