The University of Exeter (UK) and Victrex (Thornton Cleveleys, UK) have entered into a strategic partnership to introduce next-generation polyaryletherketone (PAEK) polymers and composites while improving the performance of underlying additive manufacturing (AM) processes. The aerospace and medical manufacturing sectors are expected to benefit during the initial adoption phase.
The collaboration is driven by Victrex R&D and the university's Center for Additive Layer Manufacturing (CALM), a leading center of excellence. The new alliance will focus on multiple AM technologies.
“We are excited to start this partnership and continue our R&D work on 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 focusing on the development of Victrex 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, a filament with better Z-strength than existing PAEK materials and better printability for filament fusion.
Potential benefits of using PAEK polymer for AM could include:
- Greater design freedom for engineers looking to deploy AM in high-performance applications in a variety of industries.
- Higher-performance AM solutions, enabling the production of highly complex, customized and specialized PAEK components.
- Digital design and fabrication of PAEK parts for rapid prototyping and speed to market.
- Improved economics through elimination of machining waste, improved refresh rates in powder bed fusion and improved material utilization in filament fusion.
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, said Victrex. At the same time, it will allow the production of parts that would be difficult to machine.
In medical applications, AM in conjunction with PAEK will allow the manufacture of patient-specific implants.
CALM specializes in the use of high-temperature and high-performance polymers and composite materials for additive manufacturing. The center offers independent research and technical support, working with both academia and industry worldwide to develop the next generation of AM materials for engineering.