3D Printing with Graphene
By Colin Ward - 5 July 2015
3D Printing is the perfect bedmate for graphene and allows it to be formed into almost any shape. This can be as a graphene composite material like a plastic filament or as an ink or gel.
Why 3D Print Graphene?
Graphene has many potential applications such as sensors, radio shielding, battery electronic circuits, water/liquid filtration, biomedical and increasing material strength to name but a few. One of the big hurdles however is how do you get graphene into a real product?
Beware that in composite form the special qualities of graphene are diminished (but may still offer a significant enhancement to an existing product or material). Current research has demonstrated ink/gels with 60%+ graphene content which retains many of the original characteristics.
3d printing enables you to create graphene composites and fast prototype physical products that can be tested and refined at a very competitive cost. It also allows you to create simple or highly complex structures. 3D printing (Also know as additive manufacturing) can also be used for small batch or custom production.
Which Graphene ?
One important thing you need to understand is that graphene comes in many flavours - graphene, graphene oxide, reduced graphene oxide, few-layer graphene (FLG), multi-layer graphene (MLG) and graphite nanoplateletes, nanosheets and nanoflakes. Each form has different qualities. A graphene suitable for creating a battery is completely different from that needed in electronics. The big challenge for graphene manufacturers and researchers will be to create an understandable database that closely matches graphene types to specific applications.
Commercial Graphene 3D Printing Filaments
Blackmagic3D - Graphene 3D Labs
Graphene Supermarket - Graphene in many other forms
3D Printing Research
3D printing of graphene is at a very early stage, but below are some links to researchers in the field. (If you know of others please email details).
Esther García-Tuñon - Imperial College London, UK
Drs Esther Garcia Tunon Blanca, Suelen Barg, Victoria Garcia Rocha and Professor Eduardo Saiz Gutierrez in the Department of Materials at Imperial College London have developed graphene paste formulations containing flakes of chemically modified graphene and small amounts of polymers. The team say their pastes could be used to develop a range of new components using 3D printers.
Ramille N. Shah - Northwestern Univeristy, USA
The Shah TEAM lab is a leader in the new and developing field of “3D-Printable Materials Development and Characterization”. We develop novel processes for engineering new 3D-inks that greatly expands the variety of materials that are compatible with the additive manufacturing technique of direct ink writing. An additional focus of the group is defining “printability”, or the characteristics that enable a material ink to be successfully 3D-printed into a bulk structure. We also perform characterization, functional testing, and optimization of resulting 3D-printed structures for both biological and non-biological applications.
Toby Heys - Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Working with Dr. Craig Banks (Reader in nano and electrochemical technology) and Matt Pilling (lecturer from Architecture) at MMU, we are developing a 3D printer and process that allows us to construct three dimensional objects made from graphene. It is currently not possible to utilise the highly conductive and lightweight material graphene within additive manufacturing. If successful, we will have the capacity to produce a consistent substance and process that can be utilised by engineering, aerospace, and electronics industries.
Nicholas Decorde - Cambridge Graphene Centre, UK
National Graphene Institute (NGI) - Manchester, UK
What Next ?
If you would like help bringing a graphene product or service to market contact me at. firstname.lastname@example.org
Page updated: 5 July 2015
3D Printing comes in a number of forms but the most common is Fused Filament Deposition - Where molten 'plastic' is extruded from a hot nozzle and laid down one layer at a time. (Just like a hot glue gun but accurately controlled by a computer) Inks and gels can also be deposited through a syringe like delivery stem.
Graphene is a form of carbon consisting of planar sheets which are one atom thick, with the atoms arranged in a honeycomb-shaped lattice.
1 gramme of graphene can cover 2,600 sq ft (242 M2) – A little goes a long way.
3 million sheets of graphene stacked on top of each other just 1 mm thick – Tricky to see edge on!
Can flex 20% without damage – Not so many broken phones in pockets.
97.3% Transparent – pop just 1% of graphene into a clear plastic and it becomes conductive.
This is a theoretical mathematical construct that has infinite surface area and no volume.
If the Menger Sponge can be 3D printed it may be the perfect structure for a heat sink to absorb shockwaves or dampen mechanical vibrations.