3D Printing ProcessesAerospace Additive Manufacturing

Boeing and Thermwood partner to demonstrate new VLP 3D printing technology

New process uses LSAM 3D printers to produce large format tools as single parts

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.

VLP
VLP technology uses Thermwood’s LSAM systems to produce large tools as one-piece units.

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.

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Davide Sher

Over the last decade Davide has built up extensive experience as both a technology journalist and communications consultant. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he received his undergraduate degree from SUNY Stony Brook. He is a senior analyst for US-based firm SmarTech Publishing focusing on the additive manufacturing industry. He founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. which specialises in media and communications services for the 3DP and AM industry, through which he runs 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, as well as two editorial websites, 3D Printing Media Network and Il Replicatore.

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