Widely recognized in traditional manufacturing, PEEK can also be 3D printed. Check out our guide to the best peek 3D printers. Includes everything you need to know about 3D printing PEEK and PEI.
PEEK is an organic thermoplastic polymer that has an intriguing combination of mechanical properties, including high-temperature performance, mechanical strength, and excellent chemical resistance.
This makes it a viable material for use with various Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies. In the traditional manufacturing world, PEEK-based components are already used by numerous industries, overtaking domains left and right that are classically reserved for metals.
If you haven’t heard of PEEK before, we advise you to jump straight-forward into our explanatory guide.
Polyetheretherketone can and has been processed by the conventional methods, such as injection, molding, extrusion, compression molding and so on since it was invented in the 1980s.
However, with the rise of 3D printers allowing for high nozzle temperature and a heated bed, 3D printing with PEEK allows for the construction of more complex design geometries that can’t be produced using other techniques. It’s also an excellent candidate for Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), due to its low moisture absorption, especially compared to other common materials like ABS.
So, without further ado, let’s take a quick PEEK at the best PEEK/PEI capable 3D printers.
General information: The OO-KUMA KATANA HT is a professional 3D printer made by OO-KUMA, a manufacturer based in Turkey.
Technical information: It is WIFI connected, has an inbuilt slice program and is equipped with a touchscreen, making it very user-friendly compared to other professional FDM machines. The nozzle reaches temperatures of up to 480 °C, while the heated bed can get up to 120 °C. Additionally, this 3D printer has a closed frame to maintain a consistent temperature in the build chamber. The maximum build size for printed objects is 200 × 200 × 185 mm. When you combine these capabilities with the machine’s durability, it makes for an excellent PEEK 3D printer.
General information: The FUNMAT HT is a 3D printer by the Chinese manufacturer INTAMSYS. It offers a variety of features that are typically limited to more advanced, industrial-grade 3D printers. With its high-temperature extruder and enclosed build chamber, printing both PEEK and PEI is very possible with this machine.
Technical information: The extruder heats up to 450°C, while the bed can reach up to 160°C. It has an insulated and heated building chamber, allowing for constant temperatures up to 90°C. It also has a filament alarm, warning the user when the filament is about to run out. Furthermore, it comes with an in-built camera, so users can monitor their print remotely. The maximum build size is 260 x 260 x 260 mm.
General information: The T650P is a PEEK and PEI capable 3D printer manufactured by the Netherlands-based company Tractus3D. The printer is composed of an aluminum and polycarbonate frame, making it both lightweight and highly stable. This Equipped with a touchscreen and a filament sensor that will detect and warn the user in case the filament is about to run out, this manufacturer definitely puts a focus on usability. On top of that, Tractus3D includes a one-year service level agreement and a life long license for Simplify3D, the corresponding software
Technical information: The extruder can reach temperatures up to 450 °C, and the bed up to 175 °C, making it more than capable of printing both PEEK and PEI. The Tractus3D printer has a print volume of 31.5 centimeters in height and 17 centimeters in diameter.
Price: $8,500 – $10,000
General information: Manufactured in Italy, the Roboze One+ 400 is a desktop 3D printer aimed for professional users.
Technical information: The extruder heats up to 500 °C, while the bed has a maximum temperature of 130 °C. To ensure perfect adhesion between the parts and the printing bed, the Roboze One + 400 is equipped with a vacuum plate system to simplify and accelerate the printing process, while offering greater stability even for large-volume production.
Roboze also replaced the belt system with helical stainless steel racks and pinions, guaranteeing better motion and positioning accuracy. It’s also equipped with a compressed air cooling system, which improves the reliability of long-lasting prints while ensuring better heat exchange of the extruder. The build volume is 200 x 200 x 200 mm.
Price: Contact Roboze to request a quote.
General information: Professional 3D printer manufacturer 3DGence built the Industry F340 for a variety of uses including prototyping, producing spare parts and tooling. 3DGence is also the first company to introduce soluble support material for printing with PEEK.
Technical information: This machine can handle a wide range of engineering-grade materials because it’s equipped with a modular system. It’s, an advantage if you plan on using multiple specialized materials since you won’t have to get a new 3D printer for each. Among the materials the Industry F340 can work with are PEEK and reinforced materials like PA-CF.
Price: Contact 3DGence to request a quote.
