Hexcel is introducing its latest HexAM materials technology, HexPEKK EM – an electrically conductive, high-performance, PEKK-based thermoplastic carbon fiber composite additive manufacturing material offering industry-leading performance.
The move was to be expected given Hexcel’s leadership role in the composites market. The firm had acquired OPM’s PEKK SLS 3D printing technology to begin offering 3D printing service capabilities under the newly established HexAM brand. However in the beginning, HexAM focused exclusively on the unfilled PEKK powders originally developed by OPM. As EOS and Arkema moved to offer composite PEKK materials (HT-23) for SLS, it was logical to assume that Hexcel would also eventually move into this particularly interesting segment of AM.
The new HexPEKK EM material integrates advanced electromagnetic (EM) performance within complex 3D printed components for the commercial aerospace, defense, and military sectors. HexPEKK EM composite components are flight-ready after printing.
“The management of static electricity dissipation, electromagnetic interference, and radiation absorption is extremely important in the design of all air vehicles,” said Lawrence Varholak, Vice President of Additive Manufacturing at Hexcel, said. “The introduction of this advanced additive manufacturing material will enable the fabrication of extremely complex aerostructures with unparalleled structural and electrical functionality. It significantly reduces weight and cost while providing unlimited design flexibility.”
Formulated specifically to meet the static electricity management, electromagnetic shielding, and radiation absorption requirements of advanced aircraft applications, the new PEKK carbon-fiber-blended material delivers unique electrical performance that complements Hexcel’s current portfolio of carbon fiber-based and unfilled neat resin HexPEKK 100 material offerings. Manufactured using the aerospace industry qualified HexAM process, HexPEKK EM components exhibit best-in-class environmental, operational temperature, and chemical resistant performance attainable in the aerospace industry.
By integrating this enhanced EM performance into additive manufactured components, HexPEKK® EM parts do not require costly and time-consuming secondary processing steps, such as the application of conductive coating for the management of electromagnetic interference or radiation absorption.
Target applications for HexPEKK EM cover a broad range of products such as exterior surfaces, leading edges, air inlets, electronic enclosures, and cockpit structures for commercial airplanes, military aircraft, helicopters, and UAV components.
HexPEKK EM components will be produced at Hexcel’s Hartford (CT) plant, where the company continues to develop the HexAM® additive manufacturing process using powder bed fusion technology to fundamentally improve the way the world’s aircraft components are manufactured.