Diamonds are a manufacturers best friend? Honestly, they kind of are. As the hardest material found in nature, diamond has found uses in a number of industries, for wear resistant tools in mining and drilling, machining and medical implants, to name a few. The prized material has also been available in synthetic form since the 1950s, however it has remained challenging to machine because of its strength, limiting its use to simple geometries.
That is, until now. Sweden-based Sandvik Additive Manufacturing has created the world’s first 3D printed diamond composite that can be printed in highly complex structures. The breakthrough is expected to create numerous opportunities in industries, which can leverage the strong material in entirely new ways.
Diamonds are forever
Sandvik’s innovative material is a diamond-based composite, meaning it is made up of a mixture of diamonds and a very hard polymer matrix material. The matrix enables the diamond to be printed effectively without losing its desirable properties.
“We now have the ability to create strong diamond composites in very complex shapes through additive manufacturing, which fundamentally will change the way industries will be able to use this material,” said Mikael Schuisky, Head of R&D and Operations at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing. “As of now, the only limit to how this super-hard material can be shaped and used is down to the designer’s imagination.”
The composite slurry was developed for stereolithography, a 3D printing process which solidifies layers of material using ultraviolet light. Once printed, the material must undergo an extensive proprietary post-processing technique that imparts the exact properties of the diamond material.
Susanne Norgren, Adjunct Professor in Applied Materials Science at Uppsala University, added: “Sandvik’s 3D printed diamond composite is a true innovation. It means that we can begin to use diamond in applications and shapes never conceived possible before. Just imagine what it could do to industries, when it is possible to print anything, in any shape—in diamond.”
In tests, the 3D printed diamond composite demonstrated exceptional hardness and heat conductivity, as well as low density, corrosion resistance and good thermal expansion. The innovative material is on display at RAPID + TCT this week.
Sandvik recently achieved another exciting first, when it introduced the first ever 3D printed, smash-proof guitar.