Process modeling of thermoplastics and thermosetting polymer matrix composites (PMCs) manufactured using fused deposition modeling (FDM)

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Advisor: Robert A. Brockman


In this work, a model framework for the simulation of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) of thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers and Polymer Matrix Composites (PMCs) was developed. A Python script was constructed to automatically generate a 3D finite element heat transfer and stress model of individual roads within a 3D printed part. The script creates the road activation sequence based on the print path specified in the part G-code and associated boundary conditions which are continuously updated throughout the analysis with minimal input from the user. Thermosetting polymers and polymer matrix composites (PMCs) are modeled by implementing a material sub-model from Convergent Manufacturing Technologies called COMPRO that captures the curing kinetics of the material during the printing and post-cure cycle. The modeling approach is formulated for both material systems through tailorable conditions such as build plate temperature, ambient conditions, print temperature, etc. To the author's knowledge, no 3D finite element model of the FDM process exists for the thermal history and residual stress prediction of thermosetting polymers and PMCs. Although the objective of this work is to create a model for the prediction of thermosetting polymers and PMCs, the characterization and subsequent printing of these materials is still in the development stages. Therefore, in order to validate that the proposed model is capturing the correct physics for the FDM process, model predictions for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) coupons were compared with experimentally printed specimens. A series of sensitivity studies were then performed for this model to investigate significant effects as well as trends in the predictions from assumptions in the boundary conditions. The model is then extended to thermosetting PMCs to demonstrate the linkage between COMPRO and the modeling framework.


Thermosetting composites Simulation methods, Thermosetting composites Properties, Three-dimensional printing, Mechanical Engineering, finite element analysis, process modeling, fused deposition modeling, polymer matrix composites, thermosetting polymers

Rights Statement

Copyright 2017, author