Here’s a question for you; do you think that a diamond can be 3D printed? The question has been answered by Sandvik – additive manufacturing leader – in an impressive manner. You might remember Sandvik from its feat of 3D printing guitar that was touted as indestructible. Sandvik’s 3D printed diamond composite might not be ready for being on a chain or on an engagement ring, but it sure is a great way of demonstrating that the industry is about to be revolutionized.
Diamonds have a plethora of applications other than jewelry. In fact, you might be surprised to know that more than 70% of diamonds are actually utilized for industrial applications. Creating synthetic diamonds is not a new feat, but the process has proven to be costly and complex so far with the creation of complex shapes being next to impossible. However, the patent-pending process by Sandvik is all set to change all of this. Sandvik has come up with a new technique that enables users to carry out 3D printing of composites into shapes that can be altered to meet any task.
Anders Ohlsson Delivery Manager at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing said, ‘On seeing its potential, we began to wonder what else would be possible from 3D-printing complex shapes in a material that is three times stiffer than steel, with heat conductivity higher than copper, the thermal expansion close to Invar – and with a density close to aluminum. These benefits make us believe that you will see this diamond composite in new advanced industrial applications ranging from wear parts to space programs, in just a few years from now.’
The 3D printed object is a composite, implying that most of the material is diamond. However, in order to make it printable, Sandvik used a hard matrix material for cementing the diamond material. The process was not an easy feat to accomplish. The additive manufacturing process is quite advanced. The Sandvik 3D printed diamond was created using a 3D printing process that is known as stereolithography. A very precise mixture made up of polymer and diamond powder is printed layer by layer by making use of ultraviolet light. However, that is not where the process ends.
The steps that must be taken after 3D printing the diamond are equally significant, if not more, depending on who you ask. This proprietary process is where Sandvik has managed to create properties of the exact diamond composite. Once you have created the very first 3D printed diamond composite, you must test it of course. The process is sustainable using the diamond powder that can be easily recycled and used in another 3D printing job. The diamond demonstrates high hardness, amazing heat conductivity, low density, good thermal expansion, and exceptional corrosion resistance.
Sandvik says, ‘Just imagine what it could do to industries, when it is possible to print anything, in any shape – in a diamond.’