Thermwood’s 10'x10' development LSAM machine has already successfully printed production tooling
LSAM (pronounced L-Sam) is Thermwood’s name for its line of Large Scale Additive Manufacturing machines 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.
Thermwood’s LSAM machines use a two-step, near-net-shape production process. The part is first 3D printed layer by layer, to slightly larger than the final size, then it is trimmed to its exact final net size and shape using a CNC router. The process operates in free space and does not require molds or tooling. LSAM machines perform both printing and trimming on the same machine using two gantries, one for printing and one for trimming.
Traditionally parts have been made by machining an oversized blank, removing material to achieve the final net shape. Often more material is removed than remains. Near-net-shape additive manufacturing prints a part that is nearly the final size and shape then trims it to final dimensions. The amount of material removed is much less, resulting in faster processing, lower cost and more efficient use of material. It is an ideal approach for really large parts where alternate production methods may not be possible.
The machining process for thermoplastic materials produces a chip and not airborne dust, as with some materials commonly used for masters and tooling. This minimizes the need for expensive sealed enclosures and air filtration systems, dramatically simplifying clean up.
With the proper choice of material, it may be possible to skip building a master and go directly from a computer design to printing a working mold, saving even more time and money.
For industrial tooling, this direct digital, additive manufacturing approach is substantially faster and dramatically less expensive.