To help customers with an accelerated route to market for 3D printed polyaryletherketone (PAEK) parts, UK-based Victrex has developed differentiated 3D printing [additive manufacturing (AM)] machinery and software combination designed to produce high-strength parts from existing grades of high-performance thermoplastics. By linking the company’s material application and customer expertise with Bond’s 3D processing technology, the company produces functional, strong parts that contribute to maximizing performance of components.

Fine detailed porous structure printed in Victrex PEEK using Bond 3D technology (Credit: Bond High Performance 3D Technology/Victrex)

“Our investment in Bond’s 3D technology is a logical way to accelerate 3D printed PAEK/PEEK [polyetheretherketone] parts to market,” says Jakob Sigurdsson, Victrex CEO. “We need to ensure that all the key elements, including material, process, and hardware are aligned to fulfill our goal of enabling customers to manufacture 3D printed PAEK components for critical high-performance applications. We’re now at a stage where the technology is sufficiently developed to embark on exciting development programs.”

Bond’s technology is capable of printing complex, functional parts made of PEEK with excellent mechanical properties, including in the z-direction. This enables the additive manufacture of high-strength, isotropic parts with properties comparable to conventional molded or machined PEEK parts. Overcoming this challenge is recognized as one of the key elements to further maturing the use of the high-performing thermoplastics in AM.

Victrex and Bond will initially focus their collaboration on demonstrating the potential in the spine and the semiconductor segments. These will use commercially available products such as PEEK-OPTIMA™ from Invibio Biomaterial Solutions, Victrex’s medical business, or VICTREX™ PAEK thermoplastic. In the future, this ability to print functional parts from existing PEEK grades may also have value in other industries.

“We found that the market needs strong functional parts made from high-performance polymers that can be used not only for prototyping but for production. With our dedicated focus on 3D printing technology for high-performance polymers, we were able to develop a technology to achieve the full strength of existing PAEK and PEEK polymers. This includes the strength in the z-direction, which is the most difficult to achieve with high-performance polymers in general and PEEK in particular,” says Gerald Holt-vlüwer, CEO, Bond High Performance 3D Technology.

Currently, Bond’s 3D hardware and software are in the beta phase. A development plan is in place for upscaling and installing additional 3D printing machines later this year. This is expected to mark the next phase and drive the transition from development to first part qualification and early-stage production. Bond delivered a proof of concept 3D printer in 2016, and following investment in the same year then realized functional models and prototypes.

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