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ULTEM 3D printing - Tips, examples, advantages and more...

ULTEM Polyetherimide (PEI) is a high-performance polymer that is amorphous. It offers superb thermal properties, a high-level of dimensional stability, extreme flame retardancy and excellent resistance to a lot of chemicals. So ULTEM 3D printing provides many features making it beneficial to use in a wide range of industries.

The material is for example utilized in the aerospace industry, the automotive and medical industry. ULTEM is used in these industries because of its ability to handle demanding applications in a way that other thermoplastics can't handle. For instance for superior products where applications require a certain level of mechanical performance and flame retardancy (UL 94-VO rated).

Two 3D printed objects produced of ULTEM 3D printing material

Features

Dimensional stability: high
Strength: very high
Flexibility: low
Material costs: high

Resistance

Heat resistance: very high
Chemical resistance: very high
Flame retardant: yes
Water resistance: high

Temperatures

Glass transition temperature: 217 degrees Celsius
Nozzle temperature: 350-380 degrees Celsius
Heated bed: 120-150 degrees Celsius
Heat resistant: up to 120 degrees Celsius

Downpoints

ULTEM 3D printing material is quite expensive and you need a well-performing high temperature 3D printer to get the expected result.

3D printed objects made out of ULTEM and PEEK material

Features of ULTEM 3D printing

What makes ULTEM 3D printing so unique? It has high thermal properties which also come with inherent flame resistance including a low smoke evolution and low smoke toxicity. It is known to be a material that helps to achieve a significant level of stability including long-term hydrolytic stability and dimensional stability. This includes low creep sensitivity and low, uniform coefficient of thermal expansion, while also making it possible to create highly reproducible part-to-part dimensions.

Even when ULTEM is exposed to high temperatures, it continues to behave in a way that delivers an exceptional level of strength and modulus. The use of ULTEM 3D printing in the automotive and aerospace industry is down to the fact that the material can withstand a lot of chemicals such as automotive fluids, fully halogenated hydrocarbons, alcohols and aqueous solutions. Over a wide range of temperatures and frequencies, ULTEM also delivers a stable dielectric constant and dissipation.

Certified for use in aircrafts

ULTEM has been certified for use in aircrafts thanks to its ability to deal with high temperatures. It has a very high level of heat resistance, which makes it perfect for applications in the airline industry.

''ULTEM 9085 is certified by FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) as flame retardant polymer for use in aircraft cabin.''

ULTEM 3D printing tips

When it comes to printing with ULTEM, it is important to understand its strengths and weaknesses, but you also have to know how to get the most from this material. It is critical to take possible difficulties into account when deciding to start with ULTEM 3D printing.

1. Honeycomb infill

As ULTEM is used in industries where managing weight is vital, it is important to ensure that large parts are light. One example of this would be the aerospace industry and in particular large aircraft structures such as hollow wings and so, ULTEM 3D printing allows the implementation of a honeycomb structures, which can make the part even lighter. It is advised that a triangular internal fill pattern works best to achieve a smooth and hollow interior.

2. Self-supporting angles

Self-supporting angles reduces cost and time. In that case you don't need to use support structures. At these shallow angles the majority of the plastic layer is supported by the previous layer below it. Therefore, when 3D printing ULTEM, you can create overhang angles up to 45 degrees. This is a good way to enhance time efficiency and to keep the cost of the material down. It also makes it possible to create complex geometries without being required to remove the breakaway support manually.

3. Consistent chamber temperature

The temperature in the closed chamber of the 3D printer must remain even. Because ULTEM has an extremely high extrusion temperature, it is advised that you use a heated chamber. The warmth should be evenly distributed at all times, making sure temperature fluctuations are kept to a minimum. This is down to the fact that if there are any cool areas within the chamber, it will cause the ULTEM 3D printing material to shrink in an uneven way. This results in warping and a lack of bonding to the previously printed layers.

4. Annealing ULTEM 3D printed parts

Parts that are printed with ULTEM can be annealed in a hot-air oven. Annealing accelerates the relief of internal stresses. If there are 3D printed-in stresses found, this can result in a less stronger part and can lead to mechanical issues.

5. Keep ULTEM filament dry

The material needs to be storaged in a cool and dark place, preferably in a sealed bag. By doing this, you will preserve the quality of the ULTEM filament and ensure that the result of the 3D printing process is as high as possible.

