PART SUMMARY:

 

PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) is a lightweight highly chemical resistant thermoplastic popular in the Aerospace & Defense and Medical & Life Sciences Industries.  From implants to custom medical devices or machined lightweight aircraft components, PEEK is ideal for a variety of specialized applications.

 

MATERIAL PROPERTIES:

 

PEEK is considered a semi-crystalline, high-performance thermoplastic. This gives it enough elasticity to be precision machined to various custom designs, with strong mechanical properties that provide resistance to fatigue and stress-cracking, as well as a good structure for bearing, wear and structural applications.

 

Key properties of PEEK include:

  • Handling at temperatures up to 480°F (250°C)
  • Abrasion Resistance
  • Chemical Resistance
  • High Ductility
  • High Elongation
  • Hydrolysis Resistance
  • Low Outgassing

 

What can this polymer do?

 

Due to its elasticity and resistance to chemicals, abrasion and hydrolysis, PEEK is a highly sought-after thermoplastic for both industrial-grade and medical-grade applications.

 

Common uses include:

  • Aerospace Weight Reduction Components
  • Dental Implants
  • Food and Beverage Automated Manufacturing Equipment
  • Food and Beverage Filling
  • Medical Implants
  • Medical Instruments
  • Metal Replacement
  • Processing Equipment
  • Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment
  • Vacuum Chamber Applications

 

So, what can this polymer do?  Let’s take a closer look at how it is applied in the Aerospace & Defense and Medical & Life Sciences industries:

 

AEROSPACE & DEFENSE

 

In 1978, ICI invented PEEK, a member Of the PAEK (polyaryletherketone) family of thermoplastic polymers.  It quickly gained recognition in the aerospace and defense industry for its weight-saving capabilities over metal alloys.  For example, Airbus used PEEK for a primary structural component in the door of the A350 XWB to improve quality and reduce weight and costs by 40 percent.  Over the next 15 years, industry professionals forecast that 41,000 new and replacement planes will be required.  Officials and engineers in the aerospace industry are looking for alternative high-performance thermoplastics like PEEK to meet this material demand.

 

Read more on PEEK’s impact in the aerospace and defense industry in our downloadable booklet below

 

As demand for stream-lined, innovative materials grows, we continue to serve and precision machine complex polymers for the aerospace and defense industries. For over three decades, we have provided flight control, fuel system, interior, engine and aerodynamic-related PEEK components for various aircraft OEM and MRO providers worldwide.

 

MEDICAL & LIFE SCIENCES

 

PEEK gained traction in the medical industry 20 years after the aerospace industry adopted it. In the late 1990s, Invibio Biomaterial Solutions commercialized a bio-compatible grade of PEEK (PEEK-OPTIMA). Ever since then, demand for medical grade PEEK devices has skyrocketed. From surgical instruments to spinal fusion implants, PEEK has a wide range of applications that only continues to expand in the medical industry.

 

Peek Neurosurgical Case Study

 

One such example of PEEK’s versatility is in neurosurgery for stroke and traumatic brain injuries.  Dr. Rohit Khanna partnered with AIP Precision Machining engineers to create a device that would expand without another operation, yet hold the “bone flap” and the rest of the skull together.

 

Problem

Dr. Rohit Khanna wanted to develop a device that would relieve swelling in the skull for patients undergoing brain surgery, which can lead to complications or even death.

 

Solution

The polymer of choice?  PEEK.  AIP’s engineers machined a medical component that was flexible, strong and sensitive enough to fulfill the necessary requirements for this critical medical part.  PEEK was also the best choice for this medical application because it was the most ductile and biocompatible.

 

medical tool built with peek polymer
 

Resolution

Currently, the FDA is processing the PEEK surgical piece for clearance to conduct clinical trials.  If it is approved to move forward, it can make leaps and bounds in reducing the need for multiple brain surgeries, saving more lives.

 

Get the full case study on PEEK

 

What can this polymer do?

From concept to completion, our team of engineers will work with you to realize the final product.  With some of the fastest lead times in the industry, our unrivaled technical experts we can tackle your polymer challenges.

 

What Can This Polymer Do? Supportive Information

PEEK VARIANTS

 

Download our “What Can This Polymer Do?” booklet.

