The additive manufacturing technology is evolving rapidly. Novel 3D printing materials, new variants of existing materials and even newer techniques to print certain materials are being developed to bring the best out of the technology.
The 3D printing material technology is growing and is considered as the driving force behind the mass adoption of 3D printing in various sectors.
The ‘Road to 3D Printing Success’ Series
Manufactur3D brings you the ‘Road to 3D Printing Success’ series, where we focus on helping every 3D printing enthusiast by sharing tips and techniques on how to succeed in 3D printing. By explaining how to work with various filaments, slicers, design software, and 3D printers, we aim to help users to always experience 3D printing success.
Here, through this article, we explain to you the PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) material. It has vast applications owing to its superior properties but still, it is not used as widely as it should be. Read to know more about this unique 3D printing material.
What is PEEK?
PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) is an organic thermoplastic polymer which exhibits some of the best properties than any other thermoplastic material. It has unique qualities which makes it desirable to many industries like Aerospace, Automotive, Oil and Gas Industry, and Medical. It has the ability to replace metal prototypes (as it has good mechanical and structural properties among all thermoplastic polymers) and parts manufactured from traditional techniques.
It is a variant of the PolyArylEtherKetone (PAEK) family with an extra ether added to the composition to improve its properties. Another variant of the same family of materials is PEKK (PolyEtherKetoneKetone) where it is infused by an extra ketone which further increases its mechanical properties to offer better structural performance
How to 3D Print with PEEK Filament?
PEEK 3D printing material is a very demanding material and is one of the most difficult materials to print with. The melting temperatures are high which means a higher nozzle temperature which is generally more than what regular nozzles can endure. As a result, specific nozzles have to be used for printing with PEEK filament.
It requires higher bed temperatures so the heating pads are to be of higher quality, and it even requires heated enclosure for a better result.
You might think that by making the mentioned hardware changes you will be able to easily print with PEEK 3D printing material but that is not the case. Even after making the necessary hardware settings, the resulting print is affected by many factors which have been stated in the next section on the 3D Printing Tips.
Companies like Apium Additive Technologies are building high capability 3D printers marketed with the USP of its capability to print with PEEK material.
General Print Settings and Filament Properties
Below are the general properties and specifications of the PEEK Filament
- Extruder temperature: 360-400OC
- Bed temperature: 130 – 145OC
- Enclosure Temperature: 70 – 150OC
- Impact strength: Very High
- Durability: Very High
- Flexibility: Low
- Heat resistance: Very High
- Chemical resistance: Very High
- Flame retardant: Yes
- Water resistance: High
- Wear resistance: Very High
PEEK 3D Printing Tips
Owing to the difficulties in printing with PEEK filament, many people generally avoid using PEEK for their applications. But by understanding its limitations and causes behind the print failures, we can get better at printing PEEK and even get regular successful prints.
Below are some of the 3D printing tips for printing with PEEK filament.
- Control the temperature
The print quality of PEEK is affected by temperature fluctuations and so it is important to ensure that the temperature is maintained appropriately. It is highly recommended that PEEK printing occurs inside a closed build chamber. It helps in maintaining the temperature and avoid the temperature fluctuations. PEEK demands a heated bed and it should be kept at 120OC.
- Watch out for Black Spots
Scores of users have experienced black spots while printing with PEEK filament. It can be due to various reasons like inherent impurity of PEEK material, or dues to temperature fluctuations, or unclean nozzle.
- Maintain a clean nozzle
It is essential that you clean the nozzle every time you print with a PEEK filament. It is so because if the nozzle is left with an even minute amount of PEEK filament, then it will block the nozzle and the passageway will be blocked. This can lead to specks.
- Regular monitoring
We often experience improper crystallization while printing with PEEK filament. It can be prevented by controlling the temperature fluctuations but still, regular monitoring is essential until we get a few parts printed and you carefully standardize the process.
- Keep the PEEK filament dry
Like most of the filaments, PEEK is also affected by moisture and so it is necessary to keep the filament dry. It can be stored in an airtight container to avoid it getting affected by moisture. A dry PEEK filament will increase the chances of a successful print and will result in better print quality.
