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10th September 2018, Exeter

Partners to exploit new PAEK polymers

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing (CALM) has formed a strategic partnership with Victrex to develop next-generation PAEK (polyaryletherketone) polymers and composites for improved processing in additive manufacturing (AM).

Materials and technology to support AM – with growth of 21% in 2017 – continue to emerge, including the first PAEK polymers designed, developed and optimised specifically for the technology.

Victrex and CALM started to work together in a consortium focussing on the development of PAEK polymers for various 3D printing processes. © Victrex/ University of Exeter

“We are excited to start this partnership and continue our R&D work on the development of high-performance materials and AM processes for today’s and future needs and applications,” said Professor Oana Ghita, the lead of CALM at the University of Exeter.  “The new PAEK polymer based materials will give designers and developers the opportunity to use the best performing polymers within AM processes and help make this dream a reality, transforming AM into a high-performance production tool.”

Victrex and CALM started to work together in a consortium focussing on the development of PAEK polymers for various 3D printing processes. After having achieved major improvements, Victrex recently announced newly-developed advanced PAEK products designed for AM – a high strength material for laser sintering (LS), a filament with better Z-strength than existing PAEK materials and better printability for filament fusion (FF).

The potential benefits could include:

  • Greater design freedom for engineers looking to deploy AM in high-performance applications in a variety of industries.
  • Higher-performance solutions, enabling the production of highly complex, highly customised and highly specialised PAEK components.
  • Digital design and fabrication of PAEK parts for rapid prototyping and speed to market.
  • Improved economics through the elimination of machining waste, improved refresh rates in powder bed fusion (PBF), and improved material utilisation in filament fusion (FF).
  • Customised implants and improved outcomes through new features and better fit.

Victrex expects two industries to benefit in particular during the initial adoption phase. In the aerospace sector, the use of PAEK/PEEK in AM has the potential to enable new designs and the consolidation of parts within a single design. At the same time, it will allow the production of parts that would be difficult to machine. In medical, AM in conjunction with PAEK will allow the manufacture of medical devices to make patient specific implants. The prospect of broad-based industry-wide adoption awaits as the eco-system develops and improved solutions become available.

CALM is specialising in the use of high-temperature and high-performance polymers and composite materials for AM. The centre offers independent research and technical support, working with both academia and industry worldwide, to develop the next generation of AM materials for engineering. As the leading centre of excellence in the high temperature AM sector, CALM is conducting pioneering research on additive manufacturing technology, examining how it can enable and speed-up the widespread adoption and use of this technology in industrial production.

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