Take a PEEK at the Competition: Solvay Group Launching International Additive Manufacturing Challenge for University Students

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Everyone enjoys a good 3D printing contest. A lot of them come from the likes of PinshapeStratasys, and NASA, and recently a new challenge was launched from a rather unexpected source – chemical group Solvay, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium and known for its award-winning composites and 3D printing materials. Solvay is launching an international additive manufacturing competition for university students called the AM Cup, centered around one of the hardest polymers to print – organic thermoplastic PEEK, or polyetheretherketone.

According to the challenge page, “3D printing is a remarkable technology that is developing fast. It allows for rapid prototyping and the creation of complex objects in minutes. However, printing with the best polymers in the industry remains a challenge. It’s time for this to change!”

PEEK chemical structure

A lot of research and tests have been done with robust PEEK material, which has been used to 3D print all sorts of objects, like replacement car parts,  CubeSatsskull implants, and aerospace parts. The semi-crystalline thermoplastic has properties that make it capable of sustaining high temperatures, and its high chemical and fatigue resistance make it a good replacement material for metal in end-use environments like those found in the automotive and gas industries.

Other important features of PEEK material include high purity and dimensional stability, high mechanical strength in excess of 250°C, good wear and abrasion resistance, and an excellent resistance to hydrolysis in superheated steam and boiling water. It’s also easy to process, and PEEK grades that have been reinforced with glass fiber and carbon fiber offer a wide range of applications.

Back to the Solvay AM Cup – the company is challenging student teams from universities around the world to demonstrate their ability to 3D print with the difficult but high-performing PEEK material. Students are asked to replicate, as accurately as they can, a 3D figure with Solvay’s PEEK filaments.

“Your imagination, combined with our polymer, will help enable the groundbreaking innovations of tomorrow!”

That’s what the contest is about – finding good uses for PEEK material. There are major cash prizes available for the winner and first and second runners-up, but they are only to be used to invest in one of the following ways:

  • Academic: to fund an academic purpose on additive manufacturing of polymers
  • Entrepreneurial: to be the seed investment in an entrepreneurial endeavor
  • Societal: to benefit a non-profit association

The application deadline for the AM Cup is October 29th, and the competition is only open to students enrolled in an accredited university and pursuing either a bachelor’s or master’s degree or a PhD. The contest is divided into two rounds. The first involves a simple CAD file reproduction with the PEEK material. Then, the teams that have created the best 3D prints will move on to the second round of replicating a complex shape out of PEEK. The jury of judges will assess the prints on two criteria – aesthetic appearance and mechanical stability – and the winners will be announced at the end of March 2018.

The second runner-up will receive €3,000, the first runner-up will get €5,000, and the winner of the AM Cup will be awarded €10,000. Applicants must have a faculty advisor as a mentor for the challenge, and can apply as an individual or in teams, though teams must appoint someone to be the Team Leader who will be responsible for the challenge registration and communication. You can visit the challenge page to read the rest of the terms and conditions, register for the challenge, and see a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Are you a university student thinking about registering for the AM Cup? Let us know in the comments below or discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

 

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