We’ve put together our premier PEEK applications in a condensed booklet you can take with you.

Learn here.

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An Informational Brief on Polymer Machining

 

Among the many plastics AIP precision machines, PSU (Polysulfone) is a high-performance thermoplastic made from UDEL Resin.  This particular thermoplastic is able to retain its properties in temperatures ranging from -150°F (-100°C) to 300°F (150°C).  This precision machined plastic also has excellent radiation stability, chemical resistance as well as hydrolysis resistance for continuous use in hot water and steam.

 

In many applications, PSU is used over stainless steel parts or aluminum as the material is seven times lighter than stainless steel and can also be steam-cleaned in areas like chemical labs.  For this reason, it has a wide range of uses in the following industries:  aerospace and defense, medical and life sciences as well as specialized industrial applications.

 

Our latest machining guide discusses what goes into machining PSU and how its considerations differ from other manufacturing options such as metal machining, injection molding, and 3D printing.

 

How does AIP approach PSU and its machining process? To start, we’ll explain the difference between machining PSU, a thermoplastic, and machining thermosets.

 

Machining Thermoplastics vs Thermosets

 

We’ve already said that PSU is a thermoplastic, but what does that mean exactly?

 

All polymers can more or less be divided into two categories: thermoplastics and thermosets. The main difference between them is how they react to heat. Thermoplastics like PSU, for example, melt in heat, while thermosets remain “set” once they’re formed. Understanding the technical distinction between these types of materials is essential to CNC machining them properly.

 

The table below outlines the main properties of thermoplastics versus thermosets:

 

Thermoplastics

Thermosets

  • Good Resistance to Creep
  • Soluble in Certain Solvents
  • Swell in Presence of Certain Solvents
  • Allows for Plastic Deformation when Heated
  • High Resistance to Creep
  • Insoluble
  • Rarely Swell in Presence of Solvents
  • Cannot Melt

 

From there, thermoplastics are categorized into amorphous or crystalline polymers per the figure below:

 

Source: https://www.ejbplastics.com/page/24/Material_Selector
 

Based off of the chart, PSU is an amorphous, high performance engineering thermoplastic, meaning its molecular structure is randomly formed.  The result is that amorphous materials soften gradually with temperature increase, making them easy to thermoform.

 

Properties of PSU (Polysulfone)

 

Amorphous thermoplastics are usually translucent in color, but the gradients vary.  PSU, for instance, is amber semi-transparent.

 

Since they are isotropic in flow, they have better dimensional stability than semi-crystalline plastics and are less likely to warp.  Thermoplastics like PSU offer superior impact strength and are best used for structural applications.

 

The materials bond well using adhesives. They also tend to offer excellent resistance to hot water and steam, good chemical resistance, stiffness and strength. PSU and PEI are especially good examples of amorphous thermoplastics offering these qualities.

 

Machining PSU (Polysulfone)

 

Annealing PSU

 

Like many amorphous thermoplastics, PSU is especially sensitive to stress-cracking, so stress-relieving through an annealing process is highly recommended before machining.  Annealing PSU greatly reduces the likelihood that surface cracks and internal stresses will occur from the heat generated. Post-machining annealing also helps to reduce stresses that could potentially contribute to premature failure.  AIP uses computer controlled annealing ovens for the highest quality precision machining of PSU and other thermoplastics.

 

Machining PSU

 

Non-aromatic, water-soluble coolants are most suitable for ideal surface finishes and close tolerances. These include pressurized air and spray mists. Coolants have the additional benefit of extending tool life as well.

 

Many metal shops use petroleum-based coolants, but these types of fluids attack amorphous thermoplastics like PSU. Many past experiences have shown parts going to customer without cracks, only to develop cracks over time due to exposure to metal machine shop fluids. Be sure to use a facility like AIP who only machines polymers.

 

Preventing Contamination

 

Contamination is a serious concern when machining polymer components for technically demanding industries such as aerospace sciences. To ensure the highest level of sanitation down to the sub-molecular level, AIP Precision Machining designs, heat-treats, and machines only plastics with any sub-manufactured metalwork processed outside our facility.  This allows us to de-risk the process from metallic cross contamination.

 

PSU (Polysulfone) Machining Guide Supportive Information

Amorphous Materials Guide

 

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