Evonik announced a new PEEK material that could be used for new healthcare applications.
The new material is a type of PEEK 3D printer filament. While there are plenty of PEEK options on the market today, the unique feature of Evonik’s new VESTAKEEP Care M40 3DF is its level of bio-safety.
Evonik explained that the new material can be safely in contact with the human body for up to 30 days.
If that specification sounds a bit strange, you should know that is how such things are measured. It turns out that skin tends to absorb chemicals from whatever it touches. Chemicals are emitted by the material at a certain rate and absorbed at a different rate. For a material to be considered safe it must be determined how much toxicity could be absorbed over a duration. Then it’s a matter of figuring out how long it would take for a toxic level to be achieved.
Thermoplastics involved in 3D printing can have this type of rating, and some commonly used materials could have surprising ratings. That’s why Evonik has produced this material, which is now certified for use in many healthcare scenarios.
For example, it would be possible to design and 3D print PEEK parts to be used as guides in a medical procedure. The new material provides the biocompatibility, while it also provides the familiar benefits of PEEK polymer.
Why is this a big deal? It’s because PEEK is a high-temperature material. This means it, unlike most other commonly used 3D printable materials, can be placed in a typical hospital mass sterilization device. These devices operate at high temperatures, high enough to mess up any tiny critters on the tools.
If you were to produce, say, a medical guide for an operation, it would be safe to use during the procedure, and also could be safely sterilized afterward. That means these 3D printed parts could be used over and over again without the need for re-printing.
“The range of possible applications extends from patient-specific hearing aids to filigree prostheses and orthoses to surgical drilling aids for dentistry or individual surgical instruments. “
This material could lead to scenarios where hospitals operate their own high-temperature 3D printers on site to produce medical devices on demand. I can imagine a library of standard guides at the ready for production whenever a patient requires an unusual procedure. These printed parts could be accumulated on site for re-use in future operations.
Another possibility for hospitals is to 3D print custom-designed guides or appliances based on 3D scan data, again on demand. It’s very likely most hospitals already have the equipment necessary to obtain scan data, and possibly the required software as well.
VESTAKEEP Care M40 3DF is available in 1.75mm format on 500g spools.