3D Printing and Graphene Are The Future of Production

3D printing and graphene have emerged over the past few years as some of the hottest technology topics in the world.  The ideas of printing whatever you so please, including multiple separate components simultaneously, and the nearly unlimited potential of the physical properties of graphene have an undeniable sex appeal.  Beyond the media buzz, however, lies the real-world issue of how to realize these potentials and create usable products.  So how do we further that realization?

In a panel led by Graphene Stakeholders Association Cofounder and Co-Executive Director Stephen Waite today, FiRe attendees were given a grounded perspective of the issues at hand.  Waite noted that while the excitement about graphene (which mimics that over materials such as ceramics, CBD’s and carbon nanotubes in the past) may seem overblown, it is justly based in the tangible properties of the material. Keith Blakely, CEO of the InVentures Group, explained that graphene is 300 times stronger than steel, has an electron mobility 150 times that of silicon, and permits a current density 1 million times that of copper.  The material stands as the strongest, most conductive substance known to man.

Jon Myers, Founder and CEO of Graphene Technologies, noted that while graphene is indeed a fantastic substance, we don’t yet know exactly what to do with it.  Myers took this fact and ran with it: Graphene Technologies specializes in R&D to solve that problem.  Between now and this fall, Myers explained, the company will be working to create applicable polymers that meet specs they have received from clients.  While the substance’s nature renders it difficult to work with, Myers stated that his firm was “very close to a breakthrough that would put us on a commercial track.”

Gonzalo Martinez, Director of Strategic Research at the Office of the CTO at Autodesk, explained the bumps in the road to effective 3D printing.  Citing the fact that 3D printers can use 110 materials so far, Martinez noted that “in the manufacturing arena that is absolutely nothing.”  His frustration with 3D printing firms’ reluctance to explore new materials led Martinez to the conclusion that the technology must be open source.  With the opening of the API for 3D printing, Martinez hopes to expand the materials side of development, a move based in part on the Google model for cellular technology.

While Martinez’ decision led predictably to “a lot of pretty nasty e-mails”, it could very well be a boon for us all.  With an increase in materials capabilities on the 3D printing side and the perfection of graphene polymer production, we stand at a very exciting time for the two technologies.  With a high possibility of the trajectories meeting, the question “What can we make with graphene?” may soon become “What can’t we?”