According to this year’s State of the Industry Annual Worldwide Progress Report on Additive Manufacturing, Wohlers Associates, Inc., additive manufacturing grew at ~21% last year, as the industry continues to create and develop the materials and technology to support it. Polyaryletherketone (PAEK) is the name of a family of high-performance thermoplastics that includes polyetheretherketone (PEEK), and until recently has been mainly used in manufacturing technologies like injection molding and machining; another promising material is polyetherketoneketone, or PEKK.
Earlier this summer, UK material supplier Victrex , which specializes in high performance, high-temperature materials, announced that it had developed new PAEK 3D printing materials. Now, the company is collaborating with the University of Exeter to develop more next-generation PAEK polymers and composites.
“Victrex is keen to help overcome barriers to adoption and realise the full potential of PAEK/PEEK-based parts produced using AM technology. In order to open up the AM supply chain, we need to continue to work together to develop an eco-system that can address unmet industry needs and accelerate the adoption of PAEK/PEEK for AM technologies,” said Ian Smith, the Marketing Director at Victrex. “This cooperation with the University of Exeter is one part of Victrex´s efforts to construct that eco-system.”
Driven by Victrex R&D and the university’s Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing (CALM), the two signed a strategic partnership to develop PAEK materials, while also working, according to Victrex, to improve “the performance of the underlying AM processes.”
“We are excited to start this partnership and continue our R&D work on development of high performance materials and AM processes for today’s and future needs and applications,” said Professor Oana Ghita, the leader of CALM at the University of Exeter. “The new PAEK polymer based materials will give designers and developers the opportunity to use the best performing polymers within AM processes and help make this dream a reality, transforming AM into a high-performance production tool.”
CALM, which specializes in the use of high-temperature and high-performance polymers and composite 3D printing materials, provides technical support and independent research for both academia and industry to develop next-generation AM materials for engineering. It actually began working with Victrex in a consortium, with funding from Innovate UK, to carry out R&D efforts for the advancement of 3D printing technologies, with a focus on affordable, high-temperature composites like PAEK for 3D printed aerospace applications.
Aerospace is one of the two main industries that Victrex believes will particularly benefit from its efforts during the initial adoption phase. PAEK and PEEK 3D printing materials can allow multiple parts to be consolidated in a single design, along with the production of new part designs that are too hard to machine. In terms of the medical sector, PAEK 3D printing will make it possible to make medical devices for the production of patient-specific implants.
Demo bracket 3D printed with PAEK resin
By improving technologies for the 3D printing of Victrex PAEK materials, design engineers can be privy to a wide range of new possibilities. Some of the potential benefits of using PAEK polymers for 3D printing include digital design and fabrication of parts for rapid prototyping, more design freedom for engineers who want to use the technology in high-performance applications, and improved economics, thanks to better material use in filament fusion, a decrease of machining waste, and better refresh rates in powder bed fusion 3D printing. Additionally, 3D printing solutions that have a higher performance can make it possible to produce customized, complex PAEK components.
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[Source: Medical Plastics News]