Esther García-Tuñón, Alan Leong, Eduardo Saiz, Eleonora D’Elia, Han Zheng, Ezra Feilden
Many 3D printing technologies are based on the development of inks and pastes to build objects through droplet or filament deposition (the latter also known as continuous extrusion, robocasting, or direct ink writing). Controlling and tuning rheological behavior is key for successful manufacturing using these techniques. Different formulations have been proposed, but the search continues for approaches that are clean, flexible, robust and that can be adapted to a wide range of materials. Here, we show how graphene oxide (GO) enables the formulation of water-based pastes to print a wide variety of materials (polymers, ceramics, and steel) using robocasting. This work combines flow and oscillatory rheology to provide further insights into the rheological behavior of suspensions combining GO with other materials. Graphene oxide can be used to manipulate the viscoelastic response, enabling the formulation of pastes with excellent printing behavior that combine shear thinning flow and a fast recovery of their elastic properties. These inks do not contain other additives, only GO and the material of interest. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate the 3D printing of additive-free graphene oxide structures as well as polymers, ceramics, and steel. Due to its amphiphilic nature and 2D structure, graphene oxide plays multiple roles, behaving as a dispersant, viscosifier, and binder. It stabilizes suspensions of different powders, modifies the flow and viscoelasticity of materials with different chemistries, particle sizes and shapes, and binds the particles together, providing green strength for manual handling. This approach enables printing complex 3D ceramic structures using robocasting with similar properties to alternative formulations, thus demonstrating the potential of using 2D colloids in materials manufacturing.