General information: The P220, form the German manufacturer Apium (formerly known as Indmatec), is the newer iteration of the Apium P155. Designed for professional use, the P220 is cable of producing functional prototypes as well as solid end-use parts. Alongside the printer, Apium also delivers the Apium Filament Dryer, which reduces moisture-related defects and significantly increases the success rate for prints.
Technical information: The P220 has a nozzle capable of heating up to 540°C and a print bed that can reach a temperature of 160°C, allowing it to print carbon fiber- or glass-reinforced PEEK. It has a very low noise emission, which makes it suitable for an office environment. It also has an interchangeable nozzle and an easy filament change system. The maximum build volume is 205 x 155 x 150 mm.
General information: The F900 is one of the latest industrial 3D printer manufactured by the leading additive manufacturing giant Stratasys. It’s capable of high-performance printing and specifically designed for certain manufacturing applications and industries. There are three different versions: the F900, the F900 AICS (designed for aircraft solutions) and the F900 Pro, which uses ULTEM resin.
Technical information: The F900 can be bolstered with an acceleration kit, allowing the user to print faster and ultimately scale up production. It has its own customized software allowing for detailed previews. It is also equipped with an in-built camera, allowing to monitor the print in real time. The build volume is second to none with a maximum build size of 914 x 609 x 914 mm.
Price: Contact Stratasys to request a quote.
The U.K.-based company Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) introduced Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) back in the 1980s. In its basic form, this material is a semi-crystalline, high purity polymer comprising of repeating monomers of two ether groups and a ketone group.
PEEK belongs to the polyketone family of polymers (PAEK), alongside other family members such as PEK, PEEKK, PEKK or PEKEKK. However, it outshines its relatives due to its outstanding properties and wide field of usability, making it the most widely used amongst that particular group of polymers.
Otherwise, let’s have a look at some of PEEKs most renowned attributes.
PEEK has some compelling features, especially when it comes to producing functional prototypes and parts. Here’s a recap of the most important attributes:
Some of these resistivity properties can be further enhanced by combining PEEK with composite materials like glass fibre, graphite, molybdenum disulfide or carbon-reinforcements.
Unfortunately, as with all materials that exist within the realm of additive manufacturing, PEEK also has some limitations.
For starters, it has to be processed at very high temperatures. The melting point of PEEK is at 343 °C (649.4 °F.)
When it comes to chemical resistance, PEEK has difficulty in resisting chlorine/bromide, concentrated sulfur, and nitric acids as well as Keteons and Nitrobenzene. PEEK also gets attacked by halogen and sodium, limiting its use in certain industry fields.
Furthermore, PEEK has a low resistance to UV light. This can be worked around by adding a layer of pigment that consists of special soot particles. Carbon-filled grades provide improved UV stability and can be used in certain applications that require greater UV resistance.
Overall, the technical advantages and possibilities outweigh the material’s limitations by far, opening up a wide field of applications where PEEK-based objects and parts can be used or even replace common materials such as metal or aluminum.
Because of its intriguing properties, PEEK is already extensively used in industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical and electrical engineering. Let’s take a closer look at some applications.
The aerospace industry demands safe, reliable materials. PEEK retains its outstanding material properties even when exposed to high temperatures and aggressive fuels. Also, PEEK’s low coefficient of friction of fluoroplastics makes it suitable for processing in small spaces.
The use of PEEK-based parts in aerospace is ranging from exterior parts, due to its excellent resistance to rain erosion. As well as interior usage, reducing hazard in the event of a fire, because of its low smoke and toxic gas emission and inherit flame retardancy.
Overall, Polyeteretherketone is replacing more and more aluminum and metal parts in aircraft. Such as clamps, high-pressure hoses or electrical wire tubing. This results in weight savings up to 70 % and reducing fuel costs drastically. For example, reducing the aircraft weight by only 45 kg in a fleet of 500 aircraft can result in up to $5,000,000 in annual fuel cost savings.
PEEK features excellent fatigue and chemical resistance properties and is therefore used in automobile fuel management systems. Due to its lightness, it is replacing various active metal or aluminum components used in transmission, braking, and air conditioning systems. This can include piston units, seals, washers or bearings, which results in a significant reduction in weight and noise.
