Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon atoms tightly bonded in a hexagonal lattice, and is a million times thinner than paper, stronger than diamond and more conductive than copper. Polyakova noted that graphene and other nanomaterials can be used to produce many types of advanced 3D-printer filaments, the feedstock for 3D printers.
Filament types include electrically conductive (PC boards and connectors); thermally conductive (heat sinks to reduce overheating of electronic devices); mechanically reinforced; magnetic; transparent (3D-printed lenses, windows and light guides); and electromechanical devices such as batteries for powering 3D-printed devices, Polyakova explained in her presentation.
Water-soluable filaments are primarily used to occupy negative space during a 3D print. These filaments are essentially used to fill gaps designed in objects and allow the print to be suspended over air. Following completion of the printing process, the object can be placed in water, and the water-soluble material will completely dissolve, leaving empty space.
Daniel Stolyarov, President and CEO of Graphene 3D Lab, stated: "We are very pleased with the performance characteristic that our R&D team designed into this new industry-leading filament. This filament is completely environmentally-friendly, non-toxic, dissolves completely in water in approximately one hour and leaves no residual material."
The new water-soluble filament will work in most commercially available 3D printers and Graphene 3D expects to have them to market within three months. "This filament allows designers to do more with 3D printing and are expanding the possibilities within the 3D printing environment," Stolyarov added.
In a telephone interview, Polyakova told PlasticsToday that the company's goal was a conductive material used in fused deposition modeling (FDM) for PLA. "It has no toxic fumes and it is a popular material to work with," she said. "Additionally, we can control the properties of PLA after the graphene is added and can layer the PLA."
The company is working on graphene as an additive for a number of different materials for commercial applications. Graphene can be added to materials used in injection molding applications as well as for electrical and electronic products.
One of the reasons that Graphene 3D Lab developed the filament for 3D printing is that they "command very high profit margins," said Polyakova, "but we also have materials for injection molding applications. Graphene has superior shielding properties—0.3 ohms per centimeter—but electrical conductivity is just one aspect of the material."
Currently the price of graphene is very high, approximately $350/kg. "We expect the price to go down to $100/Kg," Polyakova said. "If the price goes down, we expect wider applications. Currently we are looking for end markets for our materials. Graphene is an umbrella additive, and we can make changes to materials [resulting] in different properties for different applications. We're planning on adding more products in the future."