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VTT and Carbodeon Ltd Oy have developed a plastic material suitable for consumer and industrial use, enabling faster 3D printing and improving the mechanical durability of the printouts. The uDiamond filament, patented by Carbodeon and now available on the market, improves the usability of 3D technology and broadens the applications of 3D printing.
The excellent performance of the new 3D filament is based on the nanodiamond particles it contains and their ability to shape the structure and properties of the material. The material's spherical nanodiamonds work like a lubricant and do not increase the clogging of the printer nozzle.
Nanodiamonds, for example, improve the thermal conductivity of the plastic material, which helps increase 3D printing speed. In Carbodeon's tests, the printing speed could be increased up to 500 mm/s. In addition, the mechanical properties of the material were improved. Nanodiamond-reinforced PLA plastic is also easy to print with consumer-grade printers.
"This is the first product of a family that will be sold as a finished 3D filament and in a granular format, as well. VTT has been a long-term, reliable partner in this development, and has reacted to our needs quickly," explains Carbodeon CEO Vesa Myllymäki.
VTT together with Carbodeon has developed methods for evenly dispersing the nanodiamonds in the PLA material in such a way that the finished product is a PLA composite optimised for 3D printing, manufactured at industrial scale. In addition, VTT has tested the properties of plastic materials and 3D printouts.
"Using our chemical pilot devices, we at VTT produced the nanodispersed material required for the melt processing, and thus supported the creation of a new product," says Jarmo Ropponen, Research Team Leader at VTT's chemical pilots.
"The melt processing of plastics became easier and the mechanical characteristics were improved with the introduction of nanodiamonds. Based on the preliminary tests, the modulus of the 3D-printed test pieces was improved at best by more than 200% compared to the PLA-based filament already on the market. VTT´s Polymer Pilot produced the first 600 kg material batch, which Carbodeon had refined into a commercial product," explains Satu Pasanen, Research Scientist at VTT in charge of the plastic piloting in the development.
What is a nanodiamond?
A diamond nanoparticle or a nanodiamond, produced by material explosions, is one of the thermally best conductive and hardest materials known.
Carbodeon's uDiamond contains diamond nanoparticles with a diameter of 4–6 nm. Carbodeon's nanodiamonds are non-toxic materials suitable for a variety of applications according to REACH and EPA assessments. Although they are used in the materials at very low concentrations, they can significantly improve material performance at a low cost. Carbodeon has extensive patent coverage for the nanodiamond materials it manufactures and refined products enhanced with nanodiamonds.