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Metal 3D Printing Service

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CapabilitiesCustom Online 3D Printing ServiceULTEM (PEI) 3D Printing

ULTEM (PEI) 3D Printing

When it comes to printing high-performance parts using FDM technology, ULTEM stands in a class of its own. This material has excellent mechanical, thermal, and insulating properties which makes it ideal for high-performance applications in the automotive, aerospace, and medical fields.

tan fdm ultem

About 3D Printing in ULTEM

ULTEM is the trade name for a class of PEI (polyetherimide) thermoplastics that has exceptional properties which even approach the performance of some advanced thermoset polymers. ULTEM exhibits excellent temperature, flame, and chemical resistance without sacrificing its mechanical strength. It is by far the strongest plastic available for FDM 3D printing and some of its grades are also biocompatible, making it a common choice in the medical industry.

3D Printed ULTEM at a Glance

Application

Medical tooling, jigs and fixtures, molds for composite manufacture

Advantages

Extremely high strength, electrically insulating, temperature resistance, food compatibility

Disadvantages

High cost

Lead Time

1 day

Price

$$

Minimum Feature Size

0.010" (0.254 mm) for parts below 16" (406.4 mm) and 0.013" (0.330 mm) for parts above 16" (406.4 mm)

Tolerances

Z plane: +/- 0.010” (0.254 mm) for the first inch, plus +/- 0.002” (0.0508 mm) for every inch thereafter. XY plane: +/- 0.004” (0.1016 mm) for the first inch, plus +/- 0.002” (0.0508 mm) for every inch thereafter.

Layer Height

0.010" (0.254 mm) for parts below 16" (406.4 mm) and 0.013" (0.330 mm) for parts above 16" (406.4 mm)

Max Part Size

24” x 36” x 36” (610 mm x 915 mm x 915 mm)

FDM ULTEM 1010

This grade of ULTEM has excellent thermal resistance, allowing it to be used in steam autoclaves without breaking down. If the parts need to come into contact with food, a certified grade (NSF/ANSI 51) is available to ensure compliance. Due to the above-mentioned properties, ULTEM 1010 is used extensively in the automotive, food, medical, and aerospace industries. Applications include jigs and surgical guides that need to withstand periods in a steam autoclave.

FDM ULTEM 1010 Properties
Tensile Strength (MPa)Elongation at Break (%)Flexural Strength (MPa)Heat Deflection Temperature (℃)Glass Transition (℃)
Tensile Strength (MPa)

64

Elongation at Break (%)

3.3

Flexural Strength (MPa)

144

Heat Deflection Temperature (℃)

216

Glass Transition (℃)

215

FDM ULTEM 9085

This grade of ULTEM is specifically formulated to be fire retardant in accordance with UL 94 VO and has an excellent FST (fire, smoke and toxicity) rating. In addition to this, ULTEM 9085 has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Typical applications can include functional prototypes and composite molds.

FDM ULTEM 9085 Properties
Tensile Strength (MPa)Elongation at Break (%)Flexural Strength (MPa)Heat Deflection Temperature (°C)Impact Strength Notched (J/m)
Tensile Strength (MPa)

69.2

Elongation at Break (%)

5.4

Flexural Strength (MPa)

104

Heat Deflection Temperature (°C)

176.9

Impact Strength Notched (J/m)

88.5

Finishes

3D printing in ULTEM using FDM technology does not lend itself to many surface-finishing options. However, ULTEM is available in black, tan, or translucent amber. In addition to this, some basic surface finishes are listed below. 

Standard: Support structures are removed and some light sanding is performed at the support locations. It must be understood that in general, FDM parts will clearly visible surface layers. If a completely smooth part is required right off the machine, clients should consider other 3D printing technologies instead. 

Custom: Custom surface finishes like painting and additional sanding can be requested.

    black fdm ultem

    Cost-saving Design Tips

    DFM: FDM 3D printing in ULTEM requires special considerations when designing parts. FDM machines construct parts from the bottom up, so any large overhangs will require support. Large internal cavities are not ideal as their support structures cannot be removed. This can, however, be overcome with special soluble supports, though they add additional complexity to the design. 3D printing in ULTEM can result in parts that have superior strength in the z-axis when compared to other FDM plastics. Nevertheless, to gain the most benefit from the material, parts should not be designed to have loads applied perpendicular to the print layers. 

    Material Choice: ULTEM is an advanced thermoplastic that is well worth the cost when used in harsh applications. While both grades of ULTEM listed above have excellent mechanical properties, each has specific benefits, such as flame retardance for ULTEM 9085 and biocompatibility for ULTEM 1010. It is important to choose the right material for the job.

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