Indiana company Thermwood Corporation has upgraded its Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing machine with a new universal toolhead.
The toolhead is certainly large-scale itself at over 10 feet long and weighing one and a half tons. Despite this, the toolhead can move at speeds of five feet per second. Thermwood combines this with a CNC milling toolhead to provide a hybrid approach to manufacturing with two separate gantries.
The LSAM machine has a build volume of 10 ft x 5 ft x 100 ft and is designed for fabricating large parts from thermoplastic materials. The LSAM machines can be applied to create “industrial tooling, masters, patterns, 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 toolhead, Thermwood explains it has successfully 3D printed “composite tooling masters from 20% Carbon Fiber filled ABS, and has printed actual autoclave tooling from both 50% Carbon fiber filled PPS and 20% Carbon Fiber filled Ultem using this print head.”
The toolhead is designed to allow for interchangeable ‘Melt Cores.’ The Melt Core is the part of the toolhead that contains the feed housing, extruder and polymer melt pump. This design means higher or lower print rates can be achieved. Applying the toolhead, Thermwood is currently working on a new development LSAM machine which will have a larger size of 10 ft x 20 ft.
Cooling rather than heating
While 3D printing in advanced materials such as thermoplastics typically involves high temperatures, both of the build plate and extruder, Thermwood explains the LSAM process is more concerned with cooling. The LSAM prints at such high output 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 late last year, the LSAM machines now come equipped with thermographic imaging to monitor the temperature of the printed parts and enable better control of the fans.
Featured image shows the LSAM machine. Image via Thermwood.