As we’ve mentioned so many times in past articles, the convergence of additive manufacturing and the ‘miracle material’ graphene could have major ramifications for dozens of industries over the next several years. Because of this, researchers and companies are spending a great deal of time and money figuring out the best methods to 3D print graphene.
A group of researchers, led by Seol Seung-kwon at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute’s Nano Hybrid Technology Research Center (KERI) are at the forefront of this research. As we mentioned last month, KERI, a unit under the Ministry of Finance in South Korea, recently published a paper in Advanced Materials called ‘3D Printing of Reduced Graphene Oxide Nanowires‘.
Basically the researchers found a way to print with 100% graphene, as opposed to other research being done on the printing of graphene composite materials. They rely on a tiny dropper, called a micropipette, which is filled with sheets of graphene oxide. They then add hydrazine to the solution which causes evaporation and allows the graphene to extrude from the tiny chemical dropper. This, as far as we can tell, is the first instance in which researchers were able to 3D print pure graphene.
Today, in an interview with the Korea Times, Professor Seol Seung-kwon and KERI provided a bit of an update on their plans to bring such technology to market, as well as their thoughts on its various futuristic applications.
“The 3D nano printing technology will make it possible to produce 3D objects using various materials, including metal, plastic and graphene, compared to the existing 3D printers that only use plastic as material,” said Seol Seung-kwon, a senior researcher at KERI’s Nano Hybrid Technology Research Center. “This technology can be applied to diverse industrial segments. In particular, it is anticipated to set a new paradigm in the printed electronics segment, which has lacked core technology so far.”
Whereas ordinary 3D printers print with plastics, resins, and some metals, the printer that the KERI team has built can print on the nano-scale level in extremely conductive graphene (pure carbon). This enables for the printing of flexible electronics, and could eventually lead the way to a whole slew of amazing new flexible technologies such as wearable devices, and even perhaps foldable smartphones.
KERI has stated that a patent for this technology has been applied for and their ultimate plan will be to commercialize it so that manufacturers in a variety of industries can eventually adopt and benefit from such methods.
“Currently,” said Seol, “we have developed the core technology for the 3D nano printing and expect that we need three years for the follow-up research required to commercialize the technology.”
Once refined, it will be interesting to see how quickly this technology is adopted within the manufacturing space, particularly for electronics and high tech gadgets. It will also be interesting to see if any other methods of printing pure graphene are available in three years when KERI and Seol believe that their technology will become available to businesses.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this their plan to take this form of 3D printing and commercialize it as quickly as possible. Discuss in the Pure Graphene 3D printing forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out a video of the graphene 3D printing process below: