Additive Manufacturing Becoming a Disruptive Force in Marine Tooling

Posted by Duane Marrett on Tue, Oct 17, 2017

Tags: Thermwood, LSAM, Additive, Additive Manufacturing, Marine Tooling, Boat Hull, Pattern, Announcements

A 3D printed boat hull pattern, from which fiberglass boat hull molds are made, has been completed using a near net shape additive manufacturing process and then successfully used to produce a production capable fiberglass mold in a proof of concept joint evaluation program. The completed pattern was recently displayed at the AM2017 Additive Manufacturing Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. 




Finished boat hull pattern - shown with Thermwood LSAM® 10'x20' machine

Finished boat hull pattern - shown with Thermwood LSAM® 10'x20' machine

A Collaborative Effort

This achievement was the result of a collaborative effort between Thermwood Corporation,Techmer PM and Marine Concepts. The tool was printed slightly oversized and then trimmed to final net size and shape using a Thermwood’s large scale additive manufacturing (LSAM®) system.

It was made from Techmer’s Electrafil© ABS LT1 3DP, which has proven ideal for marine tooling applications when processed using LSAM print technology. The entire print, assembly and trim process required less than ten working days to complete. After the printed and trimmed tool was coated and finished, a fiberglass mold was produced using the printed pattern. This effort clearly demonstrates the feasibility, practicality, economics and advantages of using additive manufacturing in the production of boat tooling. 

The Details

Thermwood LSAM® 10'x20' machine printing two of the six sections
Thermwood LSAM® 10'x20' machine printing two of the six sections

The final tool was printed in six sections, four major center sections with walls approximately an inch and a half thick and a solid printed transom and bow, which were pinned and bonded together using Lord plural component urethane adhesive before being machined as a single piece on the Thermwood system.

Bonding the boat hull pattern pieces together
Bonding the boat hull pattern pieces together

Bringing the two sections together
Bringing the two sections together

Boat hull pattern after bonding together and before machining
Boat hull pattern after bonding together and before machining

Thermwood LSAM® 10'x20' machining boat hull pattern
Thermwood LSAM® 10'x20' machining boat hull pattern

The final trimmed pattern weighs approximately three thousand pounds. It required approximately thirty hours to print and fifty hours to machine.

Final trimmed pattern before coating
Final trimmed pattern before coating

Thermwood’s demonstration machine, used for this program, has a 10 foot by 20 foot worktable and features both print and trim capability on the same machine. The print head used for this project can print at rates approaching 200 pounds an hour when running this particular Techmer material. Thermwood also offers larger machines and higher throughput print heads as part of its LSAM product line. LSAM 10'x20' Machine Shown

Pulling the Mold


Building frame on boat hull pattern to pull mold

Building frame on boat hull pattern to pull mold

Finished frame on boat hull pattern after casting the fiberglass mold
Finished frame on boat hull pattern after casting the fiberglass mold

Removing fiberglass mold from boat hull pattern
Removing fiberglass mold from boat hull pattern

Finished boat hull mold in red
Finished boat hull mold in red

Additive Manufacturing Could Change Marine Tooling Process

Additive manufacturing offers the promise of even more advances in marine tooling such as printing the hull and deck pattern as a single piece, allowing a production mold to be taken from the hull and then flipping the pattern over and taking a deck mold from the other side of the same pattern. All of these possibilities result in dramatically lower tooling cost and substantially faster build time. 

For large boats and yachts, Thermwood is evaluating the feasibility of printing molds directly, rather than printing a pattern from which the mold is taken. Because of their large size, these tools will need to be printed and machined in sections, even with very large LSAM® printers. It may also be possible to print integrated cooling channels for air or liquid into these large tools as part of the print process. 

With this initial success and some radical new ideas that appear to be possible with current materials and technology, it is becoming apparent that additive manufacturing may very well represent a disruptive force for the marine tooling industry.

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM

Thermwood 3D Printed PPS Test Panel Maintains Vacuum Without Coatings

Posted by Duane Marrett on Wed, Jun 14, 2017

Tags: LSAM, Thermwood LSAM, 3D Print, 3D printing, Additive, Additive Manufacturing, Announcements, FRC East, PPS, Test Results

Thermwood Logo

Thermwood has taken a major step toward its goal of 3D printing autoclave capable tooling from high temperature carbon fiber filled thermoplastic materials.

As an added benefit, Thermwood believes it will soon produce molds and tooling that function properly under vacuum in a heated, pressurized autoclave without the use of any type of coating to seal the printed tools. 

