When exploring the unknown, what better than innovative, flexible technologies that adapt to any need? For that reason, one of the biggest adopters of additive manufacturing in recent years has been organizations working on applications in outer space. From NASA to SpaceX and beyond, 3D printing has really found its place when it comes to 3D printing outside of our planet. And now we have yet another example. Zortrax Z-PEEK filament has been officially confirmed to meet ESA’s outgassing requirements, meaning it has been cleared for space flight.
Outgassing is defined as “the release of a gas that has been dissolved, trapped, frozen or absorbed in some material”. This may sound complicated, however, it essentially means that gas trapped in a solid is being released, as occurs with evaporation. Although not often considered for materials on earth, it is a critical consideration in high-vacuum environments such as deep space. This is because these gases can severely degrade the performance of fragile spacecraft components, such as sensors. Now Z-PEEK joins a list of only a few polymers that can be used for parts that go into space.
The properties of Z-PEEK
According to Zortrax, Z-PEEK, which as you might have guessed is a PEEK filament, is one of the strongest polymers on the planet. In fact, the company claims that the material has a strength-to-weight ratio that is comparable to stainless steel, as well as exceptional thermal properties and resistance to radiation and abrasion. Now that it meets the ESA requirements ECSS-Q-70-02A standard (corresponding to degassing standards) has been officially confirmed, it is definitely suitable for use in the space industry, including in non-cabin applications.
PEEK is often used in the aerospace sector thanks to its incredible mechanical properties. Although expensive and difficult to print, the material has been available for several years as a filament and is considered a suitable and lighter substitute for metal. In this sense, Z-PEEK is not an exception. In fact, the press release notes that in ESA testing, the mechanical properties of the filament were found to be among some of the highest ever reported in the scientific literature. Although it can only be printed on Zortrax’s Endureal 3D printer, it is quickly proving its worth. The material is already being used for projects on the WISA Woodsat CubeSat space mission.
Michał Siemaszko, Head of Research and Development at Zortrax, concluded: “Compliance with outgassing requirements is absolutely crucial when it comes to providing materials for the space industry. Having these properties confirmed by tests carried out at ESA’s ESTEC facilities and obtaining an official report of those tests allows us to provide more value to our most demanding customers”. You can learn more about Z-PEEK and its properties on the Zortrax website HERE.
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