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The air force laboratory is working with Boeing to produce responsive 3D printing tools

329 Published by admin Aug 14,2019

The air force’s research laboratory (AFRL) manufacturing and industrial technology (ManTech) is working with Boeing and indiana mechanical manufacturer Thermwood to produce low-cost, responsive tools using a additive manufacturing method for 3D printing services.As part of the AFRL low-cost ascription technology (LCAAT) program, the partners are using Thermwood’s mass additive manufacturing (LSAM) machines to produce autoclave 3D printing services for aerospace components.

“Future low-cost uavs will require responsive materials and manufacturing process strategies,” explains Craig Neslen, LCAAT manufacturing director.Additive manufacturing of composite moulds is one of many technologies evaluated to ensure that the industrial base can handle future manufacturing wave requirements and adapt to periodic system technology update activities, which may require small vehicle design changes at an acceptable cost.

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The LCAAT program aims to break the cost growth curve and production time of the new aerospace system.The system is exposed to high pressure and heat, requiring industrial autoclaves to process and sterilize its parts and materials.The LSAM machine has been used in 3D printing services and is believed to be the largest autoclave tool ever built for us aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.It is currently used to manufacture and develop blades for its helicopters.In addition, Boeing USES the LSAM process, a vertical layer printing (VLP) technology, to 3D print the 12-foot-long Boeing 777x trimming tool in 43 hours and 20 minutes.

In light of the previous collaboration, Boeing signed the LCAAT program contract with Thermwood to evaluate LSAM functionality as part of a 3D printer body skin tool.AFRL project manager Andrea Helbach added: “we are interested in adding manufacturing tools that can reduce the cost and time of purchasing autoclave tools.In addition, AM tools support component design changes while keeping costs to a minimum.

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Using a 40 mm printing core, run 25% carbon fiber reinforced polyether sulfone (PESU), medium scale tools 3D print for 5 hours and 15 minutes.The 367-pound mold is said to have the same width and height as the final tool, but its length was shortened from 10 feet to 4 feet.After machining the tool, the surface profile is detected and vacuum integrity is tested.The full-size tool is estimated to weigh about 1,400 pounds and take 18 hours to print, according to Thermwood.Currently, Boeing and AFRL are carefully recording all operational parameters to translate the technology into production plans, according to the China 3D printing services.

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