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Engineering Thermoplastics 101: PEEK vs PEK vs PTFE

As one of the nation’s premier providers of quality-engineered thermoplastic solutions, Symmtek offers the industry insight to help you better understand the world of engineering plastics. To that end, here is an overview of three common high-temperature thermoplastic materials: PEEK, PEK and PTFE.

PEEK and PTFE – What Do All the Acronyms Mean?

  • PEEK Poly-ether-ether-ketone  – A ketone-based, semi-crystalline thermoplastic engineered for durability and high performance in harsh environments  across wide temperature ranges( -300F to + 480F). Commonly used in Chemical Processing, Semiconductor Manufacturing & Oil & Gas applications.
  • PEK Poly-ether-ketone  – Another semi-crystalline thermoplastic, ketone-based, likewise engineered to withstand harsh environments and extreme ranges of temperatures, (-300F to + 500F) with superior performance in applications that require vibration dampening, and wear resistance .
  • PTFEPoly-tetra-fluoro-ethylene – An engineering thermoplastic in the fluoropolymer family, distinct for its inclusion of fluorine. Commonly used in specialty seals as well as semiconductor manufacturing applications requiring service temperatures of (-350F to 500F).

Properties and Performance Benefits of PEEK Material

As an engineering material, PEEK provides exceptional resistance to harsh chemical environments and thermal degradation. Additionally, it exhibits a low moisture uptake and great overall dimensional stability.

PEEK thermoplastics retain a high level of mechanical strength across an extremely wide range of temperatures, making them suitable for an array of consumer, commercial and industrial sectors.

Their reliability makes PEEK materials especially valuable in high-pressure / high-temperature (HPHT) applications such as industrial bearings, pistons, pumps, along with oilfield and gas equipment. They are also found in less extreme use cases such as medical implants, healthcare equipment and various electronic devices.

Properties and Performance Benefits of PEK Material

Contrasted with conventional PEEK materials, PEK thermoplastics can more reliably function in harsh environments that are up to 30˚C higher in temperature, all while retaining their dimensional stability and other performance attributes.

These engineering plastics also exhibit good resistance to both material fatigue and creep, making them especially suitable for electrical applications that require reduced thermal expansion combined with enhanced chemical resistance.

Its high strength and resistance to thermal degradation makes PEK the ideal material for use in cyclical loading applications that aim to minimize noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). These applications include running gears, bearings, bushings, and virtually any drivetrain system components used in the modern transportation, automotive and aerospace sectors.

Properties and Performance Benefits of PTFE Material

Opposed to the polyether ketone-based thermoplastics above, PTFE is a material in the fluoropolymer family, therefore it is a much softer, and resilient material. With the addition of fluorine in the material, PTFE has been engineered to provide even greater resistance to chemical degradation and corrosion, especially when coming in contact with strongly aggressive acids.

The fluorine inclusion also creates a very low friction coefficient, and low moisture uptake along with reliable electrical resistance. These properties combined with the material’s physical flexibility makes it a popular choice in specialty seals for bearings, bushings and electrical components in a diverse range of consumer and industrial markets.

Additionally, extremely high-purity grades of PTFE are utilized throughout the semiconductor manufacturing sector within the industry’s state-of-the-art fluid handling systems.