What is PEEK?
PEEK is part of the PAEK family (polyaryletherketone), which is considered the highest performance polymer in the world. Appeared for the first time 50 years ago, and about 5 years ago emerged as a printable material, mostly on FDM 3D printers.
PEEK and 3D Printing
The material’s mechanical properties and chemical resistant makes it attractive for producing strong and durable components for advanced applications. The common applications would be metal replacement and end-use parts in industries such as Aerospace, Oil, and Gas & Automotive.
Operating temp. of 250 °C.
Low flammability and low toxic emission levels.
High chemical resistant.
Challenging to print.
Expensive compared to engineering plastics.
Low resistant to UV radiation.
Image Source: INTAMSYS, China
How to Evaluate PEEK 3D Printers
3D Printer’s Manufacturers
Since PEEK is a challenging material to print, and not any ‘peek 3D printer’ can do the job, first you will need to make a list of vendors that seems to offer mature products and technologies. Start with examining the following:
Number of years the 3D printer OEM’s has experience with advanced polymers.
Number of active customer’s they have and in which industries.
Does the manufacturers/their sales partners have enough knowledge and experience with training end-users to print advanced materials? – IMPORTANT!
Are the printer’s specs suitable for printing high-performance materials such as – extruder max temperature, print bed temperature and heated chamber?
Which other high-thermoplastics materials their printers can print?
After finding and examining the products of different vendors, now comes an important step of evaluating and comparing their technologies. Specs are great, but printed samples are the best way to dive deeper in your comparison process. Two possible steps:
Sample parts – examine parts that were printed by the OEM which can give a first glance on quality, accuracy, surface finish & cost per part.
Benchmark printing – more advanced step in which you print your own part that represent your required applications and parts geometry. The best would be to print the sample part with competitive technologies and then compare the results.
These two steps could help you filter down less suitable technologies and focus on that ones that seems to present higher performance.
An important step that can offer you another perspective is from a user that has already been printing advanced materials. Shading more light on the products itself, ease-of-use, the OEM/sales partner support, printing challenges, successes and failures with different applications – all good to set the right expectations.
The two critical elements are the price of the material and the 3D printer cost. The price of PEEK filament can range between 500-700 euro per 1 kg, while the price of printers can range from 6,000 euro to 100K and above for industrial systems. From that perspective, productivity is also an element to consider and should affect your decision on which printer to eventually purchase.