Thermwood Corporation

Thermwood Corporation (2)

Following the July announcement of its large scale additive manufacturing (LSAM) program, American Kuhne customer Thermwood Corporation, a US-based manufacturer of CNC routers, announced that its development system performed well during initial additive testing through its entire operating range.

Kevin Slusarz, American Kuhne vice president of process technology, assisted in the start-up effort. ‘It is my pleasure to support Thermwood beyond the design phase. This was a good opportunity to combine our polymer processing know-how with Thermwood’s CNC technology expertise to advise optimizations to melt piping & tooling design for this unique application,’ he said.

Thermwood’s development system is supplied by a 1 ¾ inch American Kuhne extruder custom engineered for this application. ‘Although it’s a demanding application, our extruder performed flawlessly during initial testing,’ said Thermwood chairman & CEO Ken Susnjara. ‘We are quite pleased with our selection of American Kuhne as our development partner in this effort, not only for the quality of the equipment, but also for the service & support,’ he added.

Thermwood expects to fit this initial test machine, which can print parts up to ten foot by ten foot by five foot thick, with a five axis ‘subtractive’ gantry trim system in the next few months. This will enable the system to perform both the ‘additive’ and ‘subtractive’ functions on the same machine. Called ‘near net shape’, this approach uses a high volume thermoplastic printer to quickly create a part that is nearly, but not exactly, the final net shape. The ‘subtractive’ function then machines the part to the exact final net shape.

Testing included initial validation of an all new ‘MeltShape Technology’ for enhanced control of layer shape and improved bonding between layers, a new and promising technique in the advancement of LSAM. 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.

Thermwood plans to continue this development effort with the goal of offering these machines in a variety of large sizes for commercial applications, specifically targeting aerospace patterns and molds. Management cannot yet determine when the technology might be sufficiently refined for commercial rather than purely research and development applications. Thermwood plans to work with material vendors, R&D organizations and potential users in the ongoing development effort.

For more information, visit: www.thermwood.com

Thermwood Corporation, a U.S. based manufacturer of 3 and 5 Axis CNC routers, has announced a program to develop a 3D Additive Manufacturing System, capable of making large carbon graphite reinforced composite thermoplastic components. The systems utilize 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.

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. For the plastic extruder, Thermwood turned to American Kuhne 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.

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.

The 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.

The 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. This is an ongoing research and development program and it is unknown when commercial systems might be available to the market.

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.

For more information, visit: www.thermwood.com

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