50% Carbon Fiber filled PPS Panels Tested by Fleet Readiness Center

50% Carbon Fiber Filled PPS Panel Printed and Machined on LSAM

50% Carbon Fiber Filled PPS Panel Printed and Machined on LSAM

Working toward this goal, Thermwood engineers have printed 50% Carbon Fiber filled PPS panels on its LSAM additive manufacturing machine that held vacuum to an industry acceptable level in independent testing. The test was conducted by the Fleet Readiness Center, FRC-East, located at MCAS Cherry Point, NC under a previously announced Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) partnership, and the results met FRC-East acceptance criterion that the bag must not lose more than 2 in Hg over 5 minutes.  

Fleet Readiness Center East

View of LSAM PPS Sample with Vacuum Bag

View of LSAM PPS Sample with Vacuum Bag

View of LSAM PPS Sample and Vacuum Bag without Vacuum Hose
View of LSAM PPS Sample and Vacuum Bag without Vacuum Hose 

Previously, other unaffiliated companies have tested actual tools printed by Thermwood from 20% Carbon Fiber filled ABS and have also found that those tools held vacuum to an acceptable level without the use of any sealer or coating; however, the ABS material is not suitable for high temperature applications. 

LSAM ABS Demonstration Part Showing as printed (rough cut and finished surfaces)

LSAM ABS Demonstration Part showing as printed (rough cut and finished surfaces) 

Vacuum Bagging Test on LSAM ABS Demonstration Part at Fleet Readiness

Vacuum Bagging Test on LSAM ABS Demonstration Part at Fleet Readiness 

Despite that, several parts have been made from those tools under vacuum at room temperature and at slightly elevated temperatures. Thermwood has also already printed a 50% Carbon Fiber filled three dimensional PPS mold which has not yet been tested. Thermwood’s goal is to produce molds that will be used in a production autoclave, molding finished parts suitable for actual end use. 

Thermwood's Additive Printing Process 

Thermwood’s additive printing process differs fundamentally from conventional Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing. Most FDM processes print parts by melting and extruding a relatively small bead of thermoplastic material onto a heated build platin that is contained within a heated chamber. The heated chamber keeps the extruded material from cooling too much before the next layer is added.

Thermwood machines print a large bead at such a high rate that a heated environment is not needed. It is basically an exercise in controlled cooling. Print speed is adjusted so that each layer cools to the proper temperature just as the next layer starts to print resulting in a continuous printing process that produces high quality parts. Thermwood believes this fundamentally different approach produces superior parts. 

Thermwood's Patent Pending Compression Roller 

Thermwood Patent Pending Compression Roller

One other feature that Thermwood engineers believe helps produce solid, void free parts, is a patent pending compression roller that follows directly behind the print nozzle, flattening the bead while fusing it tightly to the previous layer. 

More About LSAM

Thermwood LSAM 10'x10' Additive Manufacturing Machine

Thermwood’s large scale dual gantry LSAM machines both print and trim parts on the same machine. They are programmed with Thermwood’s LSAM Print 3D slicing software, which is rapidly becoming the most capable additive manufacturing software in the industry.

The LSAM and its software operate within Mastercam and are specifically designed for near-net-shape, rather than net-shape printing.

It works with most major CAD file formats including virtually all solid, surface and mesh formats. Thermwood maintains a continuing software development effort to continuously improve, enhance and expand its features and capabilities.

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM

Thermwood Adds Important New Features to its LSAM Print3D Additive Manufacturing Software

Posted by Duane Marrett on Tue, May 30, 2017

Tags: LSAM, Thermwood LSAM, 3D Print, 3D printing, Additive, Additive Manufacturing, Announcements, Updated Features

Thermwood has added significant new capabilities to its LSAM Print3D additive manufacturing software. Thermwood’s software is a true CAD based slicing software which operates within Mastercam to generate additive printing programs for Thermwood’s Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM, pronounced L-Sam) machines.

Unlike most other slicing software which generates net shape programs for small thin print beads and only works with .STL files, LSAM Print 3D works with true CAD file formats commonly used in industry, including solids, surfaces and meshes. It is designed at its core for industrial “near-net-shape” additive manufacturing applications with features tailored to large parts printed at high rates using large print beads. 

LSAM Print3D Software

Near Net Shape Additive Manufacturing

“Near net shape” additive manufacturing is a two-step process where the part is first printed at high speed to a size slightly larger than needed and then trimmed to the final size. Net shape software can be made to work for small “near net shape” parts provided small print beads are used, but net shape software doesn’t work for large structures printed at high speed using large print beads. LSAM Print 3D is specifically designed for large scale “near net shape” industrial applications. 

Concurrent Printing Feature

A new concurrent printing feature has been added with which multiple parts can be printed concurrently, dramatically improving throughput as well as offering some interesting new possibilities. 

