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Victrex: £10 million facility opens to help accelerate innovation trend

Published by , Senior Editor
World Pipelines,

Investment in the development of next-generation thermoplastic solutions has now resulted in the completion of Victrex’s new £10 million world class “Polymer Innovation Centre”. The centre is fully operational and represents additional proof of Victrex´s dedication to pioneering research and development focused upon VICTREX™ PEEK polymer and other differentiated grades within the PAEK family of high-performance thermoplastics.

The Polymer Innovation Centre will further extend Victrex’s capabilities in innovation and assist customers in the development of technological advances using VICTREX PAEK solutions. Co-located at the company’s UK headquarters, the new centre will function as an enabler for rapid prototyping of new parts and components with novel PAEK materials. The manufacture of new and differentiated polyaryletherketones on a technical scale will help in the research and testing of high-performance polymer grades aimed at achieving progress in, for example, composites and 3D printing/additive manufacturing. Victrex is currently leading a consortium backed by Innovate UK to focus on 3D printing. Helping to improve the process for manufacturing existing polymers will also be supported by the new centre.

The strategic importance of the new centre was underlined by Jakob Sigurdsson, the new CEO at Victrex, who commented, "We continue to expand our PAEK-based portfolio, services and technologies into new markets and new applications. As an innovative world leader and pioneer in high-performance polymers, investments in science and manufacturing capability are key to continuous innovation and to improve innovation cycles and time-to-market. This new facility is another important step for us, particularly as we anticipate around 10 - 20% of our overall sales will come from new differentiated PAEK polymer grades and our mega-programmes in the medium term. It will further enhance our capacity for R&D, where we will continue to work in close and continuous cooperation with our customers and partners in driving new and differentiated polymer solutions.”

The centre is expected to create approximately 60 new jobs in the region over the next 10 years. It delivers 30 - 70 kg batch manufacture of novel polyaryletherketones, and can support the continual improvement in quality and performance of existing products. The 16metre high building is equipped with unique, state-of-the-art pilot-scale process technology and equipment that opens up new dimensions for the development of high-performance polymers. After a 3 year planning and construction phase, the Centre was recently completed and with funding, totalling some £1.3 million (British pounds), provided by the UK’s Regional Growth Fund.

Across key industries, mega-trends are driving the use of PAEK materials and Victrex´s R&D strategy, including the Polymer Innovation Centre, which is expected to function as an enabler in the delivery of identified growth opportunities. With its advanced thermoplastics, production processes and integrated offerings, the company´s solutions are contributing to increased efficiencies by typically replacing traditional metals. For the automotive, aerospace, electronics and energy industries and also in the design and development of materials and selected semi-finished/finished implantable products for the medical industry, Victrex solutions help to facilitate greater productivity, performance and reliability, as well as overall cost reductions.

Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is one of more than 300 members of the high-performance polyaryletherketone (PAEK) family, located at the top of the polymer pyramid. VICTREX PEEK polymers are ideally suited to extreme and demanding environments, where alternative materials can meet specific individual needs, but PEEK can support multiple requirements. It offers exceptional inherent properties such as chemical and wear resistance, very good dimensional stability and performance across extreme temperature ranges, e.g. withstanding continuous use in temperatures of up to 260°C. Other features include high strength and stiffness, hydrolysis resistance, resistance to aggressive substances and excellent tribological properties.

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