Boeing and Thermwood are collaborating on employing additive manufacturing technology to produce a large, single-piece tool for the 777X program. The project is based on a new process going by the acronym VLP (vertical layer printing) and is demonstrating that additive manufacturing is able to generate production-quality tooling for the aerospace industry.
The newly developed Vertical Layer Print (VLP) 3D printing technology uses Thermwood’s Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) system to fabricate tools as one-piece prints, eliminating the additional cost and reducing the time 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 lab and delivered it to Boeing.
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. Boeing Research & Technology engineer Michael Matlack reported that 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.
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.