A Comparison Between PEEK and Metal. Why is Plastic Better?

Polyether ether ketone (PEEK) is a high-performance engineered polymer that has one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any thermoplastic, and has excellent heat tolerance. PEEK can be used as an alternative to other materials, including glass, steel, aluminum, and other polymers. The material’s strength is complemented by its high purity and lubricity for challenging applications.

A collection of PEEK products have been developed by Zeus’ research, engineering, and production teams to drive innovation for applications in automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, medicine, and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

The company has also developed an advanced Thermally Stable PEEK coating for fiber optics, with extremely low attenuation across a range of 250 °C. This rigid plastic is considered one of the world’s highest performing materials of its kind. PEEK’s significant advantages as a material science solution are creating new breakthroughs in many different markets.

Many metal parts are being replaced by PEEK, enabling applications to have maximum design innovation with flexibility, while minimizing weight and costs for systems. In analytical applications, the purity, high burst pressure, and chemical resistance of PEEK ensure that PEEK tubing has the ability to withstand the pressures required for critical lab work without contaminating the results.

In a biomedical environment, PEEK can be exposed to sterilization procedures such as autoclaving and gamma irradiation.

The Zeus team can extrude PEEK into a variety of forms such as monofilament, multi-lumen, and the company’s ultra-thin walled Sub-Lite-Wall® tubing. In addition, Zeus can apply post-extrusion forming for a range of complex applications such as heat forming, tapering, tipping, flanging, and flaring.

Applications

Braiding

Zeus’ PEEK Drawn Fiber monofilament has excellent corrosion and abrasion resistance, tenacity, and tensile strength. It is an ideal braiding material for cable and wire sheathing and performs well in high temperatures up to 500 °F (260 °C). This monofilament is also used as an alternative for catheter braiding reinforcement, where metal cannot be used.

Critical Fluid Transfer

PEEK’s mechanical integrity, chemical resistance, and high maximum temperature make it an excellent choice for critical fluid transfer where heat is a major concern. The material can withstand a range of solvents, acids, and bases.

PEEK’s ability to tolerate high burst pressures with its high purity make it a material of choice for biomedical, analytical, and pharmaceutical applications to ensure that analyte fluids remain free of contamination. In HPLC applications, PEEK has become the gold standard and can be sourced with walls as thin as 0.0015" (0.0381 mm) nominal and inside diameters down to 0.002" (0.051 mm).

Fiber Optics

Furcation tubing, also called jacketing, is often used in fiber optics to protect these fragile communication devices. PEEK can effortlessly slide over fiber optics without affecting the fragile fibers while decreasing friction and strain. The material does this without using any fillers and additives.

The excellent strength of the PEEK material makes it suitable for protecting fiber optics. The Thermally Stable PEEK coating from Zeus has all of the beneficial qualities of PEEK and also has very low attenuation over the fiber length and through a temperature range of over 250 °C.

PEEK can be made into different shapes and multi-lumens to allow multiple channels. Through these multiple channels, fibers can be inserted into an outside diameter tubing. Zeus can also design this tubing’s outer surface to produce channels along the outside diameter, inside diameter, or both.

General Industrial

The durable nature of PEEK makes it a perfect substitute for many different types of materials, including other plastics, which requires improved design ability. Post-extrusion, PEEK tubing can be formed for many industrial applications requiring more customization. Zeus offers heat forming, tapering, tipping, flanging, and flaring for its PEEK products.

Insulation

PEEK has excellent dielectric properties, which means wherever this material is used it will also provide insulation, mechanical, and physical protection. PEEK products are rapidly replacing other plastics used in electric motor insulation, especially in Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) applications.

PEEK Lay-Flat® tubing has been used in motors as phase insulation and for slot liners. Zeus’ PEEKShrink® and PEEK Insulated Wire are designed to meet key electric performance requirements, as electric motors are increasingly being used to power cars.

Mandrel Coverings

PEEK can withstand extreme pressure, temperature, physical wear and tear, and chemical exposure. These capabilities make PEEKshrink® the material of choice for mandrel coverings on which components can be built.

Replacement for Metal

Thanks to PEEK’s superior strength-to-weight ratio, engineers can think about using PEEK to replace heavier metal parts. PEEK can tolerate mechanical and physical stress, and also has excellent chemical resistance and high heat tolerance, which together provide this material with advantages over metal parts. These qualities make PEEK suitable for the automotive, aerospace, and other general industrial settings.

Wire Harness

PEEK protects and insulates wires, while increasing fuel efficiency, and reduces weight. PEEK convoluted tubing can be used as a flexible conduit to collect wires and bundles and make them more manageable. PEEK tubing also protects the covered items against abrasions and physical trauma.

In addition to its insulation and protection functions, PEEKshrink® can also be used to support wire splicing. PEEK and PEEKshrink® wire harness applications are widely used in the aerospace and automotive industries and can be easily adapted in many different areas.

Wire Splicing

PEEKshrink® heat shrink provides excellent chemical resistance and electrical insulation; these properties make it a perfect splicing tool whether for repairs made in the field or for design purposes.

Products

Convoluted Tubing

This tubing contains multiple convolutes that result in a highly maneuverable and flexible tubing material. This tubing is also called flexible conduit and is used as protective covering for fiber optics and wires in major areas of automotive, aerospace, and general industrial applications, where performance, flexibility, and clarity are very important. Zeus PEEK convoluted tubing has the ability to endure continuous temperatures of up to 500 °F (260 °C).

