Some of you may be tired of me writing at great lengths about the extraordinary properties exhibited by the recently discovered material, graphene. One of the most conductive materials known to man, with strength-to-weight ratios unheard of until recently, the material could play a major role in virtually every industry out there in some form or another.
If you think that I already sound pretty excited, then wait until you hear me talk about the 3D printing of graphene! It’s already been done to some extent. Companies such as Graphene 3D Lab, in which I’ve had the pleasure of meeting their CEO, Daniel Stolyarov last month in California, are at the forefront of this area. With that said, there is a difference between 3D printing pure graphene, and 3D printing a graphene/thermoplastic composites like Graphene 3D has been doing.
While printing with composite materials, using a typical FDM/FFF or powder based laser sintering process, will keep some of graphene’s superior properties intact, most will be lost. The plastic will eventually break down leaving any prints weak, and not much different from a typical object you’d print with a MakerBot Replicator using PLA or ABS filament. Some conductive properties of the graphene will shine through though, but they too will be limited.
Researchers, led by Professor Seung Kwon Seol from Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI), recently published a paper in Advanced Materials called ‘3D.
Printing of Reduced Graphene Oxide Nanowires‘. In the paper they describe a groundbreaking new process of directly 3D printing pure graphene. This means that 100% graphene nano-structures can be fabricated without the use of any other material. Since the entire printed structure is composed of graphene, the strength, as well as full conductivity of the material is able to be realized.