Sandvik Group’s additive manufacturing division has created the world’s first ever 3D-printed diamond.

The Stockholm-based engineering group unveiled its composite diamond at the Digital Difference in Manufacturing convention in Sandviken, Sweden, last week. Sandvik, which co-hosted the event with Microsoft, printed the diamond at its dedicated facility for additive manufacturing.

Diamond, the hardest material found in nature, is a key component in a large range of wear-resistant tools in the industrial sector. It has numerous uses, including in mining, drilling, machining and medical implants.

The ability to produce synthetic diamond has existed since 1953. However, it has been almost impossible to form complex shapes as diamond is so complicated to manufacture.

Until now, production of super-hard diamond materials has enabled only a few simple geometric configurations to be formed. With the use of additive manufacturing and a tailor-made proprietary post-processing method, Sandvik has 3D printed diamond composites that can be formed into almost any shape.

The difference between Sandvik’s diamond and natural or synthetic diamond is that Sandvik’s is a composite material. Most of the material is diamond, but to make it printable and dense it needs to be cemented in a very hard matrix material, keeping the most important physical properties of pure diamond.

“We now have the ability to create strong diamond composites in very complex shapes through additive manufacturing,” says the head of R&D and operations at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing Mikael Schuisky. “This will fundamentally change the way industries [use] this material.”

Schuisky believes it is too early to speculate about how 3D printed diamond composites could affect prices or value for industrial diamonds.

“We see a lot of opportunities and applications going forward given that we can now print industrial diamonds in any shape or form,” he says. “In close dialogue with our customers, we will now start developing and commercialising this exciting innovation.”

Sandvik’s patent for the diamond composite is pending.