PEEK, also known as polyether ether ketone, is a substance formulated in the 1980s as a thermoplastic capable of high wear resistance, mechanical strength, and resistance to harsh chemicals. With all of these material properties, PEEK as a 3D Printing substance becomes a difficult, yet rewarding choice for industrial printing operations. In order to get PEEK to become a viable option for your company, all elements of your 3D Printer need to involve a masterful control of heating and cooling to maintain print quality.
First and foremost, one must take a hard look at the quality and capabilities of the extruder head in their 3D Printer. When searching for a proper extruder, its peak temperature and its consistency are the two most important qualities. As a thermoplastic, PEEK only melts at high temperatures, so an extruder capable of reaching around 400°C is essential. Another aspect to the extruder, as well as all other elements, is that one must pay attention to its consistency.
Just because your extruder can melt PEEK properly does not mean you are ready to go print-wise. The second aspect of a solid PEEK printer is a quality printing bed. If the first few layers of a print do not set up properly as a good foundation, then everything built on top of that foundation will be all for not. Therefore, a bed capable of reaching a consistent 160°C will allow anyone to print a part in PEEK without the very real concern of edges or layers curling or warping on you. Other recommended features of a printer bed is auto-leveling and proper adhesion to keep parts consistently printed.
In addition to a high-quality extruder and printing bed, any PEEK-capable printer must feature a fully-enclosed interior to control the environment surrounding the part being printed. So, heated fans for consistently high chamber temperature are required to prevent warping of material after it is printed out.
Another aspect to be considered is how much cleaning and maintenance 3D printing demands. No matter what printer is bought, there will be some level of cleaning of the hotbed, clearing out the nozzle, and general upkeep. The one thing you can control over this when buying a printer is how easily accessible are these elements. If your printer has removable, wide doors, enough space to reach inside, and good built-in lighting, then that printer will mean less headache for you when it comes to doing what you love: actually printing parts.
In the class of PEEK printers, nearly all models will feature consistent temperature control in the bed, on the extruder, and throughout the chamber. This is due to the sheer fact that PEEK is an advanced printing material that requires a myriad of environmental conditions to be used properly. Of course, these aren’t all of the features that make a PEEK printer great. Rigid steel bodies, high-quality high-temperature motors, and quality rails, shafts, and belts all work together to remove external variables from affecting your print quality.
That being said, the factors that will truly set a PEEK printer apart from another may not be built into the printer at all. In Vision Miner’s experience, great printers come with great printing support. If your printer’s company comes with a comprehensive warranty plan, friendly and informative troubleshooting processes, and direct, transparent communication, then you will be equipped with the tools to not only learn how to print in PEEK, but how to master the art of 3D printing overall.
At Vision Miner, we specialize in providing a unique, human-to-human customer service to support the usage of our Intamsys Funmat printing systems because we recognize the challenges (and rewards) of printing in high-temperature thermoplastics like PEEK and ULTEM™. Our job is to steer your company in the right direction in any way possible - whether that be walking you through printing processes, testing your product on our in-house systems, and answering any question you may have using our in-depth experience with high-temperature thermoplastic printing.