How It Works

The system operates by printing the first layer of each part, then the next layer of each part and so on. While this appears rather simple at first, it is not quite as straightforward as it first appears. If all the parts are made essentially the same way, it is, in fact, simple. But in many cases, different parts may be printed differently, using different printing parameters and/or layer definitions. One part may be totally solid, the next completely open. One part may have thin walls the next thick walls. The software allows each part to be independently designed without regard to the others and can still print them concurrently. 

LSAM Print3D Slicing Controls

The major production improvement that results from this new ability is due in large part to Thermwood’s high output print head and large table sizes. Versions of Thermwood’s print head have been tested at output rates of over 500 Lbs/hr. To understand how this works, you must understand the unique nature of Thermwood’s print system. Unlike traditional FDM printing techniques which print slowly onto a heated table in a heated environment, Thermwood’s LSAM machines print at such a high speed that the process must be continuously cooled rather than heated. All the heat in Thermwood’s system comes from the print head. 

Using Thermwood’s print system, the current layer must be cool and stable enough that the new layer doesn’t distort it, but must also be warm enough that it fuses completely with the new layer. With carbon fiber filled ABS for example, even with fan cooling, it requires at least a minute and a half wait time between layers. Higher temperature materials can generally be printed at somewhat faster rates but, Thermwood’s high speed print head prints most part layers, even large parts, in much less time than that.

Instead of pausing or running really slowly to accommodate the minimum wait time between layers, multiple parts can be printed in the same amount of time, provided there is enough available table space. Thus, the faster the print head and the more available table space, the more parts you can print concurrently. With this new feature, the ability of the software to concurrently print dissimilar parts is not a limiting factor. 

Print Parts Side by Side or on Top of Each Other

Many times, really large parts or molds are made in sections that are then combined into the final structure. Multiple sections of these type of parts can now be printed at the same time, reducing print time for large structures by as much as 80%, while still adhering to the minimum time between layers dictated by the thermoplastic material. In addition to dramatically reducing average print time, there are other important aspects to this new capability that aren’t obvious at first. 

With LSAM Print3D, Print Parts Side by Side or on Top of Each Other

As an example, when you need a more complex part, you can design it as two or more separate parts and then print them next to each other or even on top of each other so that they fuse together during the print process, resulting in a single complex structure that would be difficult to program and make any other way. Internal supports are no longer restricted to just standard infill patterns. As interesting as this is, it gets even more involved. 

Differences Between LSAM Print 3D and Other Slicing Software

Current FDM slicing software focuses primarily on the outside shape of a part. Infills may be used on the part interior, but there are real limitations to the use of standard infill patterns.

Thermwood’s new software capability can begin printing a part at any layer above the table top. There is an interesting reason why you would want to do this.

Break Up Complex Parts Into Multiple Individual Parts

LSAM Print3D software supports an all new way to design and print parts with highly complex interior features. It does this by using a fundamentally different approach to part design and printing:

  • This new approach begins by breaking up complex parts into multiple individual parts and then printing the parts concurrently inside or even on top of one another.
  • To accomplish, this some layers may not begin printing at layer one, but may instead begin printing somewhat above the bottom layer (for example - to print a large part with a solid bottom and interior features, you would begin by printing the solid base and then add the interior features, which would be separate parts).
  • To do this, you need to begin printing at the level of the already printed base which is in fact, a distance above the table top.

This opens a whole new world of part design to additive manufacturing and dramatically broadens the capability of the underlying technology.  

With LSAM Print3D, you can break up comples parts into multiple individual parts



With LSAM Print3D, you can break up comples parts into multiple individual parts
With LSAM Print3D, you can break up comples parts into multiple individual parts
With LSAM Print3D, you can break up comples parts into multiple individual parts

Other Interesting Features

Design interior walls as part of a CAD part design, and have LSAM Print3D automatically recognize these as single bead interior support walls

Another interesting new feature is the ability to design interior walls as part of a CAD part design and have the software recognize these as single bead interior support walls and automatically develop a program to print them as designed. The software has also been taught specific operational characteristics of the of the LSAM machine which it automatically takes into account when generating a slicing program.

Automatically Generates a CNC Program Ready to Run on LSAM

Output of the LSAM Print 3D software is a CNC program ready to run on the LSAM print gantry. No additional CAM or post processing software is required. 

Automatically generates a CNC program ready to run on LSAM

Ongoing LSAM Development

Thermwood maintains an ongoing additive manufacturing software development effort and expects new features to be developed and released on a regular basis.

“We are at the very beginning of this new technology” says Thermwood’s Chairman and CEO, Ken Susnjara. “There is still a lot of unexplored territory and challenges to address”. 

