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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

Just One Word . . . Graphene

December 10th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

Almost 50 years ago, The Graduate, a 1967 film about Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who is talented, but aimless, premiered. It’s a good movie even today, but one of the better scenes is one when Ben is asked and advised about his future plans. Remember this one?

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Today, I see a potential parallel to a material beyond plastics – graphene.

Graphene has received a good deal of notoriety lately, and for good reason. It’s a very unique material with a huge potential future.

Just a little over two years ago, in an MCADCafe blog post I said that it’s not too often that a new material with incredible physical and electrical characteristics comes along, much less a process for turning it into products with endless possibilities. Well, that very thing happened when Lomiko Metals and Graphene Laboratories launched Graphene 3D Lab Inc.

The company was formed primarily to focus on developing high-performance graphene-enhanced materials for 3D printing.

If you’re unfamiliar with what graphene is, check out the following video.

What is Graphene?

Graphene 3D Lab develops and manufactures proprietary graphene-based nanocomposite materials for various types of 3D printing, including fused filament fabrication. The Company is also involved in the design, manufacture, and marketing of 3D printers and related products for domestic and international customers. The company has several U.S. patent applications pending for its technologies.

GLI, a player in manufacturing and retailing of graphene and advanced materials, owns the Graphene Supermarket, a supplier with a client list comprised of more than 8,000 customers worldwide, including nearly every Fortune 500 tech company and major research university. Some notable clients include NASA, Ford Motor Co., GE, Apple, Xerox, Samsung, Harvard University, IBM, and Stanford University. Graphene Laboratories also holds a provisional patent relating to technology enabling cost efficient industrial scale manufacture and processing of graphene.

Developments in 3D printing materials, such as graphene have allowed products with different material-based printed components such as electronic circuits, sensors, and batteries to be manufactured.

High-quality graphite is a base material for producing graphene. Graphene is one of the crystalline forms of carbon that also include diamond, graphite, and carbon nanotubes. In this material, carbon atoms are arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern. Graphene is a one-atom thick layer of graphite. In essence, graphene is an isolated atomic plane of graphite. Though difficult to process, high-quality graphene is very strong, light, nearly transparent, and an excellent heat and electrical conductor. Its interaction with other materials, as well as with light and its inherently two-dimensional nature provide its unique properties.

When it was first isolated in 2004, many researchers studying carbon nanotubes were somewhat familiar with the composition, structure, and properties of graphene, which had actually been postulated decades earlier. The combination of familiarity, extraordinary properties, and relative ease of isolation fostered an explosion in graphene research. In addition, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their experiments with graphene.

Graphene 3D Labs was a solid first step into the world of graphene, 3D printing, printed electronics, and other products and applications.

At the time of the founding of Graphene 3D Lab, CEO, Dr. Daniel Stolyarov said, “With this exciting new venture, we are well-positioned for continued success in accomplishing our historic goal of commercializing graphene-based materials, with a new focus on 3D printing, a novel method of manufacturing end-user goods. By combining 3D printing with graphene nanocomposites, we can expand the potential applications of 3D printing.”

How Graphene Could Change the World

Last week Graphene 3D Lab Inc. announced that it had filed a patent application relating to the process of 3D printing an organic LED light source with its multi-functional 3D Printer. The printer patent relates to technology for multiple deposition techniques, a robotic manipulator, as well as laser and UV curing capabilities. The patent also covers a new 3D printer that can print a light source, an organic LED light with a structure that has a graphene-coated transparent conductor window.

“We consider this new IP a dramatic leap forward, offering the ability to 3D print with multiple functional materials at the same time, including the ability to 3D print a working light. This printer was specifically designed to maximize the attributes of the functional materials we have already, and will introduce in the future to the market,” said Elena Polyakova Co-CEO of Graphene 3D. “Industrial builders will now have a printer with functionality that allows users to expand the potential of the projects they can design and manufacture. We believe these patents reflect the most advanced and functional 3D printer available anywhere today.”

The printer will not be available immediately for pre-order. Instead, the company is evaluating contract manufacturing and partnership opportunities to support commercialization of the printer.

This week Graphene 3D announced that it had closed a share exchange agreement to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Graphene Laboratories Inc. The transaction has been reviewed and accepted for filing. For the last fiscal year ending December 31, 2014, the company recorded annual revenues in excess of USD $1,000,000 and has no material debt. Not exactly detailed information, but this is typical of the information disclosed for deals like this.

Graphene Laboratories will continue to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Graphene 3D.

Is this relatively new material and process in danger of being overhyped? Possibly, but maybe not. A lot of promising technologies have failed to profitably translate from being novelty research projects to commercially viable products. This one, though, seems different, because graphene’s physical and electrical properties are so unique and its possible applications in commercial products are so vast. And, of course, there’s the 3D printing capability.

I don’t think anyone (except maybe investors) is looking for an overwhelming overnight success, but this material warrants both patience and vigilance to see what happens.

Ultimately, will graphene be as ubiquitous as plastics? That’s still anybody’s guess, but it might play out as a sequel to The Graduate featuring Benjamin Braddock’s grandson who will be summoned to listen to just one word . . . graphene!

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