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Purdue University to Create Thermwood LSAM Research Lab for Large-Scale 3D Printing

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Purdue University will be establishing a laboratory dedicated to large scale additive manufacturing (AM). The school’s Composites Manufacturing Simulation Center (CMSC) is partnering with Thermwood Corporation for industry-funded research into large-scale 3D printing with composite thermoplastics, something that Thermwood know a thing or two about, as a manufacturer of enormous thermoplastic composite 3D printers.

The “Thermwood LSAM Research Laboratory at Purdue University” will be based at Purdue’s Indiana Manufacturing Institute at Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana, run by Purdue CMSC staff. The backbone of the lab’s research will be an LSAM 105 (ten-five) Large Scale Additive Printer with a 5-axis LSAM Additive Trimmer and additional support systems. This system makes it possible to 3D print and trim objects up to 5’ x 10’ x 4’ at rates of 100 lbs. Though Thermwood’s LSAM 105 typically extrudes at a temperature up to 450°C, this installation has been modified for higher temperatures to explore new materials.

“Not only will this effort improve the overall quality of large scale additive printing but it should also increase our knowledge and understanding of the basic process of fusing layers together into a homogeneous structure,” said Ken Susnjara, Founder and CEO of Thermwood.

The university will work with industry partners, providing services that will see large-scale 3D printing more widely adopted for a variety of applications. Polymer suppliers will also team with Purdue to optimize their formulas and hone the proper processing parameters for large-scale 3D printing.

(Image courtesy of Chris Johnson/Purdue Research Foundation)

The CMSC brings together experts from a diverse set of disciplines and facilities the study of composites that, in addition to 3D printing of composites, includes everything from digital twins and simulation to mold forming, sheet forming and infusion molding. Digital twins are being developed for the slew of composites processing and manufacturing methods studied at the school, with the 3DEXPERIENCE Education Center of Excellence in Advanced Composites established with Dassault Systèmes in 2020 helping drive this development.

In turn, Thermwood’s LSAM process will be paired with digital twin work being done with Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE. This means that they will create an accurate virtual replica of the process and better understand how it works and predict how the technology will behave.

This is pretty cutting-edge stuff for one of the oldest CNC router manufacturers. However, LSAM demonstrates that an old dog can learn new tricks and introducing simulation into a tricky technology like 3D printing, especially at such a large scale, gives the company an advantage over competitors.

Interestingly, while competitors like Cincinnati Incorporated and Ingersoll have worked with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop and refine their processes, Thermwood is now turning to Purdue University, which may not have the same clout as a government lab, but certainly has the composites expertise to advance LSAM technology forward.

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