Polimotor 2 uses Solvay's PEEK for 3D-printed fuel intake runner

Fabricated by Arevo Labs, the Polimotor 2 engine component is the first successful application of 3D printing with PEEK polymer.

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Solvay Specialty Polymers (Augusta, GA, US) recently announced that the Polimotor 2 project, led by Matti Holtzberg, will feature a 3D-printed fuel intake runner fabricated from a reinforced grade of Solvay’s KetaSpire polyetheretherketone (PEEK). Arevo Labs (Santa, Clara, Ca, US) produced the part using its Reinforced Filament Fusion technology. The technical project aims to design and manufacture a next-generation, all-plastic engine for competitive racing in 2016.

“The intake runners in the original Polimotor engine were made from aluminum, but today the automotive industry relies almost entirely on injection molded nylon,” said Holtzberg, president of Composite Castings. “That choice of materials is changing now too, as automakers seek innovative new alternatives like Solvay’s PEEK that can withstand rising under-the-hood temperatures caused by the growing use of turbochargers and engine downsizing, both of which are resulting in higher specific power outputs.”

Replacement of the original aluminum runner with PEEK reduced the part’s weight by 50 percent. The specific material chosen for Polimotor 2 was a custom-formulated grade of KetaSpire KT-820 PEEK reinforced by a 10 percent carbon fiber loading. KetaSpire PEEK offers excellent chemical resistance to automotive fuels as well as reliable mechanical performance at continuous-use temperatures up to 240°C (464°F). These qualities made it a highly suitable candidate for Polimotor 2’s fuel intake runner, which encounters temperatures reaching 150°C (302°F) near the pistons in the intake port. Arevo’s Reinforced Filament Fusion platform offers the ability to print with reinforced PEEK polymers. When combined with Arevo’s process control software, the platform can help optimize the mechanical properties of printed parts.

“The convergence of 3D printing with Solvay’s PEEK polymer technology in this application underscores how truly cutting-edge the Polimotor 2 project is,” said Brian Baleno, global automotive business manager for Solvay Specialty Polymers. “Neither of these technologies existed in the ’80s when Matti Holtzberg developed the first Polimotor engine; and now, with this runner, we see one of the very first carbon fiber-filled PEEK parts to be fabricated with the additive manufacturing process. That signals a whole new range of possibilities for automakers seeking lighter, but high-performing alternatives to metal.”