First Graphene Ltd. is a graphene manufacturing company that leads the industry in product quality measurement and process control. The company is determined to provide its customers with the high-performing and high-quality raw materials that their products demand.
If you are a formulator, a plastics extruder or rubber compounder who uses a raw material, we believe we know what is important to you…….an answer to the simple question “what’s in the bag or shipping container?” You want to know the material adds the performance you require and most importantly that a tonne purchased in, say, October performs exactly the same as the tonne you purchased in January. At First Graphene Ltd. we understand this.
Our customers also recognise our focus on quality. One of our customers, a European based multi-national materials company says, “We have purchased multiple batches of First Graphene’s PureGRAPH® products and have been very pleased with the repeatability and consistency of these materials.”
Since the isolation of graphene at the University of Manchester in 2004, much effort has been put into developing characterisation methods for the new generation of 2-D materials. This was initially led by academic researchers, who developed new techniques to determine the chemical make-up, size and shape of 2D materials. These techniques have since been adopted by graphene manufacturers and are currently being formalised through the ISO Nanotechnologies Technical Committee (ISO/TC229). Following discussions with Denis Koltsov, chairperson of the ISO 229 committee, Dr. Andy Goodwin of First Graphene Ltd. has agreed to join the BSI and ISO/TC229 working groups for the development of graphene characterisation standards. Ensuring alignment of the company’s quality processes with the emerging international standards.
Denis Koltsov, chairperson ISO 229 committee, says “We are very pleased to see First Graphene joining UK (BSI/NTI/1) and international standards working groups (ISO/TC229) to advance the development of Graphene related standards. Direct involvement of industry players is critical to the development of technical standards. It demonstrates the maturity of industry. It also highlights direct relevance of the standardisation work at ISO/TC229, which currently have 36 standards under development 4 of which are in the Graphene area”.
As an early adopter in the use of scientific approaches to measurement of graphene materials, First Graphene has pioneered these methods to assure the quality of their PureGRAPH® products. First Graphene’s production and technical team have over 100 years’ experience in the manufacture and supply of high quality speciality chemical products and have used this experience to implement state of the art quality improvement tools such as LEAN and Six Sigma to implement a simple 4 step approach to develop and deliver a consistent and reliable supply to our customers.
4-step approach to high-quality PureGRAPH® products:
1. Representative sampling – whenever possible at-line and quality assurance testing is carried out directly on large aliquots of graphene powder product.
2. At-line and factory laboratory tests have been chosen that are simple and robust but also relate to fundamental material parameters.
3. Statistical process control tools are used to record and monitor all batch data – ensuring full understanding and control of the manufacturing process.
4. Communication to customers – Customer needs are translated into product specifications, with every shipment being accompanied by a certificate of analysis (CoA).
Representative tests have been developed that can be delivered at-line or in a factory quality assurance laboratory – these are directly related to the fundamental properties of the PureGRAPH® products. An example is the implementation of a Raman spectroscopy test method that is unique to First Graphene, using a remote sampling probe to enable representative sampling of product in bulk powder form, meaning that rapid and robust characterisation is available. This method was developed by First Graphene in collaboration with B&W-Tek an equipment supplier and has been accepted for publication in the Spectroscopy journal.
Use of Statistical Process Control Techniques to understand the voice of our process
PureGRAPH® graphene products are currently supplied to global customers from the company’s manufacturing site in Henderson, Western Australia. Minitab® software is routinely used to analyse manufacturing data and produce process control charts at the facility. The company is manufacturing graphene at tonnage scales and multiple batches of PureGRAPH® products have been analysed. This enables “voice of our process” understanding through process control charts such as those shown below demonstrating a stable production platform, delivering a consistent product.
Figure 1 shows the mean particle size of our PureGRAPH® 10 product, measured using a Malvern 3000 Mastersizer. It’s a clear example of how industry-leading analytical equipment can be combined with Six Sigma concepts to monitor and control product quality.
Figure 2 below shows the Raman data for PureGRAPH® 10 product. A novel at-line Raman measurement technique provides immediate analysis of the quality of PureGRAPH® products. The statistical analysis again shows consistent product across multiple batches.
Paul Ladislaus, Senior Process Engineer at First Graphene Ltd said: “We have implemented well established quality improvement tools and techniques to ensure we can consistently deliver a high-quality product to our customers.”
Paul Ladislaus added that: “Our process is robust and we can use these tools and techniques throughout our supply chain to reassure our customers that we are capable of reliably delivering the quality of graphene materials that they require.”
First Graphene intends to stay at the leading edge in terms of controlling the quality of graphene related products. The company continues to invest in its processing capability through measurement and automation and is a Tier 1 Member of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester with direct access to world-class analytical equipment and techniques and supporting expertise. The company will continue to invest in analytical methods and process tools to ensure world-leading PureGRAPH® product quality for our customers.