The world has known about graphene for little more than a decade, and recently was made available as a filament for 3D printers, in the form of a nanocomposite combined with PLA. For the past two months, we at CD3D have had the privilege of working with the unique filament from Graphene 3D Lab, that sparked worldwide attention early this year. What we can say at the moment is that this material has several outstanding features, even though it’s pretty tough to 3D print with. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my thoughts about the possibilities that Graphene 3D gives to the average low-budget 3D printer user.
This new form of graphite called graphene, was isolated for the first time just 11 years ago at the University of Manchester. It gripped the imagination of scientists and inventors around the world. Among the proposed uses for graphene are extremely thin, and transparent bullet-proof vests, flexible displays, and contact lenses with built-in night vision.
In March, Graphene 3D Lab released the first 3D printing filament containing graphene, a nanocomposite PLA with graphene nanofibers. The material, despite its high price, is in constant demand. Currently, the average waiting time for ordering the material is about one week, quite an unusual phenomenon in terms of 3D printing filaments.
Although the material exhibits some of the characteristics of graphene, it is hardly a substitute for what graphene presents in its pure form. Make no mistake, therefore, that graphene filament can print objects as durable as Iron Man’s armor. So, what can we do with a 3D printer and some graphene filament?
The most important feature of graphene filament is its ability to conduct electricity, but the maximum voltage must be limited to 12V and a power source 100 mA.
Graphene filament saves time and effort in creating PCB for our projects. Using it, we can 3D print tracks directly onto plastic (eg. PLA) parts. The biggest advantage of this feature will be for owners of dual-head 3D printers, due to the ability to hide paths within a model. In addition, it is possible to print flexible circuits, by applying thin graphene paths onto parts made of flexible filaments, like NinjaFlex or Bendlay flex.
Graphene is 100 times harder and has 300 times more tensile strength than steel. Graphene 3D composite doesn’t have such extreme properties, but prints from it will be mechanically stronger than PLA or ABS. Therefore, with this filament, we can print various items that will undergo mechanical stresses.
If we had such a need, with Graphene filament we can also 3D print screens for protection against an electromagnetic field. For instance, we can use it to avoid erroneous readings with very sensitive measuring devices.
With Graphene filament we can also print capacitive touch sensors. This, in particular, could open a world for our own game controllers, musical instruments, and other types of input devices.
While it may not have the same qualities as the pure form of graphene, this nanocomposite brings some very useful applications to any desktop 3D printing user. Now, we can only imagine what will be possible when a pure graphene filament is finally produced.