Polyetheretherketone, commonly known as PEEK, is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic material that is well-known for its mechanical properties in the manufacturing industry. For many years, it has been a popular material in the additive manufacturing field. Today, it is available in the form of filaments for all FDM/FFF machines and gradually in powder form for SLS processes. Polyetheretherketone is mainly used in the aerospace, medical and automotive industries due to its heat and wear resistance, and its weight-to-strength ratio, allowing it to substitute for some metals. Note that it is a demanding 3D printing material, difficult to print, and requiring compliance with many parameters. So, what are the characteristics of PEEK polymer in 3D printing?
In 3D printing, the crystallization process of polyetheretherketone must be controlled. In fact, some materials will crystallize, thus altering the material's density. As a result, high-temperature extrusion, build plate, and enclosure must be maintained, and temperature fluctuations avoided. Therefore, to print 3D printed PEEK, you need a 3D printer equipped with an extruder capable of reaching 400℃, a chamber heated to 120℃, and a build plate heated to 230℃ to remove parts and prevent warping.
If PEEK polymer is a demanding material, it must be said that it offers very interesting mechanical and chemical characteristics to the industry. In fact, it is highly heat and wear-resistant, has high chemical resistance, is sterilizable, and has dielectric properties. PEEK also has a high weight-to-strength ratio and is commonly used to substitute for certain metals. Finally, PEEK has flame-retardant properties, making it an interesting 3D printing material applicable to industries with high fire/smoke restriction, such as aerospace.
This high-performance material is particularly attractive to the medical field. Because it is sterilizable, it can be used for a variety of applications, including the manufacture of custom implant. PEEK polymer has properties similar to those of human bone: therefore, 3D printed implants made of polyetheretherketone can promote reconstruction of the surrounding tissue and accelerate bone integration. In fact, some companies have already turned to polyetheretherketone 3D printing to design customized medical devices.
Aerospace and automotive are also common markets for polyetheretherketone 3D printing. Additive manufacturing allows for high-performance, lightweight, customized, and on-demand parts: coupled with the use of high-performance materials, it becomes even more attractive. PEEK polymer will offer better wear and temperature resistance while optimizing weight-key factors in these fields.