Boeing and Thermwood Corporation have employed additive manufacturing (AM) technology to produce a large, single-piece tool for the 777X programme.
The project is demonstrating that additive manufacturing is ready to produce production quality tooling for the aerospace industry. Thermwood used a Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) machine and newly developed Vertical Layer Print (VLP) 3D printing technology to fabricate the tool as a one-piece print, eliminating the additional cost and schedule required for assembly of multiple 3D printed tooling components.
In the joint demonstration programme, Thermwood printed and trimmed the 12ft-long R&D tool at its southern Indiana demonstration lab and delivered it to Boeing in August 2018. Boeing Research & Technology engineer, Michael Matlack believes 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 tool was printed as a single piece from 20% carbon fibre reinforced ABS using the Vertical Layer Print system. Boeing purchased a Thermwood LSAM machine with the VLP functionality for the Interiors Responsibility Centre (IRC) facility in Everett, Washington. 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.