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM

Thermwood Unveils New 3D Print Head Design for LSAM

Posted by Duane Marrett on Tue, May 23, 2017

Tags: LSAM, Thermwood LSAM, 3D Print, 3D printing, Additive, Additive Manufacturing, Announcements

New Print Head Design for LSAM

Thermwood Corporation has unveiled a new design for the print head on its large scale additive manufacturing machines which it calls LSAM, (pronounced L-Sam). This new “Universal” design print head can be equipped with any of three interchangeable “Melt Cores”.

The print head is large by industry standards, being over 10 feet long and weighing one and a half tons, but despite the size and weight it moves at speeds up to five feet per second. The print head is designed so that the “Melt Core”, which consists of a feed housing, extruder and polymer melt pump, can be changed should higher or lower print rates be required.

New Print Head Design for Thermwood LSAM

Universal Print Head Installed on LSAM Development Machine

Thermwood has installed a universal print head on its current 10’ x 10’ LSAM development machine with a 40mm Melt Core and has successfully 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. 

Universal Print Head Installed on LSAM Development Machine

LSAM is DIfferent Than Other Thermoplastic 3D Printers

The print head is a critical element in Thermwood’s additive manufacturing process which functions differently than other FDM thermoplastic 3D printers. Most thermoplastic additive manufacturing systems print with a relatively small print bead onto a heated table in a heated environment. The heated environment is needed to keep newly printed layers from getting too cool to properly fuse with subsequent layers.

In Thermwood’s approach, the only heat source is the print head itself. A heated environment isn’t required. The process prints a large bead at such high output rates that the printed layer must be cooled rather than heated to achieve the proper layer to layer fusing temperature. The entire process is essentially an exercise in controlled cooling and produces large size, high quality, virtually void free printed structures.

Each layer is printed at a rate that allows it to cool to the ideal temperature before the next layer is applied. If the layer becomes too hot, print speed is reduced to allow more cooling time. If it becomes too cool, print speed is increased to reduce cooling time. 

Real-Time Thermographic Image Display

A built-in thermographic imaging system displays a real time thermal image on the CNC control screen which aides the operator in achieving and maintaining the ideal print temperature during the print process.

Real-Time LSAM Thermographic Image Display

Temperature Control Module Integrated into LSAM

The LSAM Universal Print Head can process material at temperatures up to 450oC. It uses an electronic temperature control module integrated within the print gantry CNC control, allowing full integration of temperature and pressure control with exclusive features of Thermwood’s print gantry CNC control, better supporting processes unique to 3D printing.

Temperature Control Module Integrated into LSAM

Three Melt Core Choices for LSAM

Thermwood offers three melt cores for its print head, each with a different maximum print rate. The maximum print rate determines the longest bead that can be printed during the available cooling time between layers.  This cooling time varies depending on material, amount of fan cooling and geometric shape of the layer, but the faster the print rate the more material that can be laid down within the cooling time between layers, so faster print heads allow larger parts to be printed, but don’t really print parts faster.

Fastest Printing With LSAM

Even the standard 40mm LSAM melt core is generally so fast that it must be slowed on most parts to keep from printing a layer so fast that it doesn’t have sufficient time to cool properly between layers. In this case, often multiple parts can be printed in the same time it takes to print just one.

The LSAM machine is equipped with a standard 40mm Melt Core which includes a patented 40mm high speed extrusion screw coupled to a corresponding melt pump and deposition head. This standard configuration processes over 200 pounds of material an hour, depending on the specific material and is suitable for parts that have a print layer lap length of up to 200 feet while printing a standard bead that is .200 inch thick and .830 inch wide. This configuration has proven more than adequate for virtually all large parts today.

If even longer layer bead lengths are required, higher output Melt Cores are available. A 60mm Melt Core can process 50% more and a 70mm Melt Core has operated at rates of over 500 pounds per hour, which Thermwood expects to increase.

The fastest speed at which a part can be printed is determined by the cooling time required to reach the proper bonding temperature between layers and not by the output of the print head. Larger print head outputs simply allow larger parts to be printed within the cooling time between layers.

High output melt cores do, however, have a minimum operating speed so may not be suitable for smaller parts. If both small and really large parts are required on the same machine, the melt core can be changed from one size to another in less than a shift. 

New 10'x20' Demonstration LSAM Under Construction

This print head will be installed on a new 10’ x 20’ demonstration machine currently under construction at Thermwood. Production machines come standard with the 40mm Melt Core.

New 10'x20' Demonstration LSAM Under Construction

Thermwood’s LSAM machines both print and trim on the same machine using separate gantries. The new approach to print head design adds even more flexibility.

