Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing and Thermwood Partner on Low Cost Responsive Tooling Program

Posted by Duane Marrett on Thu, Aug 08, 2019

Tags: Thermwood, Announcements, Additive, LSAM, Thermwood LSAM, Additive Manufacturing, Boeing, Air Force, Air Force Research Laboratory

The United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Manufacturing and Industrial Technology Division (ManTech) is interested in large scale polymer-based additively manufactured (AM) composite cure tooling. Boeing submitted an idea to ManTech’s Open BAA to evaluate the current state of additive manufacturing technology with respect to the fabrication of low cost autoclave capable tools for the production of composite aerospace components. The initial demo tool is for an AFRL concept aircraft fuselage skin (Figure 1). Boeing contracted Thermwood to demonstrate capability of their Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) machine.  

Air Force Research Laboratory Conceptual Aircraft & Full-Scale Tool

Figure 1: Air Force Research Laboratory Conceptual Aircraft & Full-Scale Tool


Please click below for video


The Thermwood LSAM machine offers an innovative additive manufacturing machine capability with its Vertical Layer Printing (VLP). The vertical layer printing AM process provides a significant cost benefit by increasing the size components can be printed, thus reducing assembly cost for large tools. To validate the VLP process using high temperature autoclave-capable materials, Boeing and AFRL chose to 3D print a section of the large tool to evaluate the LSAM functionality. The Mid-Scale tool was printed on Thermwood’s LSAM  Additive Manufacturing Demonstration machine in Southern Indiana using a 40mm print core running 25% carbon fiber reinforced Polyethersulfone (PESU).

Mid-Scale Tool 3D Printing on Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM)
Figure 2: Mid-Scale Tool 3D Printing on Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM)

The initial test tool has the same width, height and bead path as the final mold, incorporates all major features of the final mold, but compressed in length being only 4 feet long. The final tool will be over 10 feet long. The Mid-Scale tool set a milestone achievement as the first high temperature tool printed using the VLP system. The Mid-Scale tool required 5 hours, 15 minutes to print with a print weight of 367 lbs. After final machining, the tool was probed for surface profile and tested for vacuum integrity. The tool passed room temperature vacuum test and achieved dimensional surface profile tolerances. The Full-Scale tool will weigh approximately 1400 pounds and require 18 hours to print.

Machining (left) and Probe (right) operation on a Thermwood LSAMFigure 3: Machining (left) and Probe (right) operation on a Thermwood LSAM

The program is progressing to the next step, producing a full size tool. Boeing and the Air Force are carefully documenting all operational parameters of the project to transition the technology to production programs. Additive manufactured autoclave tooling offers significant advantages over traditional methods of producing these tools. 3D printed tooling is less expensive and can be fabricated in days or weeks rather than months.

AFRL is very interested in tooling approaches for the Low-Cost Attributable Technology (LCAAT) program which has a goal to break the cost growth curve and field new systems faster.  AFRL Program Manager Andrea Helbach says, “We are interested in additively manufactured tooling’s ability to reduce the cost and time to procure autoclave capable tooling.  Additionally, AM tooling supports changes in vehicle design with minimal non-recurring expenses.” 

“Future fielded low cost, but capable UAV’s will need a responsive materials and manufacturing processes strategy” says Craig Neslen, LCAAT Initiative Manufacturing Lead.  “Additive manufactured composite tooling is one of many technologies being evaluated to ensure the industrial base can handle future manufacturing surge requirements as well as accommodate periodic system tech refresh activities which could necessitate minor vehicle design changes at an acceptable cost.”  


More Information on LSAM

LSAM is based on exciting new technology developed from an entirely new direction.

LSAM is intended for industrial production. It is not a lab, evaluation or demonstration machine, but is instead a full-fledged industrial additive manufacturing system intended for the production of large scale components.

Thermwood has already applied for 19 separate patents on various aspects of this new technology (several have already been granted and more will be coming as development continues). LSAM is truly “state of the art” in this exciting new world of Large Scale Additive Manufacturing. 

The Secret to LSAM Print Quality...A Different Process

Examples of large parts easily printed on Thermwood's LSAM

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM

Boeing and Thermwood Partner to Demonstrate New 3D Printing Technology

Posted by Duane Marrett on Tue, Oct 09, 2018

Tags: Thermwood, Announcements, aerospace, 3D printing, Additive, LSAM, 3D Print, Thermwood LSAM, Additive Manufacturing, Vertical Layer Printing, Boeing, VLP, 777x


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Boeing and Thermwood Partner to Demonstrate New 3D Printing Technology

Boeing and Thermwood have employed additive manufacturing technology to produce a large, single-piece tool for the 777X program.  The project is demonstrating that additive manufacturing is ready to produce production quality tooling for the aerospace industry.

Thermwood used a Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) machine and newly developed Vertical Layer Print (VLP) 3D printing technology to fabricate the tool as a one-piece print, eliminating the additional cost and schedule required for assembly of multiple 3D printed tooling components. In the joint demonstration program, Thermwood printed and trimmed the 12-foot-long R&D tool at its southern Indiana demonstration lab and delivered it to Boeing in August 2018.

Boeing Research & Technology engineer Michael Matlack believes the use of Thermwood’s additive manufacturing technology in this application provided a significant advantage, saving weeks of time and enabling delivery of the tool before traditional tooling could be fabricated.

Boeing & Thermwood tool after vertical layer printing

The tool was printed as a single piece from 20% carbon fiber reinforced ABS using the Vertical Layer Print system. Boeing purchased a Thermwood LSAM machine with the VLP functionality for the Interiors Responsibility Center (IRC) facility in Everett, Washington.

The ability to quickly produce large-scale tooling at a quality level suitable for a real world production environment represents a significant step in moving additive technology from the laboratory to the factory floor.

Boeing & Thermwood final machined part

Please click below for video  

Boeing_VLP_Time_Lapse_rev_3_no_logo

 

More Information on LSAM

LSAM is based on exciting new technology developed from an entirely new direction.

LSAM is intended for industrial production. It is not a lab, evaluation or demonstration machine, but is instead a full-fledged industrial additive manufacturing system intended for the production of large scale components.

Thermwood has already applied for 19 separate patents on various aspects of this new technology (several have already been granted and more will be coming as development continues). LSAM is truly “state of the art” in this exciting new world of Large Scale Additive Manufacturing. 

The Secret to LSAM Print Quality...A Different Process

Examples of large parts easily printed on Thermwood's LSAM

Click for More Info on the Thermwood LSAM