Evonik launches new PEEK filament appropriate for 3D printing medical implants 

The new natural-colored filament from Evonik is wound on spools of 250 g and 500 g.  Photo via Evonik.

German specialty chemicals company Evonik has added its new Vestakeep i4 3DF polyetheretherketone (PEEK) filament with implant quality to its portfolio of 3D printing materials.

The new material meets the requirements of ASTM F2026, the industry standard for surgical implant applications, and enables the manufacture of plastic 3D surgical implants using FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) technology.

“For modern medical technology, the development of our first 3D printable implant material opens up new possibilities for adapting patient treatments,” said Marc Knebel, Head of the Medical Devices and Systems Market Segment at Evonik. “Orthopedics and maxillofacial surgery are examples of areas where this could be applied.”

The Vestakeep i4 3DF filament

Vestakeep i4 3DF was first announced in 2018 and is the first PEEK-based filament that can be used for implant applications. Earlier materials such as KetaSpire PEEK and Radel PPSU were only rated for limited contact medical applications, meaning that less than 24 hours of exposure to body fluids or tissues were allowed and they were not suitable for implant applications.

Based on Evonik’s earlier Vestakeep i4 G material, which was used in spinal implants, maxillofacial surgery, and sports medicine, the new material exhibits high biocompatibility, biostability and X-ray transparency. This makes implantation easier for both the surgeon and the patient during follow-up appointments

The high-performance polymer was specially developed for use with FFF technology and manufactured under clean room conditions. This makes it ideal for surgical applications. The natural colored filament is wound on 250 or 500 gram spools and has a diameter of 1.75 mm. It is suitable for direct use in standard FFF 3D printers for PEEK materials.

Evonik will also offer a test version of the PEEK filament that has the same processing properties as the implant material, but without the certification required for medical applications.

The new natural-colored filament from Evonik is available for spools of 250 g and 500 g. Photo via Evonik.

Surgical applications in 3D printing

While PEEK materials have not previously been used to make medical implants, they have been used extensively in other medical applications.

German 3D printer and material manufacturer Apium additive technologies announced in November 2018 that Evonik’s Vestakeep i4 G material had been successfully used for manufacturing Implants and devices for the skull and the hand. Using the M220 3D printer, Apium Additive made implants that can be placed on the head, skull, neck, face or jaw and possibly treat other injuries and infections as well.

German medical 3D printing startup Kumovis, started his first 3D printerThe R1 was developed last August to manufacture patient-specific medical devices and prototypes from high-performance plastics such as PEEK. Using an optional filter with the 3D printer prevents foreign particles from getting into the build chamber. This has an effect similar to setting up a clean room, an environment that is often required for medical research purposes.

FossiLabsThe US-based start-up for medical 3D printing also used PEEK materials to manufacture porous material 3D printed bone-like framework structures. Using FossiLabs proprietary hardware, the bone-like structures are designed to benefit existing implantable devices where bone growth may be desirable.

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The picture shows the newly introduced PEEK filament in implant quality from Evonik. Photo via Evonik.

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