Zortrax companions with the ESA to 3D print conductive blended PEEK prototypes

Polish 3D printer producer Zortrax has partnered with the European House Company (ESA) to manufacture experimental elements utilizing two totally different blends of PEEK filament. 

Leveraging its Endureal dual-extrusion system, Zortrax has been capable of mix customary PEEK with an ESA conductive variant, to create proof-of-concept fashions which can be able to information and electrical energy switch. The corporate has created its new class of amalgamated polymer with the acknowledged goal of addressing the rising want for high-performance composite parts within the aerospace sector. 

“This [technology] will make our printer a strong device within the fingers of engineers and designers working for prime finish and demanding purposes like automotive, aerospace and area,” mentioned Rafał Tomasiak, CEO of Zortrax. “We additionally anticipate groundbreaking options developed in tasks like this one to shortly trickle all the way down to our manufacturing stage 3D printers.” 

“The know-how we’re growing opens up a transparent path to make use of the Zortrax Endureal for 3D printing good parts with built-in electrical circuits.” 

Zortrax’s newly-merged-PEEK polymers

The breakthrough from Zortrax follows nearly a yr of R&D from the agency, which has seen it experiment with totally different formulations of PEEK polymers to establish the mix which confirmed probably the most excellent behaviors. Zortrax’s self-proclaimed “main milestone,” has resulted from a collaboration with the ESA, which developed an experimental conductive PEEK for the analysis program. 

Combining the ESA’s pilot materials with pure PEEK allowed Zortrax to create a secure, electrically-conductive mixed polymer, which it has used to manufacture a number of cohesive fashions with information switch options. In future, the conductivity of the merged polymers may very well be deployed to supply multifunctional elements that carry out the function of directing electrical indicators, in addition to being very important to structural integrity. 

“Lowering weight is all the time one of many key design targets in aerospace engineering and it may be achieved by constructing elements which serve a number of functions without delay,” defined Michał Siemaszko, Head of R&D at Zortrax. “This fashion, the structural elements can on the identical time carry out electrical energy or information switch features with out weight penalty incurred for added wires.”

Zortrax’s prototypes have opened a brand new growth path for the agency, to create 3D printed elements with embedded electronics, whereas sustaining the inherent power advantages of PEEK supplies. With the intention to make it possible for all its prospects profit from its R&D breakthrough, the corporate is already rolling out all of the modifications that it made to its machine, to all of its business programs. 

Zortrax’s new conductive PEEK polymer mix may very well be used to create lighter, multifunctional 3D printed elements. Picture by way of Zortrax.

The Endureal and LPD 3D printing know-how 

Zortrax launched its Endureal line of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printers at TCT Present 2019, as a large-format dual-extrusion system which has particularly been optimized for printing with PEEK. The Endureal represents the third era of the agency’s industrial LPD Plus machines, which Zortrax claims are able to printing polymers with properties which can be “similar to steel alloys.”

Within the case of the Endureal system, the corporate’s proprietary Layer Plastic Deposition (LPD) know-how is mixed with a dual-extrusion system, to 3D print high-temperature polymers with soluble assist constructions. Usually these helps are made out of different supplies, however in Zortrax’s newest analysis, they had been additionally constructed utilizing PEEK, albeit a charged-up variant. 

The corporate’s engineering crew has additionally carried out a number of tweaks on its present system, which it’s presently rolling-out to prospects. By growing the rigidity of the printer’s extrusion system, the crew had been capable of obtain better dimensional accuracy, whereas different modifications enabled the Endureal to succeed in larger working temperatures. 

These upgrades have seen the 3D printer’s most extrusion temperature rise from 420oC to 480oC, resulting in diminished warping and shrinkage, whereas printing with excessive efficiency supplies. Based on Tomasiak, Zortrax’s enhanced Endureal system mixed with its new polymer mix, may allow the manufacturing of a brand new era of 3D printed conductive elements. 

“The know-how we’re growing opens up a transparent path to make use of the Zortrax Endureal for 3D printing good parts whereas retaining wonderful thermal and mechanical properties of PEEK,” mentioned Tomasiak. “Think about casting a stable metal slab that additionally works as a USB connector. That’s what the Endureal can do with high-performance polymers.”

Striving for PEEK efficiency

PEEK is a high-performance thermoplastic with a novel mixture of chemical resistance and sturdiness qualities, and this has seen it utilized throughout the demanding aerospace sector, in addition to the manufacturing of medical elements. 

German chemical firm Evonik launched its Vestakeep i4 3DF implant grade PEEK filament earlier this yr, which has gained approval for surgical implant purposes. The polymer options excessive biocompatibility, biostability, and x-ray transparency, to allow its use within the medical area. 

US-based medical 3D printing start-up FossiLabs, in the meantime, has launched 3D printed scaffolding constructions utilizing a porous PEEK materials. The bone-like medical units are designed for use inside implantable units, to encourage their integration. 

Elsewhere, the German medical 3D printing startup Kumovis, has launched its healthcare-oriented R1 machine. The corporate’s inaugural printer has been optimized to supply patient-specific medical units and prototypes, utilizing efficiency plastics reminiscent of PEEK. 

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Featured picture exhibits Zortrax’s Endureal system, which it has used to 3D print its conductive PEEK mix. Picture by way of Zortrax.

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