To help customers with an accelerated route to market for 3D printed PAEK* parts, UK-based Victrex has commenced a multi-million Euro investment in Bond High Performance 3D Technology. The Dutch company has developed differentiated 3D printing (Additive Manufacturing, AM) machinery and software combination which 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 which contribute to maximising performance of components.
“Our investment in Bond´s 3D technology is a logical way to accelerate 3D printed PAEK/PEEK parts to market”, Jakob Sigurdsson, Victrex CEO explained. “We need to ensure that all the key elements, including material, process, and hardware are aligned to fulfil our goal of enabling our 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 new 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 aerospace, energy, automotive, manufacturing and engineering applications, where existing industry standards have been built around years of experience with Victrex’s commercial PEEK polymers.
Bridge the gap between prototyping and serious production environment
“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,” commented Gerald Holtvlüwer, CEO, Bond High Performance 3D Technology. He continued, “We’re excited to partner with a world leader in PAEK polymer-based solutions. Victrex´s material know-how and their strong marketing and sales activities, are a perfect channel to market for us and a complement to our pioneering technology.”
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.
Establishing supply chain for additive manufactured PAEK parts
Sigurdsson summarised, “Collaboration and partnerships are the key to establishing the necessary supply chain for additive manufactured PAEK parts. After focussing, as part of Innovate UK projects, on new optimized PAEK/PEEK materials, partnering with Bond is the next important stage. Their advanced technical capabilities and ambitious, innovative culture will help to meet the needs of industries that can benefit from the exceptional material properties PAEK brings, in combination with the manufacturing benefits and freedom that their AM technology offers.”
*) Polyaryletherketone or PAEK is the name of a family of high-performance thermoplastics such as the polyetheretherketone VICTREX™ PEEK