- Use Safety Precautions
PEEK releases harmful fumes while printing. As compared to other materials, it gives out fewer fumes and that also are less harmful. But still, it is important to use safety precautions like using a closed build chamber & printing in a well-ventilated room.
- Build Platform Material
PEEK also needs a proper build platform material. It one of the select few materials which are affected by the platform material. According to numerous experts, PEI (Polyetherimide) sheet is perfect for printing with PEEK.
- Controlling the Speed
PEEK material should be printed at slow speeds. Faster speeds will affect the print quality. According to experts, the print temperatures should generally be in the range of 10 to 50 mm/s.
Now, let us see some of the real-world applications of PEEK 3D printing material and where it can be used.
- Metal Replacement
Additive manufacturing is changing the way we manufacture parts in the aerospace, automotive and defence industries. The strength and low weight PEEK 3D printing material offers is helping companies replace metal parts to polymer parts.
PEEK is also used in defence industries for functional prototyping, metal replacement, and other end-use parts.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security used PEEK material for replacing some of its metal parts in the rocket’s duct system. PEEK made it possible to reduce the costs in part production significantly.
BMW recently 3D printed custom motorcycle parts in PEEK and it cost the company almost 90% less.
- End-use parts
The automotive industry has been one of the earliest to incorporate 3D printing into its workflow. It is currently facing several challenges like fuels costs, alternative fuels, vehicle customization, vehicle mileage and weight problems, etc.
By using PEEK 3D printing material, it can replace many of its end-use with PEEK parts thereby reducing the overall weight of the vehicle and addressing multiple problems with a single solution.
PEEK can also be used for end-use parts used in medical applications like prosthetics, in consumer electronics, plastics industry, manufacturing industry, etc.
- Functional Prototyping
Functional products are required in almost all the industries like aerospace, automotive, oil & gas, consumer electronics, etc.
And specifically applications like aerospace and motorsports, require the trade-off between strength and weight and in most cases, PEEK offers a great balance between these two.
Advantages of PEEK Filament
- Better Performance
PEEK exhibits enhanced performance than most 3D printing filaments. It can eliminate corrosion, increase fuel efficiency with lower friction, and handle higher loads to operating in more extreme chemical environments.
- Weight Reductions
PEEK has the unique property of being one of the strongest 3D printing material and at the same time be lightweight. This property helps it to reduce the product weight, lowers its logistics, maintenance and installation costs. If we compare PEEK with a steel part, then PEEK is 6 times lighter.
- Greater Design Freedom
PEEK offers superb processing capability which enables complex geometries to be moulded-in without labour intensive post-machining steps. This helps engineers to get better performance out of the systems where parts made from PEEK are used. Due to the ability to manufacture complex geometries and greater design freedom, PEEK can be used to make parts which cannot be made with metal additive techniques.
Disadvantages of PEEK Filament
PEEK is quite expensive to manufacture and in order to justify its use, cost it is the main criterion to mull over.
- Demanding Hardware
In order to print PEEK, a 3D printer needs to have a high-temperature nozzle, heated bed, heated build chamber (recommended), PEI bed to ensure better print quality.
- Difficult to 3D Print
PEEK is difficult to print as it can be affected by many factors like nozzle temperature changes, build chamber temperature fluctuations, build platform material, print speed, etc.
Considering PEEK’s superior strength to weight ratio, its excellent mechanical properties, great impact, heat, chemical and wear resistance, many engineers believe that PEEK can replace some of the heavier metal parts. It even performs better than some of the metals in specific applications. This has resulted in increased usage of PEEK in automotive, aerospace and other industrial applications.
Through the ‘Road to 3D Printing Success’ series, we at Manufactur3D will continue to bring informative articles to help enthusiasts across the world to learn about this amazing technology.
We encourage readers to comment and contact us for any sort of 3D printing query they have and we will try to resolve it for them. We also encourage companies to collaborate with us to create educational content.
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