3D Printing Industry | 2/8/2019 | Tia Vialva
sheenabeanna (Posted by) Level 3
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Indiana’s Thermwood Corporation has used it’s Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) technology to 3D print what is believed to be the largest autoclave capable tool ever made. It was produced for American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.

The tool, capable of distributing elevated temperatures and pressures in an enclosed chamber, will be used by Bell to mold and develop blades for its helicopters.

Program - Bell - Thermwood - Times - Aerospace

The program was instigated when Bell contacted Thermwood to help overcome expensive and long-lead times for tooling in aerospace development programs. Thermwood, an expert in large-scale additive manufacturing solutions, realized its LSAM 60mm melt core technology can help to quickly manufacture affordable large bond tooling.

Glen Isbell, Vice President of Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Innovation at Bell, stated “Thermwood’s aggressive approach to pushing the boundaries and limitations of traditional 3D printing and machining is exactly what we are looking for.”

Bell - Helicopter - Flight - Photo - Bell

A Bell helicopter in flight. Photo via Bell.

Thermwood printed the tool using TechmerPM’s 25% Carbon Fiber reinforced Polyethersulfone (PESU). Techmer, a materials design company, worked with Thermwood to specifically formulate the material for LSAM additive printing. The tool was printed in one continuous run, a key requirement from Bell to ensure vacuum integrity.

Requirement - Bell - Tooling - Cure - Cycles

Another requirement from Bell was that the tooling must be able to withstand common aerospace component cure cycles of up to 360°F, at 90 psi. The material provided by Techmer is able to endure these conditions, with a Glass Transition Temperature of over 400°F.

One tool half was 3D printed in 3 hours 8 minutes, weighing at 542 pounds. It was manufactured using a new, larger melt core installed on Thermwood’s LSAM system at its Development/Demonstration Lab in Southern Indiana. LSAM’s machine print head allows for Changeable Melt Cores (CMC) with varying capacities.

Game - Changer - James - Cordell - Manager

“This is a game changer,” said James Cordell, Manager of Manufacturing Innovation at Bell. “Being able to...
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