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OTC 2019: The power of advancing polymers to parts

“Survive and thrive in the extremes” theme showcases Victrex’s strength in harnessing innovation with investment to develop advanced polymer solutions for future challenges.
As Victrex celebrates the invention of PEEK polymer 40 years ago, the company was at OTC 2019 in Houston to emphasise how it has developed its polymers to final parts product range. James Simmonite, Director Energy at Victrex comments, “In PEEK´s 40th anniversary year, we can take a look back and see just how Victrex’s PEEK innovation has changed sectors, such as Energy and how Victrex has transformed into a global material, technology and solutions provider. ‘Power to progress polymers’ could be our mantra today.” Today´s remarkable list of VICTREX PAEK and PEEK-based innovations covers polymers, films, fibres, pipes, composite and gear solutions. In addition, strategic investments and development partnerships with leading companies, such as Magma Global Ltd. in the energy industry, are further propelling the industry and company.

In the oil and gas sector for example, Magma´s m-pipe® technology serves as one of the prime examples of utilizing an invention such as VICTREX™ PEEK thermoplastic composite to innovate. This subsea pipeline solution has been designed to reduce exploration and production costs and risks for demanding risers, jumpers, flowlines and downlines applications. At the end of 2016, Victrex invested a minority interest in Magma to further facilitate its adoption. Outstanding properties make m-pipe a cost-effective alternative to traditional steel and non-bonded flexible pipe. It requires minimal maintenance and, since it is not subject to corrosion, has a longer lifetime than steel.

Sealing solutions: Designed to improve efficiency and service life
Victrex recently launched a new cryogenics polymer, VICTREX CT 200. Specifically designed for dynamic sealing applications. This series exhibits improved sealing over a wider range of temperatures, compared to commonly-used materials such as PCTFE. It does so at low temperatures because of its greater ductility, and at high temperatures due to its superior creep resistance.

VICTREX CT polymers have also been shown to maintain better dimensional stability, with a lower coefficient of thermal expansion than incumbent material. The higher thermal conductivity of these Victrex polymers enables a fast response to temperature changes, ensuring the material is always engaged with the counter-surface. In addition, laboratory testing indicates that they may require less torque to actuate since they have a lower static and dynamic coefficient of friction compared to PCTFE. This results in less wear, higher performance and a potential for cost savings.

Seal rings, thrust washers, bushings and bearings made of PEEK are also used in many applications where they must withstand extremely high pressures, high temperatures, aggressive chemicals, and corrosive environments and consequently help to improve service life and reliability to eliminate costly downtimes. A case in point is thrust bearing pads for pumps; even after more than three years of operation, there is only minimal wear due to the tribological wear properties of VICTREX PEEK. In addition, power loss was reduced by up to 30%.
Proactive investments in the future open the door to further innovations including 3d printing
Continued improvement in application performance to accelerate innovation is an integral part of strategy and success at Victrex. Proactive investment in the development of next-generation thermoplastic solutions have, for example, resulted in:
– The completion of a multi-million world class ‘Polymer Innovation Centre’ in November 2017 to address materials innovation as well as different aspects of polymer R&D;
– The acquisition of Kleiss Gears (2015) and the fibre manufacturer Zyex (2017);
– A joint venture called TxV Aero Composites (2017) to manufacture Aerospace parts;
– UD Tape Composites Manufacturing
– Investments in PtFS (Production to Functional Specification), an innovative tooling design and processing technology from Surface Generation (2019);
– Minority share in Bond High Performance 3D Technology (2019) to help customers with an accelerated route to market for 3D printed PAEK* parts, building on the inherent strength of existing Victrex´s polymers and setting the path to produce functional, high strength parts which contribute to maximising performance of components.

High-performance VICTREX PEEK polymer supports multiple requirements
The inert properties of the versatile PAEK polymers are one main reason for their success. This family of polymers is ideally suited to extreme and demanding environments. While alternative materials can meet specific needs, PEEKs are located at the top of the polymer pyramid and can support multiple requirements. Their properties include light weight, high strength, and high resistance to wear, high temperatures, fatigue and aggressive chemicals. Together, these outstanding properties contribute to enhanced fuel efficiency, extended part life, greater comfort (smooth operation, less noise), more design freedom and greater cost efficiency. A second important reason is that Victrex strategically focuses on this particular family of PAEK HPPs, and is committed to innovation, success and delivering total solutions to customers.