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Kibaran Resources, CSIRO identify 3D graphene printing opportunities

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Kibaran Resources’ (ASX:KNL) 50%-owned subsidiary 3D Graphtech has identified two potentially scalable manufacturing techniques for the production of graphene and graphite at low cost and high volumes.
    
Shares in the company should trade higher on the study results, which also identified a pathway for the development of graphene inks for fused filament fabrication 3D printing.

Discussions are underway regarding an extended partnership with CSIRO to conduct further research to identify commercial solutions to both graphene production and graphene composite polymer production techniques.

Kibaran is also in discussions with a number of high-tech groups for the manufacture of graphite-based 3D printed objects and components.

“Currently no suitable processes exist to produce in large volumes and at a low cost a high quality graphene where the lattice that connects the atoms are undamaged and intact,” executive director Andrew Spinks said.

“The CSIRO has however identified two potential graphene production methods that will need to be researched further. 

“Graphtech and the CSIRO are now in discussions to determine the length, cost and deliverables of the research program.”

3D Graphtech Industries was formed in July after the company signed a binding agreement with 3D Group to study the application of graphite and graphene in 3D printing.

Study Details

The collaborative CSIRO white paper study has identified two opportunities that could produce high volume/high quality graphene and a pathway for the development of graphene inks for fused filament fabrication 3D printing.

Graphtech is now assessing the two potential opportunities:

- The development of a scalable manufacturing technique to produce a high-volume of high quality graphene at low cost;
- The development of a piece of equipment to produce graphene composite polymer thermoplastic filament for extrusion 3D printers that contain graphene.

Both opportunities have the potential to deliver commercial solutions, but are subject to further research and development by Graphtech and the CSIRO.

In August, Graphtech engaged the CSIRO to undertake the study, with a scope of identifying opportunities in 3D printing and fused filament fabrication using the application of graphite and graphene inks.

Additionally, Kibaran has separately commenced discussions with a number of groups interested in a partnership arrangement for the production of unique, high quality, graphite-based 3D printed parts and objects. 

This will enable Kibaran to have direct participation in the rapidly evolving 3D printing industry, with accelerating technological development forecast to drive the market value from the current US$3.8 billion to US$16.2 billion by 2018.

In particular, graphene is projected to revolutionise the 3D printing process due to its unique one-atom thick structure coupled with its strength, flexibility and ability to conduct electricity better than traditional metals such as copper.

Kibaran is also pursuing the use of graphite and expanded graphite in other sectors outside of 3D printing where significant applications exist that could revolutionise the way carbon-based products are produced.

3D Printing

3D printing is a revolutionary technology that involves the creation of three dimensional, solid objects from a digital file, of virtually any shape.

It has the potential bring about a quantum shift in the way new materials and products are made with commerciality proven by the production of car parts, jewellery and dental applications such as crowns.

Investigations are also underway to print houses for a fraction of the cost.

Epanko

Kibaran is currently carrying out a Feasibility Study on its Epanko graphite deposit in Tanzania that has an Inferred and Indicated Resource of 22.7 million tonnes at 9.8% total graphitic content for 2.223 million tonnes of contained graphite.

This covers just 20% of the project area, and metallurgy has found Epanko graphite to be large flake and expandable in nature.

The study will be based on a 15 year mine life with an initial target production rate of 40,000 tonnes per annum of high quality, large flake graphite.

Analysis

The CSIRO study progresses Kibaran Resources’ efforts to tap into the growing 3D printing market, which is expected to grow to US$16.2 billion by 2018.

The two techniques identified by the study will allow for the production of graphene and graphite at low cost and high volumes, highlighting the potential for the use of graphene in 3D printing applications.

It also allows the company to leverage its Epanko graphite deposit

This, and its alliance with 3D Group, positions Kibaran as a potential supplier of expanded graphite and graphene products through the mine supply chain, and create additional shareholder value in the downstream sector.



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