Graphene Materials for 3D Printing: This Company is Leading the Charge
New graphene materials for use in existing consumer-grade 3D printers to be launched by little-known company that began trading last week: Graphene 3D Lab Inc. (TSXV:GGG). A listing in the U.S. is pending.
3D printing has obstacles to overcome at the consumer level before widespread adoption can occur. While encouraging advances are being made, many say that for 3D printers to become as ubiquitous as microwave ovens there needs to be a killer application using 3D printing that will cause a dramatic spike in sales.
But it’s not so much a new killer app as a new material that may make people want to run out and buy a 3D printer. That material is graphene. And there’s a company that recently began trading that’s close to commercializing graphene for 3D printing.
New graphene materials and 3D printing
Graphene is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms in a repeating pattern of hexagons. It’s 100 times stronger than steel but so thin that it’s considered two-dimensional. In fact, graphene is both the strongest and thinnest material known to exist. Also, graphene conducts electricity 30 times faster than silicon, it’s transparent and is extremely flexible and bendable.
Materials scientists predict graphene has promising future applications in photovoltaics, foldable and transparent computer screens, wearable electronics, medical sensors, tissue engineering and drug delivery. It also has possible uses in water purification and desalination systems, nano batteries and capacitors, barrier materials, coatings, functional fluids, films, inks, coatings, lubricants, packaging, and thermal devices. Some engineers note graphene composites could one day replace much of the steel used in the aerospace, defense, automotive and marine industries because it adds strength, reduces weight and increases fuel efficiency.
Imagine being able to replicate objects while adding strength, electrical conductivity and/or transparency to the original when graphene meets 3D printing. Using 3D printing, the complexity of an object isn’t an issue. And manufacturing can take place at or near the end user with no lead time nor product storage. Combining the properties of graphene with the advantages 3D printing could bring to the table a powerful, even transformative combination.
Christopher Barnatt, a British futurist, scholar and author of “3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution” said:
“I am certain that, in the next few years, 3D printing will be driven forward as much by new material developments, as it will by improvements in hardware and new 3D printing processes. The creation of a plastic/graphene composite filament by Graphene 3D Lab is one example of cutting-edge work in this area. When it comes to making a really strong 3D printing materials, plastic/graphene composites may lead the pack. In addition to being strong, plastic/graphene composites will also be conductive, so opening up possibilities to create circuitry or sensors on 3D printed products at home.”
Sales at Graphene 3D Lab expected within 3 to 6 months
Calverton, N.Y.-based Graphene 3D Lab looks to have a lead in commercialization of graphene filaments for 3D printing. While other 3D printing companies like Stratasys have recently begun research in the area, Graphene 3D Lab expects to begin sales within 3 to 6 months according to COO Elena Polyakova in a June interview. Polyakova explained that although their graphene filament technology is well-protected, they’re moving fast to commercialize it:
“Right now we have a competitive advantage because we’re able to synthesize extremely good materials, and I know that large companies were trying to do similar projects but they haven’t released anything yet, so I’m not sure if they’ve succeeded in terms of their R&D. Of course, our technology is patented and well-protected and also it’s relatively difficult to reverse engineer our materials and requires very specific expertise in certain areas. So, we’re well protected and other companies won’t be able to move forward in terms of what we’re doing with graphene. But there’s always a risk that they might discover another material that is comparable to graphene in terms of their properties, so we have to move fast.”
How is Graphene 3D Lab nearing sales while larger players are in R&D?
Polyakova and the company’s CEO Daniel Stolyarov and are graphene pioneers with more 15 years of R&D experience in graphene and nanomaterials. The pair launched Graphene Laboratories, a private venture, in 1999. Graphene Laboratories supplies of graphene to more than 7,000 global customers, including Samsung and IBM. The Polyakova and Stolyarov are frequent speakers at global conferences and are regarded by academia and industry as experts in graphene and nanomaterials development.
Also, as consumables, filaments offer some of the highest gross margins in 3D printing. So large players 3D Systems and Stratasys have been buying up filament manufacturers. The potential for Graphene 3D Lab to be bought out always exists.
Share structure and early trading
Graphene 3D Lab has 37.9 million shares outstanding with management and key investors in the public launch own the majority. Some 21 million shares are locked in escrow so the resulting float is tight. The company plans to list for trading in the U.S. in the next 60 to 90 days.
Shares began trading Aug. 11 and rose to a high of $1.22 by on Aug. 13 before pulling back on lighter volume. I expect volatile trading for the next few weeks due to the low float, but anticipate an overall uptrend as more investors discover this company.
Disclosure: Author is long GGG.V.
Additional disclosure: Due to the strengths I found in management and the technology of Graphene 3D Lab, I approached the company and key investors while the company was private, offering my services as a consultant. I have since signed a contract for those services and investors should be aware of potential bias in this article as a result. Investors should do their own due diligence prior to making any investment decision.
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