3D-printed objects made from polymer filaments are not always known for their strength and resistance to damage. They are generally considered easy to work with, and they can be used to make objects with limited functions due to low mechanical strength and resistance to damage by other external factors such as heat or solvents.
But the reality is far from that assumption. Some polymers can be used to 3D print objects that can be put on aircraft and spacecraft. One such polymer is an advanced 3D printing material, PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone). PEEK filaments are renowned for their remarkable mechanical, thermal, and chemical qualities. PEEK filaments are perfect for making items that need exceptional heat resistance since they have a melting point of about 343°C (649°F). Their superior strength and stiffness make them ideal for demanding aerospace, automotive, and medical applications.
What are the properties of PEEK?
High melting point
PEEK has a high melting point, usually around 343 °C (649 °F); due to its high melting point, PEEK is appropriate for applications needing strong heat resistance since it can keep its structural integrity in high-temperature settings. It makes it possible to create parts that can tolerate very high temperatures without warping or losing their mechanical qualities. However, because 3D printing requires specialized equipment capable of attaining and maintaining such temperatures, PEEK's high melting point also presents difficulties. It might reduce the variety of suitable printers available and make printing more difficult and expensive. Furthermore, printing at high temperatures may result in problems, including warping, nozzle blockages, and challenges with fine detail.
Excellent Mechanical Strength
The remarkable mechanical strength of PEEK has both benefits and drawbacks. Due to its high stiffness and tensile strength, it can be used in applications that call for strong, long-lasting parts. PEEK is perfect for harsh industrial applications since it can sustain significant mechanical loads. Long-term dependability is further ensured by its exceptional resistance to creep and fatigue. PEEK has great mechanical strength, but 3D printing can be difficult since it calls for specialist machinery that can withstand the material's high extrusion forces. Intricate designs and minute details may be harder to produce with PEEK's stiffness. Additionally, due to its great strength, some geometries or desired surface qualities may require post-processing methods like machining or surface polishing.
PEEK has a remarkable chemical resistance level. Because of its resistance to acids, bases, organic solvents, and a wide range of chemicals can be used in applications where it will be exposed to extreme conditions or corrosive substances. Due to PEEK's chemical stability, parts won't degrade or become weak over time and will work as intended. Additionally, it makes PEEK an excellent option for the aerospace, automotive, and chemical processing sectors. However, 3D printing can be difficult since it needs specialist tools and knowledge to work with its peculiar qualities. Additionally, the inertness of the material may make it more difficult to achieve strong interlayer bonding, which could compromise the strength and longevity of the part.
Friction and wear resistance
PEEK's low friction coefficient and self-lubricating qualities make it the perfect material for applications involving sliding or rotating components. PEEK also has outstanding wear resistance. The wear resistance of PEEK guarantees continued operation in challenging situations and lowers the frequency of maintenance. Its reduced friction properties also aid in streamlined operation and energy efficiency. PEEK has a high wear resistance, although this might make machining or post-processing difficult and need the use of specialist tools and methods. Furthermore, PEEK's high rigidity may exclude its use in applications where flexibility or impact resistance are crucial. To properly utilize the benefits of PEEK's low friction and wear resistance qualities, careful evaluation of the individual needs is required.
PEEK is highly biocompatible. It is appropriate for medical and healthcare applications, including surgical implants and prosthetics, due to its inert nature and biocompatibility. PEEK is biocompatible due to its capacity to combine with biological tissues and withstand cellular deterioration. Additionally, it has radiolucency, which enables crystal-clear sight in medical imaging. However, because PEEK lacks the natural propensity for osseointegration found in some other implant materials, its biocompatibility can provide problems in terms of bone integration. PEEK's high stiffness may also make it unsuitable for some applications that call for flexibility or elasticity. To fully take advantage of PEEK's biocompatibility advantages, it is important to analyze the unique biological and mechanical needs carefully.
PEEK has little warping and shrinkage during the cooling process, ensuring exceptional precision and accuracy in 3D-printed objects. Due to PEEK's dimensional stability, complicated patterns and complex geometries with precise tolerances can be made. Additionally, it makes it possible to create parts that endure changes in temperature and the elements while maintaining their structure and dimensions. However, because of PEEK's great dimensional stability, it can be harder to get adequate bed adhesion and effective layer bonding while 3D printing. A proper bed setup and temperature management are crucial to avoid problems and guarantee good printing.
Examples of 3D printing projects involving PEEK
PEEK is a versatile polymer with applications in multiple fields. Some common industries using PEEK and projects involving PEEK in those industries are:
- Aerospace Engineering
- Engine parts: Aerospace engines use PEEK. It is ideal for parts like ducting, brackets, connectors, and interior cabin components due to its great heat resistance, chemical resistance, and mechanical strength. PEEK's ability to function in harsh environments enhances the dependability and effectiveness of aircraft engines. PEEK's application in aerospace engines has both benefits and drawbacks. PEEK can survive high temperatures in engine conditions thanks to its strong heat resistance. The chemical resistance of the material also guarantees endurance against corrosive substances. The expensive cost of PEEK and its difficult processing requirements, which call for specialized tools and knowledge, are drawbacks.
