Indiana-based Thermwood Corporation upgraded their large-scale additive manufacturing machine with a new universal tool head.
The tool head is certainly large scale itself, measuring over 10 feet long and weighing a ton and a half. Despite this, the tool head can move at speeds of five feet per second. Thermwood combines this with a CNC milling tool head to provide a hybrid approach to manufacturing with two separate gantries.
The LSAM machine has a build volume of 10ft x 5ft x 100ft and is designed to fabricate large parts from thermoplastic materials. LSAM machines can be applied to create “industrial tooling, masters, models, molds and production fixtures for a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, foundry and boating. “Thermwood recently signed a partnership with the US Marines Corps to use the LSAM machine for naval applications.
Using the new tool head, Thermwood explains that it was successful in 3D printing “Mastery of composite tooling from ABS loaded with 20% carbon fiber and printed the actual autoclave tooling from PPS loaded with 50% carbon fiber and Ultem loaded at 20% of carbon fiber using this print to manage.”
The tool head is designed to allow interchangeable “fusion cores”. The Melt Core is the part of the tool head that contains the feed box, extruder, and polymer melt pump. This design achieves higher or lower print rates. Applying the tool head, Thermwood is currently working on a new development LSAM machine that will have a larger size of 10ft x 20ft.
Cool rather than heat
While 3D printing in advanced materials such as thermoplastics typically involves high temperatures, both of the build plate and the extruder, Thermwood explains that the LSAM process is more concerned with cooling. LSAM prints at such a high efficiency that the printed layers require fans to cool the material before the next layer.
It is for this reason that Thermwood has developed a thermographic monitoring system on the machines. Developed at the end of last year, LSAM machines are now equipped with thermographic imaging to monitor the temperature of printed parts and allow better control of the fans.
The image shown shows the LSAM machine. Image via Thermwood.