There was a contest to develop 3D printable files for the International Space Station's 3D printer. The winner got a 3D printer ... runners up got Fluke DVOM's and all entrants got a t-shirt.

ISS 3D Print Contest

They offer 3 materials: ABS, HDPE, and PEI+PC ... I'm not familiar with the last one. Anyone know?

If found this material on Matweb: PEI+PC Alloy

These links are thought to last a very long time. I hope many of you decide to upload a project into contest site and compete for the grand prize ... A sweet John Fluke DVOM. If nothing else a free awesome T-shirt.

  • $\begingroup$ I feel like this is borderline to an advertisement. Please consider keeping an eye on the contest link and remove it as soon as it is over to ensure "future-proofing" this question. The question on identifying the material specs, I feel, is valid. $\endgroup$ – tbm0115 Aug 18 '16 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks tbm0115 ... I just thought it would be cool for this forum. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Aug 24 '16 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ tbm0115 ... I removed the expired link as you suggested. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Nov 22 '16 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ I voted to close as "unclear what you're asking" because there is no real question here. "Anyone know?" is not a reasonable question for this platform. What specifically do you want to know about this material? $\endgroup$ – Tom van der Zanden Nov 22 '16 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ I was mainly trying to figure out what PEI-PC alloy was from a forum of experts and received good answers which one was accepted and the others rewarded. This is a dang picky place. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Nov 22 '16 at 20:49

Ultem 9085, the most common ultem resin used for AM, is a blend of PEI-PC, as seen here https://www.sabic-ip.com/gepapp/Plastics/servlet/ProductsAndServices/Product/series?sltPrdline=ULTEM&sltPrdseries=Aerospace%20and%20Transportation&search=Search#searchresults.

Ultem is a trade name for PEI alloys made by Sabic and 9085, used in filaments made by both Stratasys and 3dXtech as the two most visible suppliers are both made with this same alloy. It is used for high temperature resistance and strength and needs to be printed at upwards of 300C in a contained environment.

Source-Intern at Made in Space.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to 3D Printing Stack Exchange. Thanks for your answer but we prefer answers to be self contained where possible. Links tend to rot so answers which rely on a link can be rendered useless if the linked to content disappears. If you add more context from the link, it is more likely that people will find your answer useful. Can you tell us something about the compounds properties? Did you use it yourself? $\endgroup$ – kamuro Aug 12 '16 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ I edited in some more context, does that help? $\endgroup$ – Teddy Lee Aug 12 '16 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it does, have my upvote ;) Can you tell us about how it compares to commonly printed thermoplastics? I'm really interested in the benefits of the material. Thanks $\endgroup$ – kamuro Aug 13 '16 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @kamuro; Both Nasa and Matweb are not going anywhere ... I have used both resources for the better part of 2 decades. Thanks for the input. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Aug 13 '16 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ I have up-voted all your answers which are recorded but don't display until I reach 15 points. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Aug 13 '16 at 16:15

Apparently the Made In Space printer can print an exotic alloy of PEI (ultem) and PC (polycarbonate).

  • Ultem is a super-premium material for industrial FDM printers, and requires a very high temp heated build chamber to print. Hobbyists use it as a build plate -- Stratasys uses it as filament in their most expensive FDM machines.
  • Polycarbonate is a specialty material that benefits from a heated chamber but is just barely printable on hobbyist level machines. (I print a fair amount of PC -- it makes ABS seem easy in comparison.)

By alloying PC with PEI, they are presumably optimizing some kind of performance parameter compared to ultem alone or polycarbonate alone. Exactly what material properties they get will depend considerably on the ratio of the two polymers. Ultem is exceptionally heat-resistant, quite stiff, and extremely strong. PC is very heat resistant, and has exceptional impact toughness. Blends of the two can be somewhat stiffer than either, with most other properties resembling the weighted average of the two base materials. It really depends on the mix, which we don't know.

This is analogous to the PC-ABS blend filaments we sometimes use. You get reasonably intermediate properties.

So, it's basically super-filament that NASA might want to use to make "production" parts in space. I would expect a HUGE degree of warping if not printed in extremely well-controlled conditions. But the Made In Space printer was intensely engineered for this task, so I have to assume they have it all figured out.


PEI - polyethermide is a "common" coating for heated print beds. PC is so many different things, but in this context, it's likely to mean polycarbonate plastic. From what I've read, it's challenging to print with and especially challenging to get a good bond on the build plate. One reference suggests to use a PEI coated bed with a slurry of ABS applied prior to printing. As with so many things 3d printer related, many people have many different methods. The above one appears to be well received as a successful method.

  • $\begingroup$ Fred; Have you ever heard of a combination of PEI and polycarbonate? ... from what you have written this would seem rather exotic. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Jul 26 '16 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ Every reference I've seen, which is pretty exhaustive, shows the PEI aspect as the bed and adhesion reference. A quick check moments ago also results in the same connections. I agree that a mixture of such materials would be unusual at best. $\endgroup$ – fred_dot_u Jul 26 '16 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ That must be what they mean .... since it is for rugged aerospace use offering tough poly-carbonate as a filament material seems logical. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Jul 26 '16 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ Whoo-hoo pushed you over 1K reputation. $\endgroup$ – 3dalliance Jul 26 '16 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the super-bump! if I had both of these materials at hand, I would first determine appropriate temperatures. If they had disparate numbers, it would be clear that a combination would only be possible in zero gravity, as mixing might be a problem. If the temperatures were close, I would yet expect that there would be difficulty in a homogeneous mixture suitable for extrusion. I've worked with a bit of polycarbonate and it's tough. As filament with good bonding between layers, it will make strong parts. $\endgroup$ – fred_dot_u Jul 26 '16 at 20:10

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