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Thermwood and General Atomics save $50K by 3D printing large-scale tool

Tool was manufactured using the LSAM 10'x20' system

Indiana-based Thermwood, a machining and large-format AM manufacturer, has once again demonstrated how its LSAM system is a viable tooling production method for those looking to save on cost. The company recently worked in collaboration with San Diego-based energy company General Atomics to manufacture a CNC trim tool that resulted in about $50,000 in cost savings compared to traditional production methods.

The tool for General Atomics was produced using Thermwood’s LSAM 10’x20′ system, a large-format hybrid system that uses an additive extrusion process to build up near net shaped parts and a CNC trimming process to finish them with precision. The part, which required only 16 hours to 3D print, was made from ABS with 20% carbon fiber filling. The subsequent trimming process was 32 hours.

Thermwood General Atomics

Most impressively, the part, which weighed 1,190 lbs, was roughly $50,000 cheaper to produce compared to traditional tooling production methods, such as carbon fiber laminating. The lead time for the large-scale component was also drastically reduced from six to eight weeks to less than two.

The collaborative project between Thermwood and General Atomics serves to demonstrate that the former’s large-scale additive manufacturing technology offers a number of advantages over more traditional production methods for large-format carbon fiber tooling. The Indiana machining manufacturer summarizes the case study, citing a cost reduction of 2-3x and faster development times of 3-4x for the creation of a production-capable tool with vacuum integrity without the need for coatings.

Thermwood General Atomics

Beyond General Atomics’ specific—and undisclosed—application, Thermwood says its LSAM platform is well suited for the production of tools for large, deep 3D geometries, backup structures and vacuum piping.

Thermwood’s LSAM platform is available in several configurations, including two of its more recent versions, the LSAM 1010 with a low-cost enclosed AM machine and the LSAM MT with a moving build table. The company has leveraged its AM technology for a range of cool projects, including the construction of a 20-foot helicopter blade mold in partnership with Bell, and 3D printed composite tooling which has undergone compression mold tests.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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