Inside PEEK on Advanced Thermoplastics

In the ever growing additive manufacturing market, it seems like a new 3D printing process or material is announced every other day, almost making you numb to the innovation, much less excited about it. Interested in something different and new? Aaron Louis Tech is now offering a machine that includes an all-metal, high-temperature extruder and hot bed that is capable of printing advanced thermoplastics, such as fiber-reinforced PEEK and PEI (tradename Ultem). Why does this matter? Well, let us count the ways….

Data Source: Endura

Materials such as PEEK and PEI fall into the category of semi-crystalline thermoplastics, which result in properties that are incredibly useful in the real world. PEEK offers unrivaled chemical and UV resistance, high working temperature range, and high strength. This makes it a go-to for industries like aerospace, medical, oil/gas, and automotive. PEI offers these characteristics, plus it does not produce smoke when exposed to a flame, making it ideal for aerospace applications, in which you may find yourself in an enclosed area. PEEK is also one of the few plastics that offers biocompatibility, making it very attractive to the medical industry for implants.

Data Source: Endura

With such desirable material properties, PEEK and PEI were obvious choices when designers began creating functional end-use parts. As the printing process itself was advanced further, some truly astounding material strengths have been achieved. According to an article on Engineering.com from 2016, Silicon Valley’s Arevo Labs was able to produce PEEK parts “with the strength of titanium at one-third the weight.” This is a realm of strength most people had never dreamed of for a plastic. With such chemical resistance, Arevo Labs was also able to make 3D-printed fuel intake runners for engines from PEEK, providing just a glimpse of possible applications in the automotive and oil/gas industries.

You can see the incredible characteristics of PEEK and PEI, and how some innovative companies are finding more and more practical applications, but you still may be wondering how YOU can get your hands on this innovative material. Well, that’s where things start to get tricky. As of right now, there are very few 3D printers on the market that are capable of reaching the close to 400C temperature necessary for extrusion. That is one of the unique features of the high temperature, all metal, dual extruder found our 3D printers, specifically the CL1720HT and OL1720HT. If you are interested in designing and fabricating the next innovative application of advanced thermoplastics, drop by our Kickstarter page and check out other components our printers have to offer.

 

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