On the one hand, graphene is the most-talked about material of the decade, for its strength, flexibility, and thinness. On the other, 3D printing is, in my deluded eyes, the most talked about technology of the decade, for its ability to produce complex, efficiently designed objects. When combined, 3D printing with graphene has immense potential. For that reason, Australia’s Kibaran Resources, a miner and supplier of graphene and graphite, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with 3D Group, an Australian marketer of 3D printing systems and services.
Kibaran is in the process of developing its Mahenge and Merelani graphite deposits in Tanzania to become a steady supplier of graphite and, with the MOU, it plans to investigate the use of 3D printing using the one-atom thick, near transparent graphite derivative, graphene. Under the memorandum, the supplier will team with 3D Group to establish the joint R&D company 3D Graphtech Industries, which will research and patent graphene and graphite for use in 3D printing, as well as seek outside partnerships to extend their efforts.
The new alliance will augment Kibaran’s global reach, already established in the European market through a binding partnership with a European graphite trader. The company believes that 3D Graphtech Industries could serve graphite’s other applications well, in the manufacturing of thermally conductive building panels for more efficient heating and cooling systems. Kibaran’s Executive Director, Andrew Spinks, explains how he sees the partnership in affecting both companies, as well as the industry as a whole:
The technology is being driven out of Europe with ThyssenKrupp and SGL Group leading the field in research and development work, and commercial applications. The potential growth of expanded graphite in the emerging thermal market is significant, and is considered to be on par with the use of graphite in the fast-growing battery market. Kibaran is well placed to capitalise on these market trends, with expanded graphite a highly sought after commodity and demanding a premium price to graphite. 3D technology has the potential to bring about a quantum shift in the way we produce new materials and products, including whole structures or individual components, in a raft of new industries. Its commerciality has been proven with the production of car parts, jewellery, dental applications such as crowns, and there are also investigations underway to print houses for a fraction of the cost. The strategic alliance with 3D Group positions Kibaran as a potential supplier of expanded graphite and graphene products through the mine supply chain, and creates additional shareholder value in the downstream sector. The MOU will not deter from Kibaran’s main focus of advancing its graphite projects in Tanzania, with the company focused on finalising the binding agreement with Richland Resources and a JORC resource upgrade expected shortly for the flagship Mahenge Graphite Project.
The new company, 3D Graphtech Industries, will, hopefully, be established by the end of the year, leaving the outcomes of the graphene 3DP research and development still a ways off into the future.
Feature Image Source: Daily Mail