LSAM Produces Solid, Void-free Parts

Thermwood LSAM Produces Solid, Void-free Parts

Using this technology, Thermwood has been able to produce large tools that are solid and void free enough to maintain vacuum without sealing or surface coating. This simplifies production of the tool, allowing accurate machining of the surface without having to deal with distortions that might be caused by variations in the thickness of a coating. 

Print and Trim on the Same Machine

Thermwood offers a line of dual gantry additive manufacturing machines which both print and trim parts on the same machine. These machines can be up to 100 feet long with print head output rates from 150 to 500 pounds per hour.  

About the Thermwood LSAM

The Thermwood LSAM is used to produce large to very large sized components from reinforced thermoplastic composite materials.

Although suitable for producing a wide variety of components, Thermwood is focusing on producing industrial tooling, masters, patterns, molds and production fixtures for a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, foundry and boating.   

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM

Thermwood Successfully Tests "Ultra High Output" PH50 3D Print Head

Posted by Duane Marrett on Wed, Sep 14, 2016

Tags: Thermwood, 3D printing, Additive, LSAM, Subtractive, PH50, Announcements

Thermwood PH50 Head Successfully Tested

Thermwood LSAM PH50 Print HeadAfter recently announcing our line of LSAM (large scale additive manufacturing) machines, Thermwood has now built and tested a high output version of our PH Series composite thermoplastic 3D print head.

At a print rate of 500 lbs/Hr, our newest and largest print head, the PH50 is more than three times faster than even our current PH15 print head (which we believe is currently the highest output composite thermoplastic print head available).  

The Thermwood-designed PH series print head uses three servo drives in a unique configuration.

The advantages of this new design include:

  • a highly accurate print bead, the ability to change bead size while printing
  • high output print rates
  • better fusion between printed layers
  • a virtually void-free printed structure

Thermwood has been operating the PH15 print head on the development version of our large scale additive manufacturing machine, called LSAM (L-Sam). The PH15 features a maximum print output rate of 150 Lbs/Hr when running a 20% carbon fiber filled ABS material. Our newest, and largest print head, the PH50, has been successfully bench-tested at a print rate of slightly over 500 Lbs/Hr running the same material.

A New Way to 3D Print

Fast print rates make possible all new ways to 3D print. The maximum print rate on a particular part is dictated not by the output of the print head, but instead, by cooling. When a layer is printed it must be allowed to cool sufficiently to stiffen enough to support the next layer but should not be allowed to cool so much that it doesn’t fuse properly with the next layer. This means that, although you may be able to print much faster, with most materials, you must wait at least 1 ½ to 2 minutes before you can print another layer. This would tend to make high output print heads unnecessary except for really large parts, but there are situations where this is not the case. 

LSAM Solid Structure PrintingAt times, parts are printed as completely solid structures. When this occurs, bead length adds up quickly. A 5 foot by 5 foot solid layer requires 375 feet of bead length with a 0.800” bead width. Even with a 125 foot per minute print speed (which is the print speed of the PH50 at full output), it will require at least three minutes to print that layer. While this is still within a good layer to layer working time, it is clearly not overly fast. 

Some parts which are printed vertically are so long that they must be printed in multiple sections which are then bonded together. With a fast enough print head and large enough table, all sections can be printed at one time rather than printing them one at a time. In this approach, you print a layer on one part, then move to the next and the next, until you have printed that layer on all the parts. Then, you return to the first part which should then be ready for another layer. You can also mix different types of parts and print them all at the same time, rather than one at a time.  With additive manufacturing technology today, this is the only way to speed up production rate. This approach makes fast print heads and large table sizes not only practical but quite desirable. Thermwood LSAM Tall Vertical Structure Printing

Thermwood's PH Series Print Head Design

Thermwood LSAM PH50 Print HeadThermwood’s PH Series print head design uses a servo-controlled plastic extruder with a specially designed, patented plasticating screw to heat and soften the composite thermoplastic material. It then uses a servo-controlled fixed displacement polymer pump to deliver the softened material at a precisely controlled rate to the print nozzle. This dual-servo, two-step approach to generating the print bead eliminates a variety of problems encountered when trying to use just an extruder to print and generates a highly controlled material flow rate which results in a highly accurate and controllable print bead size. 

Thermwood’s PH Series system generates a relatively large print bead, applied at high speed. The print head is slaved to machine speed so as the machine speeds up and slows down, the output of the print head automatically adjusts to keep the size of the print bead consistent and accurate. This print speed control is automatic and doesn’t need to be incorporated into the CNC print program, greatly simplifying programming. An additional feature of this approach is that the print program can vary the size of the print bead during printing, something Thermwood has found to be a valuable capability. 

