Victrex and Bond pioneer 3D printing for PAEK and PEEK parts
To help customers with an accelerated route to market for 3D-printed PAEK and PEEK parts, UK-based Victrex has secured a multi-million Euro investment in the Dutch company Bond High Performance 3D Technology, which has developed differentiated 3D-printing (a.k.a additive manufacturing or AM) machinery and software that can produce high-strength parts from existing grades of high-performance thermoplastics.
By linking Victrex's material application and customer expertise with Bond's 3D processing technology, the common objective is to build on the inherent strength of Victrex's polymers and set the path to produce functional, strong parts that contribute to maximizing component performance.
Jakob Sigurdsson, Victrex CEO, says the new investment is "a logical way to accelerate 3D-printed PAEK/PEEK parts to market."
"We need to ensure that all the key elements, including material, process, and hardware, are aligned to fulfill our goal of enabling our customers to manufacture 3D-printed PAEK components for critical high-performance applications," he says. "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 manufacturing 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 new collaboration on demonstrating the potential in the medical (human spine) and 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, the ability to print functional parts from existing PEEK grades may also have value in aerospace, energy, automotive, manufacturing, and engineering applications, where existing industry standards have been built around years of experience with Victrex's commercial PEEK polymers.
"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," says Gerald Holtvlüwer, CEO, Bond High Performance 3D Technology. "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."
Currently, Bond's 3D hardware and software are in the beta-phase. A clear 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 was founded in 2014, delivered a proof-of-concept 3D printer in 2016, and, following investment in the same year, then realized functional models and prototypes.
Victrex has developed new PAEK materials that have been optimized for additive manufacturing, including filament fusion (FF) and laser sintering (LS). Learn more about them here.
Published April 2019
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