VTT Finland and Carbodeon develop nanodiamond-reinforced PLA for 3D printers

Finnish nanodiamond materials developer Carbodeon has released the uDiamond filament for FFF 3D printers made with the help of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland  A patented material, uDiamond filament combines standard PLA plastic with nanodiamond particles for reinforcement, reportedly providing stronger 3D prints and faster deposition rates.

“This is the first product of a family that will be sold as a finished 3D filament and in a granular format, as well,” comments Carbodeon CEO Vesa Myllymäki, “VTT has been a long-term, reliable partner in this development, and has reacted to our needs quickly.”

PLA + uDiamond filament. Photo via Carbodeon
PLA + uDiamond filament. Photo via Carbodeon

3D printing diamonds

Nanodiamonds are artificial diamond particles synthesized in carbon-based explosions or via bombardment. They were discovered in 1963 as a byproduct of nuclear explosions at the All-Union Research Institute of Technical Physics in Russia. Since then, nanodiamonds have been explored for their potential application in healthcare and electronics.

Most recently, RMIT University researchers discovered that 3D printed medical implants coated with nanodiamonds improved cell adhesion when compared to uncoated titanium.

Carbodeon uDiamond

Carbodeon was established in 2006 to develop “a unique set of patented technologies for manufacturing and deploying nanodiamonds” under the uDiamond brand name. To date uDiamond technology has been explored as an additive for plating alloys, and now the company is focusing on the 3D printer market.

In March 2018, Carbodeon confirmed that it was working on a nanodiamond reinforced 3D printer filament with Dutch 3D printer material developer Tiamet 3D.

Faster 3D printing

According to Carbodeon, PLA + uDiamond filament is “nozzle friendly” and suitable for use with commercial desktop 3D printers. In fact, the spherical nanodiamond particles reportedly act as a lubricant for the filament, and their dispersion throughout the PLA enhances thermal conductivity. Tests with the filament have claimed print speeds of up to 500 mm/s.

The research team at VTT was key to achieving the correct rheology for this filament. Jarmo Ropponen VTT Research Team Leader, explains, “Using our chemical pilot devices, we at VTT produced the nanodispersed material required for the melt processing, and thus supported the creation of a new product.”

After adding nanodiamond content to the PLA, Ropponen says “The melt processing of plastics became easier and the mechanical characteristics were improved.”

From left VTT Polymer Pilot unit employees: Sini-Tuuli Rauta, Jari-Pekka Kankaanpää, Satu Pasanen and Timo Flyktman. Photo via VTT Finland
From left VTT Polymer Pilot unit employees: Sini-Tuuli Rauta, Jari-Pekka Kankaanpää, Satu Pasanen and Timo Flyktman. Photo via VTT Finland

200% improvement on standard PLA

PLA + uDiamond is now available in 500g spools, either 1.75 mm or 2/85 mm in diameter. The material also boasts biodegradability, low toxicity and high strength/stiffness.

Satu Pasanen, Research Scientist at VTT in charge piloting the product adds, “Based on the preliminary tests, the modulus of the 3D printed test pieces was improved at best by more than 200% compared to the PLA-based filament already on the market.”

The engineering team at 3D Printing Industry hope to review the product soon.

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Featured image shows PLA + uDiamond filament. Photo via Carbodeon