April 30, 2013
The evolution of additive manufacturing (AM) will rely as much on materials as on process, resolution or build envelope. No one will care if you have a system that can print entire airplane wings, for example, if the materials involved are substandard. Researchers are constantly developing new materials to fuel our 3D printers.
American Graphite Technologies (AG) wants one of the materials used in future AM products to be graphene. The company recently announced a letter of intent with several Ukrainian research facilities, including the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology (KIPT) to find a way to incorporate graphene into AM.
Combining graphene and 3D printing could lead to whole new areas of production. Graphene conducts electricity better than copper, which means computer architecture could be partially, or completely, created simply using an AM system. Scientists are already investigating using graphene to build flexible computers that you can fold up and fit in your pocket. Until that becomes possible, AM could provide a framework to support graphene computer structures, building objects in any shape customers could desire.
Graphene is also incredibly strong and durable. Objects built using AM from graphene material would be less likely to break than steel, and lighter to boot. While it might seem like a waste to use graphene to build a drill bit, that bit would last much longer than its metal brethren and could be made in any size or shape needed, using AM.
I’ll be keeping an eye on AG to see how their project is going. If KIPT can come up with a way to use graphene for AM, the future of design may well be changed forever.
Below you’ll find a short video about graphene.