Custom Profiles

Zeus specializes in developing tight-tolerance custom profiles for its extruded products. The company’s product portfolio ranges from typical products such as guide rail covers to highly precise extruded profiles for minimally invasive surgical devices.

Zeus has developed the technology to bring exceptional extruded profiles from concept to reality. Engineered surface tubing and splines are other custom PEEK profiles offered by Zeus.

Extruded Tubing

Extruded tubing is a high performing and dynamic thermoplastic characterized by high temperature tolerance, toughness, and excellent chemical resistance, making it ideal for use in almost any applications.

PEEK tubing can be employed to protect its contents from mechanical and abrasion stresses, but it also provides insulating properties for electrical applications. In the automotive and aerospace industries where weight is a major issue, PEEK is being used to substitute heavier metal parts.

Multi-Lumen

This PEEK product is a multi-lumen tubing and contains many lumens, or “passages,” to produce multiple working channels that run the length of the tubing. Multi-lumen tubing is extensively used in medical devices such as catheters, and also in fluid handling applications and electronic devices. Zeus manufacture multi-lumen tubing with high quality standards and tight tolerance capabilities.

PEEK Drawn Fiber

PEEK Drawn Fiber is an ideal material to form an expandable and flexible braided sleeve to protect hoses and wires. The material is lightweight, has high tensile strength, and exhibits excellent friction and wear properties when employed in abrasive environments. Additionally, PEEK is utilized in medical settings for catheter braiding, providing structural reinforcement where metals are not suitable.

PEEK Insulated Wire

Zeus’ PEEK Insulated Wire, also known as magnet wire, is the result of the extrusion of PEEK across a range of solid conductors and conductors in stranded forms such as copper wire. The PEEK Insulated Wire has been specifically designed for use in adverse environments such as aerospace, automotive, electrical, and oil and gas industries.

Zeus PEEK magnet wire has excellent abrasion resistance and can tolerate extreme burdens and exposure to caustic fluids. For some applications, little or no varnish is needed.

PEEK Lay-Flat® Tubing

Lay-Flat tubing is tubing that is pressed flat and delivered cut to length or spooled onto rolls. It provides a seamless flattened tubing with very thin walls and high flexibility.

Chemical inertness, lubricity, strength, and biocompatibility are the other characteristics of PEEK Lay-Flat® tubing. With excellent insulating capabilities, Zeus’ PEEK Lay- Flat® is also used as phase insulation and slot liners for motors.

PEEKshrink®

PEEKshrink® is a heat shrinkable material that offers all of the benefits of PEEK in a shrink-to-fit form. A layer of protection is provided by PEEKshrink® encapsulation for sensitive components employed in medical devices, telecommunications hardware, electronics, oil exploration equipment, and many other applications.

The inherent lubricity, purity, and toughness of PEEK make it suitable for life sciences and analytical applications. The temperature tolerance of PEEKshrink® also makes it suitable for wire harness and wire splicing applications used near hot motor/engines environments.

PEEK Sub-Lite-Wall®

Zeus’ PEEK Sub-Lite-Wall® tubing is the best choice where exceptionally thin walls are needed. This tubing is custom ordered and is typically purchased for tubing that needs a wall thicknesses of < 0.004" (0.102 mm). Thin-walled tubing is especially critical where space considerations are crucial, such as inside the interior of endoscopes, or as heat shrink over wiring to enable greater packing.

Key Properties

Biocompatibility

Due to its chemical inertness, PEEK is capable of safely existing in a biological setting. It also withstands several sterilization protocols.

Chemical Resistance

PEEK shows high resistance to all commonly available chemicals such as bases, acids, hydrocarbons, and water.

Excellent Purity

With a highly pure character, PEEK does not allow virtually any chemicals to leach out of the tubing to contaminate the contents of the tubing or its exterior.

Exceptional Torsion Stability

The characteristic rigidness of PEEK enables the tubing to transmit twisting or torsional force exceptionally well for applications that require distal manipulation of the material or its contents such as sensors, fiber optics, or wiring.

Flame Resistant

PEEK tubing is flame resistant, and UL 94 V-0 compliant (1.45 mm thickness material) and is safe to use at high temperatures.

High Burst Pressure

PEEK thermoplastic tubing can tolerate high burst pressures with respect to wall thickness and size. This quality enables the use of smaller PEEK tubing for high-pressure applications in comparison with other tubings.

High Strength-to-Weight

The combination of lightweight nature and extensive beneficial properties of PEEK plastics enables the use of PEEK tubing as an alternative to heavier components such as metal and other plastics.

High Temperature Resistance

PEEK is capable of safely operating at temperatures up to 260 °C (500 °F).

Impact and Wear Resistance

The inert chemical nature of PEEK plays a direct role in its mechanical properties and inherent toughness. Therefore, PEEK tubing and recovered heat shrink show excellent resistance to wear, impact, and other physical trauma.

Sterilizable

PEEK can easily withstand several sterilization protocols such as autoclaving and gamma irradiation. This fluoropolymer can even tolerate over 3000 autoclave cycles.

Thermoformable

As a thermoplastic, PEEK is compatible to post-extrusion customizations such as flanging, tapering, tipping, flaring, and heat forming.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Zeus Industrial Products, Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit Zeus Industrial Products, Inc.

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