Lightweight, strong and resistant to (almost) everything
PEKK has an extremely high melting point (300°C to 360°C depending on the grade) and provides excellent resistance to chemicals and abrasion.
Reinforced with carbon fibers, it is as rigid as some metals, but significantly lighter. It is non-flammable and does not generate toxic fumes. All this plus it is easily shaped above its melting point. More conventionally, it can also be injected into molds or extruded to produce tubes or films.
Demand for PEKK has been driven by the need for lighter materials in rigorous applications like aerospace and offshore oil extraction. Kepstan® PEKK combined with carbon fibers offers a high performance alternative to some metal components… with just half the weight."
Arkema, world leader of PEKK
PEKK was invented in the 1960s as part of the Apollo space program. But commercial production requires a complex process and significant financial investment. Following the 2009 acquisition of American company Oxford Performance Materials (OPM), Arkema took up the PEKK challenge.
In partnership with chemicals company PCAS, the Group set up Europe’s first industrial production facility for this polymer in France. After several years of investment in R&D, the manufacturing process is now commercial. A second even larger production unit is currently under development in the USA.
From commercial aircraft to offshore oil platforms
PEKK can replace some metal components in highly demanding environments to achieve economies in weight.
Starting with aerospace–the polymer can easily withstand the extreme conditions found in motors. And it is being considered in the fuselage design for a new generation of commercial aircraft.
Another important market is offshore oil and gas.
Finally, it turns out that PEKK is fully compatible with additive manufacturing (3D printing) for small and medium runs.
A unique offer of thermoplastic composite tapes
The manufacturing processes for thermoplastic composite parts have improved considerably in recent years. Easier to produce on an industrial scale, this family of composites also offers the advantage of being recyclable.
These characteristics explain their rise in popularity over the last few years, which Arkema has contributed to by developing pioneering composite tape solutions, thanks to its expertise in high-performance polymers.