AMS Spring 2023

Sparc Technologies Breaks Ground on Facility for Graphene 3D Printing Materials

Inkbit

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Australian startup Sparc Technologies, a materials science company focused on developing industrial applications for graphene, announced that it has begun construction of a production facility devoted to graphene-based additive manufacturing (AM) materials. At the new site, located in Adelaide, Sparc intends to build up its production capacity for graphene-based coatings and composites to commercial scale.

A nanomaterial, ‘graphene’ more or less refers to the thinnest possible layer of graphite that can exist in isolation. Its very existence was considered purely theoretical until 2004, when a form of it was discovered by physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the UK’s University of Manchester. Utilizing a block of graphite and plain old scotch tape, Geim and Noveselov isolated the material in two-dimensional form, an accomplishment that won them the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The industrial interest in developing graphene-based substances surrounds the nanomaterial’s potential to be combined with a wide range of other chemicals, which, when successful, creates synergy between graphene’s unique characteristics and those of whatever element or compound it’s synthesized with. As is typically the case regarding advanced materials, the main difficulty in leveraging graphene’s potential lies in systematizing production profitably at scale. However, Sparc Technologies’ announcement could be signaling an inflection point in the mainstreaming of graphene-based materials.
Image courtesy of Sparc Technologies

In a press release announcing the start of construction on the company’s new graphene production facility, Sparc Technologies’ managing director, Mike Bartels, commented, “Our ongoing comprehensive testing program with global tier 1 and 2 coatings companies continues to demonstrate the significant performance improvement of coatings and composites materials employing our products. By improving coatings performance the frequency of asset maintenance can be significantly reduced which subsequently serves to reduce costs and importantly the environmental footprint associated with such activities.”

Image courtesy of Sparc Technologies

In addition to its strength, and the already-mentioned ability to be bonded to a wide variety of other chemicals, much of the recent R&D interest in graphene-based materials stems from their bactericidal properties. Thus, along with heavy industry and energy — Sparc Technologies, for instance, has a strong focus on hydrogen power — graphene-based materials are increasingly gaining traction in the medical device sector.

Finally, the utilization of graphene in coatings and composites would seem to be particularly viable for the AM sector in Australia, given the growing importance of cold spray AM in that market. Given the potential of graphene-based metal alloys for use in renewable energy, the successful combination of those two technologies — nanomaterials science and cold spray AM — could have significant implications for accelerating the scale-up of more sustainable energy supply chains.

3DPrint.com and SmarTech Analysis are hosting Additive Manufacturing Strategies in New York City on February 7-9, 2023. Register for the event here to learn from and network with the most exciting companies and individuals in AM.

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