Here at 3Devo, we really enjoy testing a variety of different filaments. So now, it was time to try PAEK. As you may or may not know, PAEK is a family of semi-crystalline thermoplastics with high-temperature stability and high mechanical strength. We were lucky enough to test some AvaSpire AV-621 from Solvay (provided by ALBIS Plastique France). Catchy name, but is it any good? This article will cover all you need to know about PAEK and how it performed in our tests.
As mentioned PAEK, or polyaryletherketone, is a family of semi-crystalline thermoplastics. In this family you will find:
- Polyetherketone (PEK)
- Polyetheretherketone (PEEK)
- Polyetherketoneketone (PEKK)
- Polyetheretherketoneketone (PEEKK)
- Polyetherketoneetherketoneketone (PEKEKK)
PAEK pellets provided by ALBIS Plastique France
Polyaryletherketone (PAEK) was first prepared in the early 1970s, but the results and the overall process were somewhat limited. PEEK was the first thermoplastic to go large scale in 1977, where ICI used polyesterification reactions to create the polymer. In 1981, Victrex of Lancashire, England, introduced PEEK resins commercially. Next came PEK, introduced by BASF AG, the giant German plastics company, which attempted to gain the total market share, eventually stopping all production of PEKEKK resins. This left Victrex as the only supplier of PEK resins in the world.
In the end, PEEK’s growth rates started to soar, mainly due to its high mechanical strength and chemical resistance. From vehicles to aircrafts to most electronics and medical applications, more and more suppliers entered the market. These suppliers include:
Below is a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of using PAEK:
- Highly fire-resistant
- Good chemical resistance
- Can be used for high temperature applications
- Excellent mechanical and dielectric properties
- Relatively high cost material
- High temperature molding and extrusion required
PAEK Extrusion Test
In our first attempt to create PAEK filament, we used the AV-621 NT grade produced by AvaSpire with a melting point of 340°C, which we pre-dried at 150°C for 4 hours. The first step in the extrusion process was using PX2 cleaning purge (with a temperature range of 280-420°C) as a transition material to raise the temperature of all heaters to 380°C.
Filling up the Composer 450, then running the test
The first thing we noticed while extruding with an overall temperature of 380°C was many air bubbles in the filament. This could mean two things: the granulate was not dry enough, or the overall temperature was too high. Lowering the overall temperature by 10°C improved the quality a lot, but now we faced nozzle lip buildup, as you can see in the picture below.
Nozzle lip buildup
Some polymers tend to have this problem, and it causes significant surface roughness of the filament. In this case, the buildup was reduced by increasing the temperature of the front heater.
The final spool of extruded PAEK, a little rough around the edges
In the end, we managed to create a spool of PAEK with a filament thickness of 1.75mm, but the surface of the filament was still on the rough side. This means we will keep looking for better settings on the Composer 450, but at least the machine has now proven its ability to create PAEK filament. This adds up in the list of successfully tested high-end polymers, along with materials such as PEEK and PEKK.
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