Article last updated on: Jan 25, 2019

3D printing (or additive manufacturing) refers to a process in which a 3D printer is used for stacking layers of material under computer control, following a 3D model (or other electronic data source), resulting in a printed three-dimensional object.

ORDbot Quantum 3D printer photo

Various applications for 3D printing include design visualization and prototyping, metal casting, architecture, education, healthcare, entertainment and more. As 3D printing technology continues to evolve and develop, researchers imply possible biotechnological uses like bio-printing and computer-aided tissue engineering as well as retail manufacturing of custom end products which might change the face of commerce.

A large number of 3D printing processes exist nowadays, differing mainly in their methods of layering and the materials that are used. Some methods melt or soften material to produce layers while others use liquid materials or thin layers of material that are cut to shape and joined together. 3D printing materials are varied, and include Thermoplastics, HDPE, Rubber, edible materials, clay, metal alloy, and more. New technologies, such as infusing carbon fibers into plastics, allow for a stronger, lighter material.

Graphene, a single-atomic layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, is repeatedly dubbed a “wonder material” due to its immense array of uncanny properties like extraordinary conductivity, flexibility and transparency.

Graphene-enhanced nanocomposite materials greatly improve traditional materials used in 3D printing, like plastics. Graphene nanoplatelets that are added to polymers make materials that are mechanically stronger and with improved thermal and electrical conductivity.



Graphene 3D Labs logoGraphene 3D Lab, a joint-venture between Graphene Labs and Lomiko Metals, is one of the leaders in this new market. The company's founder and COO, Dr. Elena Polyakova comments in an interview for Graphene-info on the advantages of graphene-based materials over current 3D printing materials: “Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) -- a method of 3D printing in which filament is extruded layer by layer to create objects -- capabilities are currently bound by the offerings of filaments, which generally includes non-functional thermoplastics. While such plastics are great for printing desktop models and fascinating gadgets, the real-world applications of printing with such filaments by themselves are limited. By creating a line of materials with functional properties, the capabilities of FFF 3D printers will be greatly expanded.

By way of example, filaments infused with graphene can be conductive and much more durable than non-specialized filaments, features which are necessary for a host of applications. We also intend to develop filaments with other functional properties, including magnetic capabilities.” as per Dr. Polyakova's words, Graphene 3D Lab is funded to begin production of printing filaments in the near future, and is working towards a target of reaching commercial production around the first half of 2015.

Graphene 3D Labs also plans to produce 3D printable batteries, based on graphene. These batteries can potentially outperform current commercial batteries, and will come in shapes and sizes that can be tailored to match the designs of specific devices. The company already unveiled a prototype battery in October 2014. In March 2015 G3L announced that it has launched commercial sales of its conductive graphene filament for 3D printing. The filament incorporates highly conductive proprietary nanocarbon materials to enhance the properties of PLA, a widely used thermoplastic material for 3D printing. The filament is therefore compatible with most commercially available 3D printers. In June 2015, the company announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Ideum, a company which develops large-scale smart-tables and walls. The agreement lays the foundation for joint research, product development, and marketing between the two companies. Graphene 3D and Ideum will evaluate and co-develop products by Graphene 3D which can be used as capacitive sensors to interface with Ideum's products. Graphene 3D will also begin commercial on-demand 3D printing of coasters, joysticks, and styluses which Ideum clients can use to interact with their smart-tables. For example, styluses of various shapes, 3D printed in Conductive Graphene Filament, may be used as brushes used in photo editing software to give a more hands-on feel to creative work done on an Ideum smart-table.

The latest graphene 3D printing news:

An interview with Graphmatech's CFO, Björn Lindh

Sweden-based Graphmatech develops and produces novel graphene-based nanocomposite materials, under the Aros Graphene brand. The company recently secured an investment from ABB and Walerud Ventures, and the company's CFO, Björn Lindh, was kind enough to answer a few questions we had to him.

Björn Lindh - Graphmatech

Q: Thank you for your time Björn. Can you give us a short introduction to Graphmatech's Aros Graphene materials, and how it differs from other graphene materials on the market?

Graphmatech has invented the novel material, Aros Graphene that keeps most of graphene's features, while making it easy to use in large industrial scales by preventing agglomeration, which is a key challenge for the use of graphene. Aros graphene is produced in powder form and can be used as additive, as coating or even in 3D-printing. The market introduction and launch of first products, filaments and thermal paste, will be introduced to the market in 2019.

Liquid X and Bonbouton to collaborate on graphene-enhanced textile-based sensors

Liquid X Printed Metals, an advanced material manufacturer of functional metallic inks, has announced a collaboration effort with Bonbouton (a company focused on developing thermal sensing applications using a smart textile platform) to build graphene-enhanced temperature and pressure sensors directly on textiles using additive manufacturing techniques.

Through Bonbouton's inkjet-printable graphene technology, licensed from the Stevens Institute of Technology, the Company is developing thin and mechanically flexible sensors for wearable physiology monitoring. This gives consumers wearable personal health options that are unobtrusive, comfortable and attractive, while still enabling the collection of accurate, precise and useful data.

A new method may enable 3D printing complex structures with graphene

Researchers from Virginia Tech and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a new way to 3D print with graphene. Graphene has previously been used in extrusion-based processes to print single sheets and basic structures at a resolution of around 100 microns, but this latest research shows it is also possible to use a stereolithography-based technique to print “pretty much any desired structure” down to 10 microns, close to the size of actual graphene sheets. The ability to 3D print functional parts in graphene could benefit many industries and products.

Graphene aerogel for 3d printing image

“Now a designer can design three-dimensional topology comprised of interconnected graphene sheets,” said Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, assistant professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering and director of the Advanced Manufacturing and Metamaterials Lab. “This new design and manufacturing freedom will lead to optimization of strength, conductivity, mass transport, strength, and weight density that are not achievable in graphene aerogels.”

Graphematech and Add North 3D develop novel graphene-enhanced 3D printing filaments

A collaboration between two innovative material technology startups Graphmatech and Add North 3D (a Swedish 3D materials developer specialized in FDM materials) has developed novel conductive Aros Graphene-based filaments for 3D printing. This may open up many new different 3D-printing applications such as thermal management components, circuit boards and efficient electromagnetic and radio frequency shielding.

The recently developed 3D-printing technology based on Graphematech's Aros Graphene may grant the ability to control the exact level of conductivity of the filament. The new filaments will now be optimized and go through beta testing with a reference group before it is expected to reach the market in 6-12 month.

Graphematech develops a simple, scalable method for coating polymer powder and granular with a layer of Aros Graphene

Sweden-based Graphematech, a startup company that develops and sells novel graphene-based nanocomposite materials and services, has announced the development of a scalable method for coating polymer powder and granular with a layer of its Aros Graphene. The Company sees this is a major boost to the polymer composites industry.

Graphematech develops a simple and scalable method for coating polymer powder and granular with a layer of Aros Graphene image

This newly developed method is said to be very efficient for obtaining high quality dispersion of Aros Graphene additive inside a polymer matrix without the use of high shear forces in melt mixing. It enormously reduces production costs and minimizes property degradation for both the polymer matrix and the additive while maintaining high quality and homogeneous composite. The invented method can be also applied for coating polymer powder with different materials such as metals, ceramics, fibers, cellulose and more.