Industry Market Trends

'Miracle' Graphene Could Potently Combine with 3D Printing

Aug 21, 2014

A company claims it is nearing the commercialization of graphene filaments that are compatible with 3D printing. The tandem of these technologies could lead to fast production of ultra-strong yet ultra-light parts with unprecedented performance properties.

The nanomaterial graphene could prove to be the most important synthetic material since plastic, but a cost-effective mass-production method for the material has as yet evaded commercialization. Now Graphene 3D Lab, a company based in Calverton, N.Y., appears to be on the verge of commercializing graphene-enhanced filaments compatible with fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers.

First isolated and identified in 2004, graphene is known as a "wonder material" due to its inherent properties. Composed of a single layer of carbon atoms bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons, graphene is 1 million times thinner than a sheet of paper and considered two-dimensional. It is the both the thinnest and the strongest material known to  man.

Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and six times lighter. The material conducts electricity 30 times faster than silicon and is also transparent and bendable.

As a result of these properties, graphene has exciting promise in applications such as bendable computer screens, wearable electronics, nano-electronics, liquid crystal displays, organic light-emitting diodes, supercapacitors, superthin and unbreakable touchscreens, biochemical sensing, and supercharged quantum computers. Engineers predict that graphene composite materials could replace much of the steel now used in the aerospace, defense, and  automotive industries by providing greater strength, reduced weight, and better fuel efficiency.

Now marry the properties of graphene with the benefits that 3D printing brings to the table, particularly the abilities to manufacture ultra-complex parts and to create precise replications of existing objects, and the potential impact on both consumer and industrial levels of 3D printing is promising. The availability of  graphene for 3D printing could accelerate sales of consumer and prosumer 3D printers, especially if it's compatible with most current FDM printers.

Graphene Filaments Reportedly Near Commercialization

While there is work being started by Stratasys in cooperation with privately held Graphene Technologies to develop graphene materials for 3D printing, their R&D agreement just began last month.

Graphene 3D Lab, meanwhile, has two patents pending on its technology, and its timetable, included in its investor presentation, shows that it expects revenues from graphene filaments for use in existing FDM printers to begin within 12 months. It would give Graphene 3D Lab a jump on getting graphene filaments to market first.

The company also plans to establish joint ventures and develop direct and indirect shipping and distribution channels as well as a proprietary 3D printer that "takes full advantage" of its graphene filaments. Revenues would come from the sale of this machine in addition to the filaments.

The members of Graphene 3D Lab's management are no strangers to the world of nanomaterials. CEO Daniel Stolyarov holds a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California, with expertise in nanomaterials and formulation of nanocomposites. He has co-authored papers with Nobel and Kavli prize winners, as well as members of the National Academy of Sciences.

COO Elena Polyakova also holds a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California. She is a regular speaker at graphene and nanotech conferences (most recently at Nanotech 2014) and is well known in industry and academia as an expert in two-dimensional materials. In addition to being a regular on the graphene conference circuit, she was a speaker at the World Congress of 3D Printing held in Dalian, China, in June.

As graphene pioneers, Stolyarov and Polyakova launched Graphene Laboratories, a commercially successful supplier of graphene, in 2009 -- five years after the material was discovered. Graphene Laboratories now has some 7,000 customers around the globe. Graphene 3D Lab is a spinoff company from Graphene Laboratories.

High-quality graphite is a base material for producing graphene. Lomiko Metals, an mineral exploration company with a focus on graphite development, will provide graphite to Graphene 3D Labs, as its exclusive supplier.

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