3D Printer Meets CNC Router To Make Wood Prints

We’ve seen plenty of plywood 3D printers before; after all, many early hobbyist machines were made from laser-cut plywood. But this plywood 3D-printer isn’t made from plywood – it prints plywood. Well, sort of.

Yes, we know – that’s not plywood the printer is using, but rather particleboard, the same material that fills the flatpack warehouse of every IKEA store. And calling it a printer is a bit of a stretch, too. This creation, by [Shane Whigton] and his Formlabs Hackathon team, is more of a hybrid additive-subtractive CNC machine. A gantry-mounted router carves each layer of the print from a fresh square of material – which could just as easily be plywood as particleboard. Once a layer is cut, the gantry applies glue to it, puts a fresh sheet of material on top, and clamps it down tight. The router then carves the next layer, and so on up the stack. The layer height is limited to the thickness of the material – a nominal 3/4″ (19 mm) in this case – and there’s a remarkable amount of waste, but that’s not really the point. Check out the printer in action and the resulting giant Benchy in the video below.

Seeing all that particleboard dust and glue got us thinking: what about a 3D-printer that extrudes a paste of sawdust mixed with glue? We imagine that would be a bit like those giant printers that extrude concrete to build houses.

29 thoughts on “3D Printer Meets CNC Router To Make Wood Prints

  1. I can’t tell if I love it or not. It’s very interesting! Self supporting wood AM, with layers of sheet added instead of powder. the Downside is that there’s so much waste. Maybe they can find reuse value somewhere. What happens if you have internal parts that need to be removed? I played the video on mute, so perhaps that’s already answered.

    1. (At least in the photos) It’s agglomerated wood. Which is already recycled leftovers/sawdust.

      I’m sure it can be ground up and “recycled” once or twice again before it becomes 90% glue content.

      Worst case we throw it in a landfill, trapping some CO2 back into the ground.

      It’s far from the nastiest material to print with. Better than the typical fiberglass and styrofoam if it proves to be as durable. Weight might be an issue tho.

  2. This reminds me of a laser cutter that has been advertised on social media outlets for the last couple of years as a 3D printer, showing examples of how it is used to cut cardboard slicers of a 3D shape for similar assembly.

  3. To address the idea of a sawdust/glue printer, I will point out that there are PLA/wood composite filaments which are a similar idea. They work quite well and feel very low-density wood-like when done. The look of the resulting prints is similar to particleboard.

  4. This would be great if it did the same thing that the Mcor copy paper LOM printers do and does “spoil cuts” to turn the waste into little blocks that can be easily removed.

  5. I feel like a combination of ball endmill and lollipop style endmill could definitely help blend layers. Obviously an automatic tool changer would increase the price of it but definitely worth it.

  6. What it needs is automated waste removal after cutting each layer. Could use some linear actuators to extend around the building model to extend for supporting the excess of each sheet. Give it a microwave glue heater and the sort of glue that works with that to speed up building. Lastly, a second router with a spherical burr so it can handle undercuts to use for profiling each layer to make the model smoother.

    1. Book smarts don’t equal street smarts. When people who design machines to to tasks that they themselves don’t really do in real life, and/or use wrong words/terms, it makes me not interested in their products.

      1. Oddly enough, as a writing engineer, when commenters ignore their own grammatical errors (“…machines to to tasks…”) in the same sentence they berate others, it makes me think they have nothing useful to say.

    2. One of the creators here: You’re totally right that this is particle board not plywood. We had originally designed the machine to use plywood but switched to particle board at the last minute to avoid dealing with some expected plywood issues (splintering and warped sheets) and just continued to call it “the plywood printer.” We do like accuracy so I’ve gone back and updated the wording in the post and video accordingly.

      On a side note, technically the printer can do any reasonably thick sheets that are routable including plastics but “Thick-ish routable sheet good printer” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue :)

      1. Haha. Don’t sweat the pedants.

        We talked about this machine in the podcast, coming out shortly. Really cool build!

        We ended up thinking about whether you could cut reliefs into the layers, maybe being careful with the glue, to avoid having to saw everything apart in the end. Granted, we were spitballing, but what do you think?

        1. There are actually relief cuts as you describe, but unfortunately the full extents of the board are not addressable by the router, so they could not go all the way to the edge. We considered cutting the waste up more aggressively into cubes or something, but ultimately skipped it in the interest of time. We only had 3 days to design and build the machine and do the print, so we tabled anything that we thought might make the print unstable or take too long. Definitely improvement we can do there for our next print!

          1. Great! I’m still not sure I have all of the (3D) geometry straight in my head, but between cuts and unglued sections, you should be able to work something out…

            Cubes would be awesome! Then the outside would just fall off.

            It’s amazing what you got done in 3 days, though. Kudos. (Nice touch with the all-done lights/horn.)

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