American Kuhne (Ashaway, RI) customer Thermwood Corp. (Dale, IN), a manufacturer of CNC routers, announced a program to develop a 3D additive manufacturing system capable of making large carbon-graphite-reinforced composite thermoplastic components.
The system uses a near-net-shape approach, in which a custom-built, vertical, integrated extruder deposits or "prints" carbon graphite–filled thermoplastic material to quickly create a structure that is close to the final shape. Once it cools and hardens, it undergoes a 5-axis machining process to achieve its final net shape.
This innovative process minimizes three challenges of conventional 3D printing, particularly for large parts: Uneven cooling, material waste and extensive post processing. 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 60 feet long. With the addition of an optional gantry, both the additive and subtractive processes can be performed on the same machine.
"Thermwood's systems will feature a 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 90 degrees from horizontal," said Ken Susnjara, Thermwood Chairman and CEO. "We believe this capability will be important as technology advances and more complex structures are required."
The initial development machine, nearing completion, can make parts up to 10 x 10 x 5 feet high. It is equipped with an integrated, vertical, 20HP, 1.75-in. diameter, 24-1 L/D extruder and support equipment capable of processing more than 100 pounds of material per hour, said Thermwood's information. Despite the relatively heavy weight of the extrusion system and head, which is mounted on the machine and moves with it, the system features high acceleration rates and feed-rate capacities.
"3D printing is rapidly evolving and presents unique challenges, particularly at industrial sizes," said Bill Kramer, American Kuhne's Chief Technology Officer of extrusion systems. "We specialize in providing custom solutions for our customers' extrusion challenges and are excited to contribute our expertise to Thermwood's innovation."
Thermwood will be exhibiting in Booth 623 at the 24th Annual SPE Thermoforming Conference, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, 2015, at the Cobb Galleria Center and Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel.