PEEK and Aluminium 3D Printed Parts Tested for use in Ultra High Vacuum Environments
Application of additive manufacturing technology in a vacuum environment has been limited due to the material porosity and additives used in the manufacturing techniques. In a paper entitled “The Use of AM Technologies for HV and UHV Components and Vessels,” a group of researchers working at the Diamond Light Source tests PEEK components 3D printed through FDM and metal components 3D printed through DMLS inside an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) environment.
The researchers tested 19 PEEK samples with 100% build density and surface areas of 1.42 cm2 each.
The results compared favorably to machined PEEK components and, according to the researchers, could potentially be baked longer to improve outgassing rates. They also ordered seven components from the same source, five of which were subjected to visual and dimensional inspection. A few issues were found, including poor surface finish, unpredictable distortion, and unpredictable component shrinkage.
They then tested a vessel made from metal using DMLS. There were several build errors and issues with the first prototype, which were then corrected in a later version. Once they had the final prototype, the researchers tested it in a vacuum environment.
Overall, the researchers conclude, while 3D printing has come a long way, “it is not always the solution it is cracked up to be.” The quality of the PEEK components was not “up to scratch” for many applications. The process is cheap, however, and offers a quick turnaround. The 3D printed components were vacuum compatible and survived the cleaning process. Complex geometries could be produced, but the end results were unpredictable. The 3D printed PEEK components are not yet ready, the researchers state, to be used as a substitute for machined PEEK components but can be used as a quick replacement when geometry is not critical.
Authors of the paper include A. Stallwood, G. Duller and D. Butler.
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December 31, 2018 at 12:21PM