Boeing and Thermwood Corporation have teamed up to develop a large, single-piece tool for the aerospace giant’s 777X program by harnessing 3D printing technology.
Using a Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) machine powered by Vertical Layer Print (VLP) technology, the 12-foot-long tool was printed in one piece in a 20% carbon fibre-reinforced ABS material during a 43 hour build process. There was an additional trimming stage which lasted a subsequent 40 hours.
LSAM is a hybrid manufacturing system, boasting both additive and subtractive gantries, which has been developed for the production of large scale parts. The manufacture and trimming of the tool took place at Thermwood’s southern Indiana demonstration lab, before being delivered to Boeing in August 2018.
The partners believe the manufacture of such a tool proves additive manufacturing’s readiness to be utilised to produce quality tooling components within aerospace. The ability, here, to manufacture the tool in one piece also provides savings in cost and time, typically required for assembly of multiple components. Overall, the partners report weeks of time was saved, the printed tool being delivered before a traditional counterpart would even have been fabricated.
The 777X program centres on Boeing’s largest twin-engine jet, which was introduced after the successes of the 777 and 787 Dreamliner series. Boeing has now purchased a Thermwood LSAM machine with VLP functionality for its Interiors Responsibility Center facility in Everett, Washington.
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