Infill options in Simplify 3D printing software
Screenshot of an overhang angle in Simplify3D printing software
ULTEM 3D printing filament spool

Industries that use ULTEM 3D printing

A large motor of an airplane containing items that are produced with 3D printing thermoplastics

Aerospace

ULTEM 3D printing is used in the aerospace industry because of the impressive balance of flame retardancy, low smoke toxicity and low smoke emissions. Therefore, the material can be found in applications which include personal service units, oxygen panels, ventilation system components, connectors, cable ducts, latches, door handles and interior cladding parts.

a Tractus3D industrial 3D printer next to a racecar

Automotive

ULTEM offers automotive manufactures a high level of chemical resistance, it is thermally stable and is known to be a cost effective alternative to metal where in some instances it has the ability to replace steel while also being light enough to be used in place of almuminum. It can also be found in transmission and ignition components, sensors, thermostat housings and throttle bodies.

White 3D Printed Display Enclosure and Mount

Electrical applications

Due to the demands placed on electrical applications, ULTEM is one of the materials of choice. Because of the ability to deal with the high demands and so, it will be found in connectors, MCB components such as shafts, levers and housings, the internals of hard disk drives, BiTS, PCB’s, MCCB internals, FOUP’s, Plenum Devices, LCD projector internals and fuel cell components.

Food is packaged and after that placed in green barrels and crates

Food production - ULTEM has been certified for use in food production products. Due to its resistance to heat, it can be found in the production of baking sheets, patterns, dies and fixtures. It is food contact certified (NSF 51) and is sterilisable.

Medical Industry - As ULTEM has a high level of durability it can be found in the production of custom tools and fixtures. It is also used in surgical guides and custom trays while it is biocompatible (USP Class VI/ISO 10993) and it is sterilisable.

Doctor watching a 3D printed object through a telescope

ULTEM 3D printing with a Tractus3D High Temperature printer

Most advanced  Competitively priced  You are always covered

Model: T850P
Heated Chamber: Yes
Nozzle temperature: 450 degrees ºC
Bed temperature: 175 degrees Celcius
XY resolution: 0,01mm (10 microns)
Z resolution: 0,05mm (50 microns)
Maximum speed: 400mm/s
Printer dimensions: 300 x 380mm
Software: Simplify3D (license included)

Cost and time efficient

There are many ways in which the use of ULTEM could change the way in which industries develop. We believe that ULTEM 3D printing has the potential to influence many industries on the long term. Its properties and features could result in this material becoming one of the most popular high-performance materials used in Industrial 3D printing.

3D printing ULTEM can be cost and time efficient in combination with the right 3D printer. Most 3D printers are not capable to print at a higher temperature than 300 degrees Celsius.So if you want to make 3D prints with ULTEM, you need to invest in a 3D printer which has a higher extruder and heated build plate temperature than usual.

High-performance materials

The T650P and T850P are built to print high-performance materials such as ULTEM and PEEK. Nevertheless if you want to print the more 'regular' filament materials like PLA, ABS and PETG, this is perfectly possible as well. Our high temperature printers makes it possible to deal with the required temperatures and it makes the use of ULTEM accessible. Thanks to the affordability, compared to other 3D printers in this segment, you can reach your return on investment quicker.

Temperatures up to 450 degrees

The printhead of Tractus3D printers can reach a temperature of 450 degrees Celsius and the build platform goes up to 150 degrees Celsius. A newly developed heated chamber makes sure the temperature inside the T850P is at the required level. This ensures a consistent quality of ULTEM 3D printing and minimizes the risk of warping.

Affordable

When it comes to competition, there is not a huge amount out there offering a 3D printer like this, especially not at this price. Of course you want to compare. We would do the same! We strive to provide the absolute best Industrial 3D printers to the industries we serve, at affordable prices.

We routinely monitor prices of our competitors to ensure that we have the best offer possible. We are very proud that, with the T650P, we are in the overview of Aniwaa of Best ULTEM and PEEK 3D printers 2018’.

Businessman working on a computer on a desk with a industrial Tractus3D FDM printer on it

Do you have a question about 3D printing with ULTEM (PEI)? We are there for you!

Please ask us any questions you have about ULTEM 3D printing. We are happy to help and to provide you with whatever assistance you need in researching the ideal solution for your business - in whatever way works best for you.

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