Developed in 1977 by UK-based company, Vitrex, Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK) is a uniquely qualified alternative to metal-based manufacturing. Known to be as strong as steel, PEEK has become quite popular in the medical and aerospace industries as it is a lighter alternative in situations where metal was the de-facto substance employed. In the automotive industry, PEEK’s hydrophobic qualities and its ability to take wear-and-tear have made it a great material for interior gearbox parts where PEEK has been known to wear down slower than titanium. Only recently has PEEK’s power and performance been harnessed in the form of 3D Printing, and while it is very new, PEEK 3D Printing is steadily growing in popularity due to its ability to cut costs and reduce lead times.
PEEK’s magical mechanical and material properties are hard to overstate, and that’s due to its semi-crystalline structure. When 3D-Printing in PEEK, a key process occurs known as crystallization in which layers of a part bond to one another as a laminated piece.However, improper crystallization can manifest itself in prints if certain steps aren’t followed! Avoiding improper crystallization is imperative as it can create failure points and internal inconsistencies within a print which weakens PEEK’s inherent strength.
The name of the game in preventing poor crystallization is temperature control, and one of the best ways to achieve control is to use a 3D printer whose printing bed is fully enclosed in a chamber. This stops air, humidity, and other environmental hazards from altering the atmosphere around the print area which would normally ruin the consistency of a successful print. Additionally, one can stop poor crystallization in its tracks by allowing time to cool the part in between each layer. At times, the extruder head of a printer can melt previously-printed layers, so an added cooling period between layers gives everything a chance to harden and set before moving forward.
PEEK can be both a challenging and rewarding printing medium, so as you invest your time money, and resources into PEEK printing, VisionMiner invites you to explore our content here on the site and on YouTube to grow your own understanding of PEEK and to find answers to any burning questions you may have.
Feel free to leave a comment, send an email, or give us a call if you a question on how to break into High-Temperature 3D Printing!