3D Printing PEEK, PEI and ULTEM

PEEK

PEEK is a material with interesting thermal and chermical properties and is being used in a wide range of industries for many different applications. Products made from PEEK are normally manufactured with injection molding, however 3D printing PEEK is becoming increasingly popular. Especially for lightweight applications that require high temperature resistance without compromising stiffness. PEEK however is a relatively expensive material. A cheaper alternative is PEI, often offered by its brand name ULTEM.

PEEK

3D printing PEEK

PEEK, aslo known as polyetheretherketone, belongs to the polyketone family of polymers (PAEK). Other variations from the PAEK family are PEK, PEEKK, PEKK or PEKEKK. The reason why 3D printing PEEK parts is gaining popularity amongst engineers is due to its many interesting properties. Parts that are 3D printed with PEEK are:
  • heat resistant up to 260°C;
  • chemical resistant to corrosive fluids and gases;
  • high pressure resistant;
  • water resistant;
  • lightweight compared to metals;
  • biocompatible.
Furthermore, PEEK does not easily catch fire and emits little smoke when combusting. As a result of its resistance to high temperatures, 3D printing PEEK is ideal for parts that will be used as insulation material or that require sterilisation. Like many other polymers, there is also the possibility of 3D printing PEEK composites to enhance the characteristics of the material. The most common are composites in this case are PEEK-GF (glass-filled) and PEEK-CF (carbon-filled). Carbon filled PEEK, for instance, is stiffer, has lower expansion rate, and shows a higher thermal conductivity than unreinforced PEEK. All currently available PEEK materials for 3D printing come as filament and can be 3D printed using FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) machines.

3D Printing PEI or ULTEM

As previously mentioned, 3D printing PEEK can be a fairly expensive material. Nonetheless, engineers looking for a cheaper alternative with somewhat similar characteristics can opt for 3D printing PEI parts.

ULTEM 1010

ULTEM 1010

PEI, also known as Polyetherimide, is a thermoplastic from the same family as PEEK. It is true that 3D printing PEI parts may not be as costly as PEEK, however, it’s good to keep in mind that the it does not perform as well as PEEK in regards to impact strength and usable temperature. 

ULTEM is a family of 3D printing PEI products manufactured by SABIC, a Saudi chemical producer and manufacturing company. ULTEM is available as ULTEM 1010 and 9085.

The difference between ULTEM 1010 and ULTEM 9085

ULTEM 1010 and ULTEM 9085 compared:

 ULTEM 1010   vsULTEM 9085
Temperature (HDT):216ºC153ºC
Tensile strength:64 MPa46 MPa
Toughness:Higher
Flexural strength:Higher
Chemial resistence:Higher
Themal expansion:Higher

Applications

PEEK and PEI are used in applications that require high temperature and chemical resistance. Think for example brackets and fasteners in the aerospace industry, flexible pipes in the oil and gas industry and cable insulation in electronic applications. The material is biocompatible and therefore used in the food processing industry to make machine fixtures, cookie cutters, and decorating masks. The materials are also sterilisable making them suitable for medical applications as well. For example: fixation devices and targeting guides.

Conclusion

For applications that need high temperature and chemical resistance and are tough and lightweight PEEK materials are a great choice. Nonetheless, 3D printing PEEK can be relatively expensive. If you are looking for a more affordable material, 3D printing PEI, ULTEM 1010 and ULTEM 9085 parts may be a better solution. Beamler offers the option for 3D printing PEEK parts from different manufacturers (eg: EOS PEEK HP3) as well as different types of PEEK composites, including PEEK GF (glass-filled) and PEEK CF (carbon-filled). Our platform also allows you to choose for 3D printing PEI, ULTEM 1010 and ULTEM 9085 parts. 

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