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Large-Format Additive Manufacturing of Thermoplastic Polymer Composites: Build Simulation and Experimental Study

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Conference Abstract: Large-Format Additive Manufacturing (LFAM) of polymer composites has garnered substantial attention due to its potential for producing components in aerospace applications structural engineering and automotive industries. Despite technical advancements, traditional trial-and-error approaches for determining critical print parameters (such as deposition rate, extrusion temperature, etc.) and enhancing build quality prove impractical at this scale. Physical processes such as deformation, warpage, and delamination originating from thermal gradients and residual stresses buildup during material deposition, hinder the production of high-quality printed parts. To address these challenges, leveraging physics-based numerical simulations becomes crucial in predicting the potential build defects and critical print parameters, improving the build quality and reducing costs by mitigating build failures. In this regard, a physics-based Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) build simulation methodology for LFAM is presented along with a case study. The build process simulation workflow involves micro-mechanics-based material modeling, machine print path driven thermal analysis to accurately predict the thermal gradient during the entire build, print path assessment for airgap identification, and build mechanical analysis to identify deformation, warpage, and delamination. By focusing on a case study involving the printing of a 1foot beam with PETG+30%CF, the study demonstrates the viability of process simulation in identifying the critical print parameters, improving the machine print path, and addressing build defects. This methodology facilitates fast iterations of parameter assessment, significantly enhancing part quality and structural integrity, lowering manufacturing costs, and accelerating adoption of large-scale AM for producing essential engineering structures.