Once the bead has been applied, the PH Series print head uses a unique servo-controlled compression wheel to flatten and fuse each new print layer to previous layers. This wheel is the third servo in the PH series print head and can be instructed to automatically track machine motion. 

Thermwood LSAM Servo-Controlled Compression Wheel

Since it tends to squeeze out any air that might otherwise be trapped between layers during printing, Thermwood has found that this compression wheel results in superior bonding between printed layers and a virtually void free printed structure. 

Another Unique Feature

A unique aspect of this new print head design is that, unlike machine motion, the three servo drives in the print head are not machine axes. Thermwood’s print gantries have six servo drive systems, but only three of them are axes. A machine axis needs to be programmed. The servo drives in the print head have their own unique, independent, self-operating intelligent control functions, which they continuously perform without specific ongoing CNC program commands.

Thermwood LSAM PH50 Control

The CNC program simply tells them to perform their function and they do it without further specific instructions, even if those functions require them to interact with the machine program, machine motion or each other. For example, simply turn on the print function and move the machine and the print head will print the proper size bead as the machine moves, automatically adjusting for acceleration, deceleration and different machine speeds. Engage the compression wheel and it follows machine motion automatically. During printing, a delicate balance exists between the extruder and polymer pump in the print head. Achieving and maintaining this balance during all aspects of operation is also automatic. 

PH50 Successfully Operated at Full Output

Thermwood Engineers Testing LSAM PH50 Head at Full OutputCurrently, the new PH50 print head has successfully operated at full output in a static position. Thermwood is replacing its 10x10 foot LSAM development machine with a 10'x20' foot demonstration machine to verify and demonstrate operation of this new head at full print speed. Thermwood believes that 10'x20' is as small a machine as is practical for this high output print head. LSAM machines are available with table lengths of up to 100 foot or more. Thermwood is confident that technology in the PH Series print heads could be used in even higher output print heads should a need ever develop.  

For More Information

The Thermwood line of LSAM machines are available now, and you can get more information and see videos of these new heads in operation here

Thermwood LSAM

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM

Thermwood Announces 3D Additive Machines

Posted by Duane Marrett on Wed, Aug 31, 2016

Tags: Thermwood, LSAM, 3D printing, Additive, Subtractive

Thermwood LSAM Now Available

Thermwood LSAM Now Available 

Thermwood LSAM Logo
After an extensive development program, Thermwood Corporation, (Dale, Indiana, USA), has announced it is now offering a line of Additive Manufacturing Systems for the production of large to very large reinforced thermoplastic composite parts. Thermwood’s new machine line, called LSAM (pronounced L-Sam, short for Large Scale Additive Manufacturing), uses a two-step, near-net-shape production process. 

Two-Step Near Net-Shape Production Process

First the part is 3D printed, layer by layer, to slightly larger than the final size, then it is trimmed to its exact final size and shape using a CNC router. The process operates in free space and does not require molds or tooling.  

With LSAM - first, the part is 3D printed, layer by layer
Next, the LSAM part is trimmed to the exact final size using a CNC router
Part being trimmed on a Thermwood LSAM 

Thermwood’s target market for this new equipment is the production of tooling, masters, molds, fixtures, patterns and plugs for a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, boating, foundry and thermoforming. In addition, Thermwood believes it will find additional applications as various industries become aware of the substantial benefits of large part additive manufacturing. For tooling, the primary benefits of this approach are a substantially lower cost and a dramatically shorter build cycle. 

Print and Trim on the Same Machine 

Print and trim on the same Thermwood LSAM machine 

Thermwood’s high wall, overhead gantry LSAM machines feature a ten foot wide, five foot high work envelope. Length of the work envelope can be as short as ten foot but as long as 100 foot or more. Machines include both a print gantry and a second trim gantry which is actually a five axis CNC router. Both gantries operate over the entire table surface. With this configuration, all functions needed to make parts are performed on the same machine. 

Thermwood’s print gantry features an advanced, Thermwood-developed, vertically-mounted PH Series print head that melts and precisely meters the polymer bead. It can process filled thermoplastic composite materials at temperatures up to 650 o F. Advantages of this unique triple servo design include a much more accurate print bead, the ability to change bead dimensions while printing, the ability to print at high output rates, better fusion between printed layers and a superior void free printed structure. 

Highest Output Rate Head Available 

Thermwood LSAM PH15 head is the highest output head available today
Thermwood currently offers the PH15 Print Head on it LSAM machines. The PH15 prints at rates up to 150 lbs/hr which Thermwood believes is the highest output rate available today. Although Thermwood believes the PH15 is appropriate for many current tooling applications, they are actively developing even higher output versions of the PH Series Print Head. 