- Exterior parts of aircraft: Applications for PEEK can be found in aircraft external components; its strong heat resistance, mechanical durability, and chemical resistance make it ideal for aviation parts subjected to abrasive conditions and high temperatures. PEEK's small weight helps with weight reduction and fuel economy. However, PEEK's high price and constrained color selection can be drawbacks. It may not have the appropriate aesthetics in its natural color, necessitating extra coats or treatments. Due to PEEK's susceptibility to UV deterioration, prolonged outdoor exposure may require UV-protective coatings. When using PEEK in outside of aircraft, cost, aesthetics, and environmental considerations must be carefully taken into account.
Medical and Healthcare
- Sterile boxes: PEEK frequently creates sterile boxes in medical applications and offers several benefits. It is useful for ensuring a sterile environment for medical instruments and equipment because of its biocompatibility, chemical resistance, and capacity to endure sterilization techniques. PEEK can be autoclave sterilized without losing structural integrity thanks to its excellent heat resistance. Due to the material's outstanding dimensional stability, manufacturing sterile boxes can continue with exact tolerances. However, PEEK's greater price compared to other materials and its limited range of colors could be viewed as drawbacks. These disadvantages are outweighed by the advantages of employing PEEK for sterile boxes in medical applications, which provides a dependable and long-lasting solution for maintaining sterility in healthcare settings.
- Load-bearing implants: Due to its biocompatibility, mechanical robustness, and chemical resistance, PEEK is a preferred material for creating load-bearing medical implants. Its capacity to tolerate extreme strain and wear makes it ideal for orthopedic implants, spinal devices, and dental components, offering dependable and long-lasting human support.
- Piston units: PEEK is used in automotive piston components and has several benefits. It is the perfect material for withstanding the harsh circumstances inside car engines thanks to its great heat resistance, superior mechanical strength, and low friction characteristics. PEEK's small weight helps with overall weight reduction and fuel economy. The lower wear resistance and higher price of PEEK compared to conventional piston materials can be viewed as drawbacks. When employing PEEK for automotive piston components, cost-effectiveness and individual engine needs must be carefully considered.
- Bearing casings: PEEK manufactures bearing casings in automobiles and has several benefits. It is appropriate for withstanding the harsh conditions of automotive applications due to its high-temperature resistance, great mechanical strength, and low friction characteristics. PEEK's robustness and wear resistance enable consistent performance, extending the life and enhancing the effectiveness of automotive bearing systems.
Best PEEK 3D Printers
This German model has a smaller build space (205 × 155 × 150 mm), but its adaptable heating system is unique for adhering to extremely tight tolerances. The Apium P220 is unquestionably one of the best PEEK 3D printers on the market, thanks to its repeatability, which is undoubtedly one of its key benefits. There are several advantages that this printer offers that make it appropriate for high-performance applications.The maximum extruder temperature is 540 °C, It uses a heated chamber with a maximum of 180 °C temperature, and the build plate can maintain the ideal temperature for printing PEEK. The printer has a sturdy design that guarantees stability when printing. It enables fine control over the printing parameters and supports high extrusion temperatures.
Purchase link: Apium
3D Gence Industry F421
The 3D Gence Industry F421 is a strong 3D printer with a sizable build volume. Its 380 x 380 x 420 mm construction space allows for manufacturing large items. The printer has an extruder that can print with various materials because it can achieve temperatures of up to 500°C. The build plate's ability to attain a maximum temperature of 160 °C also helps ensure effective prints with various materials and applications by enabling great adhesion.
Purchase link: 3D Gence
Best 3D Printing software
You cannot afford to waste PEEK by printing random models you find online because it is an extremely expensive material. You'll need good 3D modeling software to design the objects you need. You'll also need a slicing tool to prepare the model for 3D printing. SelfCAD is the best choice in light of these variables. A wide variety of easy-to-use tools, an incredibly user-friendly interface, interactive lessons to teach 3D modeling, an integrated slicer, cloud-based access to the software's features, cross-platform compatibility, and the assurance of several experienced 3D modelers are all included with SelfCAD.
3D Printer business Ideas
In recent years, the proliferation of 3D printing technology has sparked a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship, opening up a world of possibilities for creative individuals and forward-thinking entrepreneurs. The realm of 3D printer business ideas is as vast as the imagination itself, offering a diverse array of opportunities across various industries. From custom manufacturing and prototyping services to niche product creation and educational ventures, this dynamic field presents a fertile ground for those seeking to transform digital designs into tangible reality.
PEEK 3D printing has a variety of uses and advantages. PEEK is ideal for demanding applications in aerospace, automotive, medical, and other industries thanks to its outstanding qualities, which include strong heat resistance, chemical resistance, and mechanical strength. However, PEEK printing calls for unique concerns, such as high printing temperatures, a heated print bed, and perhaps even changes to the printer's configuration. Despite obstacles, PEEK 3D printing allows for creating highly effective, long-lasting parts that have great dimensional stability and durability to severe environments. It expands the possibilities for advanced and specialized production by finding use in aerospace components, load-bearing medical implants, automotive parts, bearing casings, sterile packaging, and more.