Machine or Injection Mold… You choose how to make it
PEEK can either be injection molded or machined from extruded or molded Shapes. Neither process is clearly superior in all instances. Process selection is something project engineers will need to study closely, and something that should be discussed with component suppliers.
During injection molding, the PEEK in injection molded into a custom cavity that is part of a complex tool generally costing more than $10,000. This is the most efficient and fastest route to making parts provided the tooling investment is justified. Machining, on the other hand, uses stock shapes and machine shops. A bar of PEEK rod can generally be machined into bushings or bearings often within a few days for hundreds of dollars meaning speed and flexibility are unmatched. The properties of extruded shapes offer the highest stiffness and greatest toughness and in general the most reliable performance.
Machining PEEK is the preferred option in most high precision applications. This includes when production runs involve lower volumes (especially runs under 5,000 parts), when larger components need to be produced and when toughness and impact strength are major priorities. In short machining works best when the components need to offer excellent mechanical and wear properties.
Again, there is no clear winner between the two processes but there are situations where one offers a major advantage. Injection molding PEEK is the better choice when producing complex parts (usually more than 1,000 during a single run), as injection molding eliminates machining time and waste resulting in the lowest possible unit costs. Injection molding is also the appropriate choice when machining presents difficult to overcome geometric challenges.
3D printing of PEEK is gaining technically, but "Z" strengths remain low and this disqualifies 3D printing of PEEK from most of the applications DRAKE serves. DRAKE expects this technical hurdle will be overcome and at that point DRAKE will offer 3D printed PEEK parts in production.