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Victrex develops new PAEK materials for AM with better recyclability, printability, strength

UK-based Victrex is developing high performance PAEK polymers specifically for laser sintering and FFF applications

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Victrex, a UK-based supplier of high performance polymers, has announced the development of a series of high performance PAEK plastics engineered specifically for additive manufacturing. The new PAEK materials offer certain advantages for AM applications, including better recyclability and improved Z-strength and printability.

High performance polymers such as PEEK and PAEK are rocking the additive manufacturing market and drastically expanding applications for polymer 3D printing. However, the materials, which boast better strength and mechanical properties than more traditional ABS or PLA filament, are often still not optimized for use in 3D printing.

In other words, because many high performance polymers currently used in AM are actually designed for conventional manufacturing processes, their potential hasn’t quite been reached. As Victrex points out, a first generation PAEK used for laser sintering has low recyclability, meaning that users must refresh the print bed powder, and many existing PEEK filaments for FFF printing still suffer from interlayer bonding problems.

By tailoring its new materials specifically for additive manufacturing—one of the materials is for laser sintering and the other is for FFF—Victrex says it has overcome these issues. For instance, the company says its new polymer grades have demonstrated lower refresh rates, which improves the recyclability of unsintered powder, and better mechanical properties and printability for FFF.

(Photo: 3T-RPD)

“Breakthrough technology is paving the way for an exciting future for additive manufacturing PAEK,” added 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.”

Victrex’s new materials as well as a detailed analysis of their technical results will be presented at the upcoming Additive Manufacturing conference hosted at the University of Exeter’s Center for Additive Layer Manufacturing (CALM) in September.

“These next-generation VICTREX PAEK materials for additive manufacturing mark a decisive step forward, having potential to transform multiple applications, including aerospace, and medical,” commented Jakob Sigurdsson, Victrex CEO. “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.”

The consortium referred to by Sigurdsson is led by Victrex and includes members such as Airbus Group Innovations, EOS, the University of Exeter Center for Additive Layer Manufacturing, E3D-Online, HiETA Technologies, South West Metal Finishing and 3T-RPD. The consortium, which received funding from Innovate UK in 2016, is focused on R&D for the advancement AM technologies and the development of low-cost, high-temperature polymer composites for the aerospace industry.

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