UGent printed PEEK part for Solvay

Ghent University scores well in the Solvay Additive Manufacturing Cup

Two teams consisting of students and PhD students from the Centre for Polymer and Materials Technology, a research group at Ghent University led by Prof. Ludwig Cardon and Prof. Kim Ragaert, scored well in the final of the Solvay Additive Manufacturing Cup 2018. 32 international teams of universities from 13 different countries competed against each other in two rounds. The main objective: the successful 3D printing of a dozen test bars and the Solvay logo in polyetheretherketon (PEEK), an engineering polymer used in aerospace and medical applications, among others, because of its exceptionally good mechanical properties, chemical resistance and temperature resistance.

“The main challenge when printing PEEK is the extremely high processing temperature of more than 400°C, which is about double the standard polymers on the 3D printing market. In the past, our technician with more than 30 years of experience in plastic processing has witnessed lots of machine failures during the processing of PEEK. We were very aware of this enormous challenge and out of curiosity we decided to participate in the competition. We soon realised that 3D printing of PEEK did indeed present many challenges, but through various adjustments to our in-house developed 3D printer and the process parameters we were able to ultimately deliver a successful result,” says Willem Van De Steene, team leader of ‘Take a PEEK’, together with colleagues Martin Spörk, Axel Dhooge and Sisi Wang. ‘Team PEEK’, consisting of Lingyan Duan, Josef Martens and team leader Tom Wieme: “Hopefully this knowledge and experience will be used to make new applications possible, additive manufacturing of PEEK really has the potential to make a difference in different applications”.

“It’s a pity that one of our teams just missed out on a podium spot, but much more important is this very positive experience we have gained thanks to this competition. At the start of it, we never dared dream that we would be able to develop such control over our printing process, given the extreme printing parameters. We are ready to continue innovating,” said a very enthusiastic Prof. Cardon.