UK company Victrex has been a material supplier for more than three decades, specializing in high performance, high-temperature materials, in particular, PEEK part of the PAEK family of materials. Now the company has developed new materials for additive manufacturing, including a high strength polyaryletherketone (PAEK) material for laser sintering. PAEKs have high-temperature stability and high mechanical strength and is often used in medical and engineering applications. Victrex’s new laser sintering material attains lower refresh rates, resulting in improved recycling for unsintered powder. The second new material is a PAEK FDM/FFF filament with better strength and better printability than existing PAEK materials.
“These next-generation Victrex PAEK materials for additive manufacturing mark a decisive step forward, having potential to transform multiple applications, including aerospace, medical, and electronics,” said Victrex CEO Jakob Sigurdsson. “The exciting progress is based on continued intense R&D at Victrex and excellent collaboration within the Victrex-led consortium of companies and institutions pursuing innovation in additive manufacturing. Through this consortium we’re already seeing demonstrator parts that show how AM processes, coupled with high-performance materials, transform thinking to create truly innovative parts based on increased design possibilities.”
PAEK is mainly used in manufacturing technologies like machining and injection molding. Thus far, it hasn’t been an ideal material for additive manufacturing. When used in laser sintering, it tends to only be able to be recycled at a very low rate, and needs nearly a full refresh of the printing bed with new powder. In FDM 3D printing, it has poor interlayer bonding, resulting in a loss of Z strength. Victrex’s new materials address these issues in particular, making them highly recyclable and printable, respectively, with good mechanical properties.
“Breakthrough technology is paving the way for an exciting future for additive manufacturing [using] PAEK,” said John Grasmeder, Chief Scientist at Victrex. “The powder recycle work for laser sintering, using the new Victrex development polymer grades has gone very well, with no measurable loss of properties when test components were made from partially recycled powder. We believe it will be possible to re-use all of the non-sintered powder that is recovered after a build run. This will result in a significant reduction in material costs compared to current PAEK materials where up to 40% of the polymer is wasted and cannot be recycled.”
In 2016, the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, awarded funding to a consortium led by Victrex to carry out research and development for the advancement of 3D printing technologies, particularly affordable high-temperature composites for 3D printed aerospace applications. The other members of the consortium are Airbus Group Innovations, EOS, CALM, E3D-Online, HiETA Technologies, South West Metal Finishing, and 3T-RPD.
Victrex’s new materials complement the other technologies developed by members of the consortium. For example, EOS recently introduced the EOS P 500, an industrial, automation-ready laser sintering platform capable of producing high temperature, high-performance materials. Some of the materials being developed by the consortium are being evaluated at EOS research and development facilities for processability on current EOS systems, as well as the EOS P 500.
Victrex is also planning to continue pre-commercial testing of its new PAEK filament with E3D, which recently commercially released a new water-cooled extruder head especially optimized for the filament.
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