Furthermore, 3D-printed custom parts for old-timers is a rapidly growing sector. They can cost up to 90% less than the original parts, that is, if they are even still accessible or manufactured the “old fashioned way”.
PEEK’s excellent electrical properties make it an ideal electrical insulator. With outstanding thermal properties PEEK polymer parts are able to withstand high temperatures where conventional insulators might be smoldering already. This and PEEK’s long term operating reliability as well as temperature, pressure and frequency durability let it be used on connector pins of under-sea environment control equipment or high-pressure water pumps.
Furthermore, PEEK is being used in mobile devices. The quest for thinner, lighter and smarter mobile devices made PEEK-based components the go-to-material creating, for example, slim membranes for phone speakers or ear pods.
Also in the medical field, PEEK provides cost-effective, innovative parts with excellent wear, heat, electrical and chemical resistance. Its application in healthcare mainly consists of dental instruments, endoscopes, dialyzers and mostly for orthopedics.
While being significantly lighter than aluminum, PEEK—especially when 3D printed—allows for a new level of accuracy for anatomically correct prosthetics or implants specifically designed around the needs of each user. While still in its baby shoes, this section has phenomenal growth potential.
In dental medicine, PEEK is used to replace the metal handles on dental syringes or sterile boxes for root canal files, for example. PEEK is suitable here because the polymer can withstand up to 3000 autoclave sterilization cycles—generally at 130 °C—and maintain excellent mechanical strength and hydrolytic stability in hot water, steam, solvents or chemicals.
While the demand for PEEK-based parts is growing exponentially in various industries like the military, pharma, petrochemicals or food packing, it’s high cost keeps it out of non-industry hands. Fortunately for all prosumers, there is an alternative:
Polyetherimide (PEI) is an amorphous, amber-to-transparent thermoplastic. While both materials—PEEK and PEI—have similar high-temperature resistance, they derive from different thermoplastic families. PEEK has a diverse plastic family, PEIs, on the other hand, lack a ketone in molecular structure. For a full analysis of the materials properties, check out this in-depth comparison of PEEK and PEI.
GE’s Plastics Division formulated PEI in 1982. In 2007, SABIC purchased it for use. It has no major family members aside from ULTEM and ULTEM variants, which are generally less expensive, but also have some variant properties, such as a slightly lower impact strength and usable temperature.
Even though this might make it seem less usable for extreme conditions, in the past years SABIC, the manufacturer of ULTEM, has received a number of aerospace certifications, making it the go-to material when 3D printing performance plastic parts for commercial aircraft.
PEI-based materials are sold—under their respective trademark names—by a number of manufacturers. Such as SABIC (Ultem), Ensinger (Tecapei), RTP (RTP PEI) or Quadrant (Duratron).
Now that you have a thorough overview of PEEK and PEI, maybe you want to start printing with it yourself.
Here are a couple of basic tips and tricks to keep in mind when 3D printing with PEEK or PEI:
PEEK/PEI does not react well under fluctuating or unstable temperatures. Therefore, a printer with a closed chamber is strongly recommended, if not necessary. To get the best results while 3D printing PEEK/PEI, we advise you to keep the 3D printer in an environment that undergoes minimal temperature changes, and also away from solar radiation and heavily frequented areas.
Sometimes users can experience black specks when printing with PEEK/PEI. While this may have a number of reasons, the most common explanation is the impurity of the printing material used or that the 3D printer is having trouble processing the required temperatures.
You should always clean the nozzle after the printing process is completed. All leftover material should be removed from the nozzle, or it may become blocked and eventually also lead to specking (mentioned above).
Sometimes, when printing with PEEK/PEI materials, improper crystallization may occur. If parts of the print vary in color, such as a brownish discoloration as opposed to a default beige color, this could indicate improper crystallization. It can be caused by a fluctuating temperature during the print process.
When you are not 3D printing with PEEK/PEI, you should keep the material in a bag and stored in a cool, dry, and dark place until you wish to use it again. By doing this, you will preserve the quality of the material and ensure that you will achieve optimal results.
If you don’t have access to a PEEK or PEI capable 3D printer, or if you really want to ensure that your pieces are high quality, consider hiring a 3D printing service. To find the best one for your needs, check out. We provide real-time prices from a variety of services!
Feature image source: 3DGence
License: The text of "2019 PEEK 3D Printer Guide – All About PEEK/PEI 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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