Assessing biocompatibility & mechanical testing of 3D-printed PEEK versus milled PEEK.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To compare mechanical properties of 3D-printed and milled poly-ether-ether-ketone (PEEK) materials. To define post-production treatments to enhance biocompatibility of 3D-printed PEEK.

Methods: Standardised PEEK samples were produced via milling and fused-deposition-modelling 3D-printing. To evaluate mechanical properties, tensile strength, maximum flexural strength, fracture toughness, and micro-hardness were measured.
3D printed samples were sandblasted with 50 or 125 m aluminium oxide beads to increase biocompatibility.
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) evaluated microstructure of 3D-printed and sandblasted samples, estimating surface roughness at scales from 1mm-1m.
Cell adhesion on 3D printed and sandblasted materials was evaluated by culturing primary human endothelial cells and osteoblasts (HUVEC, HOBS) and evaluating cell growth over 48 hours.

Results: 3D printed materials had lower tensile strength, flexural strength, and fracture toughness, but higher micro-hardness.
SEM analysis of 3D-printed surfaces showed sandblasting with 125 and 50 m silica particles removed printing defects and created roughened surfaces for increased HUVEC and HOBs uniform cell adhesion and distribution. No cytotoxicity was observed over a 48h period, and all cells demonstrated >95% viability.

Clinical Significance: 3D-printing of PEEK is an emerging technology with clear advantages over milling in maxillofacial implant production. Nonetheless, this manufacturing modality may produce 3D printed PEEK devices with lower mechanical resistance parameters compared to milled PEEK but with values compatible with natural bone. PEEK has poor osteoconductivity and ability to osseointegrate. Sandblasting is an inexpensive modality to remove irregular surface defects and create uniform micro-rough surfaces supporting cell attachment and potentially enhancing integration of PEEK implants with host tissue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number12
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Dec 2022

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