The size and typical geometry of parts to be printed, the number of part to be printed at the same time and the overall size of the machine will dictate how large a print head is appropriate. PH Series Print Heads include the ancillary systems required to dry and transport material from storage to the print head. 

The trim or subtractive gantry is a five axis CNC router system equipped with a 12HP (3,000 to 24,000 RPM) Automatic Tool Change Spindle and a ten position automatic tool changer. The vertical Z axis stroke is enhanced, so that the router head can machine from the print table surface to a point completely over the top of a printed part. The machine is also equipped with an automatic tool length measurement system and Thermwood’s patented impact resistant head. The machine uses Siemens Intelligent Servo Drives throughout, for both printing and trimming.  

Thermwood LSAM video screenshot 

Each gantry has its own, free standing Thermwood high performance Q-Core CNC Control for movement. The print gantry also includes an integrated print head control to manage melt, pressure and metering functions. Special control functions, not normally part of a CNC control, have been developed to operate the servo drive print head and bead compression wheel. These functions automatically perform tasks that would otherwise need to be incorporated in the CNC print program. This simplifies 3D print programming. 

Exciting New Manufacturing Revolution

“This is exciting”, says Thermwood’s founder and CEO, Ken Susnjara. “We are at the beginning of what appears to be a revolution in manufacturing and we look forward to the new challenges and incredible possibilities that this type of transformational change brings”. 

Thermwood LSAM is at the forefront of an exciting new manufacturing revolution 

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM


Thermwood Continues Development of its Large Scale Additive Manufacturing System

Posted by Duane Marrett on Mon, Oct 19, 2015

Tags: Announcements, Additive, Large Scale, Testing

Thermwood Corporation, a major U.S. based manufacturer of CNC routers, has embarked on a program to develop Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) which can perform both the “additive” and “subtractive” functions on the same machine. This approach, called “near net shape”, uses a high volume thermoplastic printer to quickly create a part that is nearly, but not exactly, the final net shape. A “subtractive” function then machines the part to the exact final net shape. In its final form, Thermwood’s system will perform both the “Additive” and “Subtractive” functions on the same machine.

MeltShape Technology 

Thermwood’s MeltShape wheel is servo controlled to precisely follow machine motion.
Thermwood's MeltShape wheel is servo controlled to precisely follow machine motion

Vertical wall after additive process


Horizontal slab during additive process

Both vertical walls and horizontal slabs were successfully built during initial testing

More complex pattern during the additive process

More complex pattern after the subtractive trimming process
A more complex pattern was also created and trimmed as part of the testing process

Thermwood’s development system has performed well during initial additive testing. It has been tested through its entire operating range. This startup effort included initial validation of an all new “MeltShape Technology”. Melt shaping promises enhanced control of layer shape and improved bonding between layers. This new patent pending approach uses one or more shaping wheels to shape, form and compress the hot plastic melt as it is being extruded, insuring that each new layer is the proper shape and thickness and that it bonds firmly to previously applied material.  Melt shaping offers a new and promising technique in the advancement of large scale additive manufacturing. 

Featuring an extruder from American Kuhne

American Kuhne

Kevin Slusarz, American Kuhne vice president of process technology, assisted with the start-up effort.  American Kuhne, a Graham Group Company, supplied the custom extrusion system for Thermwood’s development machine. The extrusion system performed flawlessly during initial testing. Extruder controls are designed to smoothly network and integrate with the machine control. “We are quite pleased to have a partner like American Kuhne as part of this development program” says Ken Susnjara, Thermwood’s CEO. 

20% Carbon Graphite Filled ABS

The material processed during startup testing was a 20% carbon graphite filled ABS from Techmer ES. Thermwood is in discussions with other material supplier to test their material in this new application. 

MeltShaping Approach 

Thermwood’s melt shaping approach to adding material offers several significant advantages. Because layers are rolled together, rather than tamped together, air between layers is squeezed out during the additive process, so it is much less likely that air becomes trapped between layers. This was borne out during initial testing which produced virtually void free walls. This addresses the problem of trapped air delaminating layers when a part is processed through a heated autoclave, which is a common requirement for aerospace parts and patterns.  

Full Six Axis Articulated Additive Deposition Head 

This approach uses a melt shaping wheel that interact with the extruded thermoplastic bead while it is still hot and pliable. The shaping wheel is servo controlled so it can track the direction of machine motion. The Thermwood machine is a full six axis system, five axes to position the head in any orientation and the sixth axis to align the shaping wheels to the machine motion direction. Thermwood has added a software feature to its Q Core CNC control called “Tangential Following” which automatically keeps the shaping wheel aligned with the direction of machine motion without the need for six axis programming. This eliminates the need for a specialized CAD/CAM system to handle the sixth axis and allows the use of virtually any five-axis CAD/CAM system to program machine motion. 

