Friedrichshafen, Germany — Hamburg-based distributor Bieglo GmbH exhibited special grades of natural polyetheretherketone (PEEK) polymer as well as PEEK functional and color compounds during Fakuma 2018.
High-performance polymers, due to their mechanical properties and their resistance to high temperatures, are becoming increasingly popular in industries and double-digit growth is estimated for their demand in the coming years, according to Bieglo CEO John Biesterfeld.
"The demand for PEEK and other materials in the top of the polymer pyramid is increasing as industrial equipment is getting more efficient and therefore hotter. On the other hand improvement of plastic machineries allow for more people to convert PEEK," Biesterfeld said.
PEEK requires a melt-temperature close to 400°C for processing and 10 years ago, very few companies could produce PEEK-based parts, Biesterfeld said in an interview ahead of Fakuma.
But with drastic changes in the industry over the past 5-10 years and with what PEEK has to offer, Bieglo can see a solid increase in demand for the product.
"Many technical applications are for an increasingly hotter environment, such as under-the-hood applications or even inside engines," Biesterfeld said.
Other features of PEEK that make it desirable within industries are its high resistance to chemicals and outstanding mechanical properties.
But a downside of PEEK, according to Biesterfeld, is its high price: "We could see even higher demand if it wasn't for the price.''
"Of course, you can use other high-performance materials, but some, you have to temper for a long time and they are even more difficult to transform," the Bieglo boss explained.
Another key feature of PEEK, according to Biesterfeld, is that it processes easily.
"You can injection mold it or extrude it; it is an easy material to work with," said Biesterfeld, adding some of its key customers are from industries and machinery production segments.
With only one European company — Victrex — manufacturing PEEK in Europe, Bieglo's biggest function in the market is the import and distribution of PEEK in the region.
PEEK is imported to Europe from various countries, especially China and India, and Bieglo procures its PEEK from a long-term partner Chinese producer, Panjin Zhongrun High Performance Polymers, which is based in the Liaoning province in northern China.
"We have a big storage facility with several tonnes at stock in Germany, where we store different viscosities of natural PEEK. We sell to compounders, injection molders or extrusion companies from there," the Bieglo official noted.
While it does not have any compounding capabilities on its own, Bieglo does offer PEEK compounds to the market. The highlight of this year's display is its color compounds produced by German company AW Colour.
"AW Colour have made a wide range of color compounds, including light colors like yellow. This is their first time producing PEEK color compounds, and they're using our base PEEK as the raw material for their product," Biesterfeld said.
AW Colour will not be exhibiting at Fakuma, this year but Bieglo will be displaying its color compounds.
Bieglo also offers functional PEEK compounds: fiber-reinforced and often tribologically modified with carbon fibers, Teflon (PTFE) or graphite, which are primarily used for dry bearings and seals.