August 22, 2016
Every additive manufacturing (AM) system offers the potential for endless creativity. As designers learn to embrace the possibilities offered by digital design and AM, the number of applications for the technology increases. Everything has its limits, however, and for AM those limits are sometimes related to materials.
3D printing has already come a long way from the days when it was primarily a plastic process. You can find AM systems that print in wood, ceramics, metal and much, much more. According to a patent filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office, Lockheed Martin may be developing a method that will add synthetic diamond to that list.
The patent in question is titled “3-D Diamond Printing Using a Pre-Ceramic Polymer with a Nanoparticle Filler” and the contents match the description. Very generally, Lockheed Martin’s system would use ceramic material in combination with a polymer binding agent to build up layers of an object. That object would then be subjected to heat in order to form the end result of a 3D printed synthetic diamond.
Like most good ideas, the patent builds on existing technology. You can already find 3D printers that build ceramic objects, and heat is an inevitable part of the procedure. Although also reliant on ceramic material, the process outlined by Lockheed Martin seems closer to some metal printing processes (loose material plus binder plus heat) than existing ceramic printing.
The most obvious application for the process is for building complex and highly durable drill bits, but the patent also outlines other possibilities. One manufacturing method describes a continuous manufacturing process that results in cloth-like material that could be used for body armor.
Not every patent results in an end design, so this could simply be an idea floating around Lockheed Martin that someone thought was at least worth locking down. Below you’ll find a video about synthetic diamonds.
Source: US Patent Office