Multiple Shaping Modules

Thermwood envisions different shaping wheels, each imparting specific characteristics to the hot plastic bead. 

Further Details

Because of its five axis head configuration, material can be applied at an angle or onto a curved surfaces in addition to traditional horizontal layers. This capability opens new processing possibilities and supports free form additive manufacturing techniques not currently possible. 

Thermwood’s initial test machine, which can print parts up to ten foot by ten foot by five foot thick, is expected to be fitted with a five axis “subtractive” gantry trim system in the next few months at which time all functions can be performed on the same machine. 

Ongoing Development

Thermwood Additive Manufacturing System
Thermwood’s LASM development machine can print parts up to ten foot by ten foot by five foot high

Thermwood plans to continue this development effort with the goal of offering these machines in a variety of large sizes for commercial applications. Management cannot yet determine when the technology might be sufficiently refined for commercial rather than purely research and development applications. In the meantime Thermwood plans to continue working with material vendors, R&D operations and potential users in an ongoing development effort.

Thermwood Announces 3D Additive Manufacturing Program

Posted by Duane Marrett on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

Tags: Thermwood, CNC, Announcements, CNC Router, manufacturing, 3Dprinting, 3D printing, Additive

Thermwood’s 3D Additive Manufacturing System (initial development machine) can make parts up to 10’x10’x5’

Thermwood Corporation, a leading U.S. based manufacturer of CNC routers, has announced a program to develop a 3D Additive Manufacturing System, capable of making large carbon graphite reinforced composite thermoplastic components.

Near Net Shape Approach

Thermwood’s systems utilizes a “near net shape” approach where a relatively large extruder, mounted to the machine, is used to heat, melt and deposit, or “print”, carbon graphite filled thermoplastic material to quickly create a structure which is almost, but not quite the exact final shape. That structure, when it cools and hardens is then five axis machined to the final net shape. 

Up to Sixty Feet Long

These new systems will be based on Thermwood’s Model 77, semi-enclosed, high wall gantry machine structures, which are currently offered in sizes up to sixty feet long. American Kuhne LogoFor the plastic extruder, Thermwood turned to American Kuhne, the preferred provider of engineered solutions for plastic, rubber & silicone extrusion, who developed a custom system, which integrates tightly, both mechanically and electronically, with Thermwood’s CNC machine. This allows not only the machine but also the plastic extruder to be controlled and managed by a central CNC control, insuring smooth integration and increasing both capability and flexibility. 

Optional Additive and Subtractive on the Same Machine

With the addition of a second gantry, both the “Additive” and “Subtractive” processes can be performed on the same machine. The second “Subtractive” gantry will be offered as an option. Companies that already have five axis machining capacity and want to work with Additive Manufacturing may only require “Additive” machine capability as they can use existing equipment for the “Subtractive” part of the process. 

Full Six Axis Articulated Additive Deposition Head

The system’s custom 1.75 inch vertical extruder by American Kuhne is fully integrated to provide precise material distribution

Thermwood’s systems will feature full six axis articulated additive deposition head, allowing it to build layered structures on both a horizontal plane as well as planes canted in any direction up to ninety degrees from horizontal. Management believes this capability will be important as technology advances and more complex structures are required. 

Further Details

Thermwood’s initial development machine, which is nearing completion, can make parts up to ten foot by ten foot by five foot high, is equipped with a 20HP, 1 ¾ inch diameter, 24-1 L/D extruder and support equipment capable of processing over 100 pounds of material per hour. Despite the relatively heavy weight of the extrusion system and head, which are both mounted on and move with the machine, the machine generates impressive performance with high acceleration rates and high feed rate capability. 

Ongoing Development

This is an ongoing research and development program and Thermwood Management cannot say when commercial systems might be available to the market, but they believe this technology represents a major opportunity and that “Additive Manufacturing” will become a significant factor in the future of manufacturing. Thermwood believes it is in a unique position to pursue this emerging technology since, at one time, it was a plastic processing company that operated large plastic extruders in a production environment. Thermwood is already a major manufacturer of the “Subtractive” machinery part of the equation and this same technology is the basis of the “Additive” equipment.

Thermwood also designs, builds and programs its own sophisticated CNC controls which it can tailor to any new requirements and also has experience developing sophisticated design and CAD/CAM software packages which are also an important part of this new technology.