Graphene adds electronics to 3D printing

PLA Graphene is a new 3D printing material, which is capable of conducting electricity. This material facilitates adding electronics to objects being printed.

 

What are the benefits offered by PLA Graphene?

For example, this material can be used to make simple electrical connections. Such as a simple LED lamp. Graphene is still not suited for making connections that are too complex, seeing that, at the same time, the material also resists the flow of electricity. The more graphene is used for a connection, the larger is the resistance in the flow of electricity.

Modelling of items

Applying the Solid Edge solution we modelled a simple LED lamp with serially connected batteries and a LED. The model was made in the Solid Edge Assembly environment, where models can be easily developed into a consistent assembly.

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The frame of the item is printed using a normal PLA material, while the conductive integrated structures are printed with PLA Graphene. The miniFactory’s Dual extruder makes it possible to use two different materials for creating a single piece.

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Testing of functionalities

After printing the part and the functionality of the LED lamp were tested. The LED came on when it had been submersed well into the graphene and the batteries were provided sufficient contact. The contact surface of the batteries was improved by adding graphene, and a small piece of aluminium foil was inserted between the poles of the battery, improving the batteries’ contact and leaving no slack. After that the LED stayed on without any problems.

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Resistivity of material

The resistivity of PLA Graphene was also measured, yielding indicative values about the material’s resistivity.

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By investigating the values one can see that the more graphene is used the higher is the resistivity. For this reason this particular material is not suited for highly complex projects. The initial goal was to set up wireless transmission of electricity using printed coils, but the project would not have been completely successful because of the limitations of the material and the printing process. PLA Graphene is certainly a printing material for the future, provided that its properties, such as conductivity, are developed further.

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-Mikko Seppälä-

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