What is 3D printing?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction of an object starting with nothing and using CAD software to build the desired object layer upon layer. Different additive manufacturing machines use different materials to do this. 3D printing started on a small scale and was thought of as a bit of a novelty. The latest developments in additive manufacturing have left thoughts of novelty goods far behind and allowed houses to be ‘printed’ using concrete, boats made using thermoplastics and even some replacement body parts.
What are thermoplastics and what are they used for?
Wikipedia describes a thermoplastic as a plastic polymer material which becomes pliable or mouldable at a certain elevated temperature and solidifies upon cooling.
Thermoplastics make everything from Lego, to bullet proof vests to a bus!
What are the benefits of using thermoplastics?
Because thermoplastics are so pliable they can be turned into any shape. With advances in heating and cooling techniques like the Thermal Sensor Layer Automation from Thermwood, which creates complete fusion during the bonding process, thermoplastics have been able to build everything from a working submarine nose to a 3D printed electric bus.
As well as creating working parts thermoplastics are the ideal partner for mould making.
Moulds have traditional been made by using a large piece of material and cutting it down to size. In today’s world where organisations are trying to reduce their waste, both for cost purposes and the environmental impact, being able to additive manufacture a part to a near net shape means a material saving of up to 70% with some LSAM solutions.
Because of the way the Thermwood LSAM prints each layer it all but eradicates air pockets in the process making it the ideal partner for mould making.
With huge cost savings and the ability to produce working parts within days rather than weeks Large Scale Additive Manufacturing is transforming the way organisations conduct their business. These changes allow them to be much more responsive to their customers needs.
Additive manufacturing is such a rapidly developing industry it needs a material to 3D print that can keep up. Thermoplastics offer such flexibility both in their structure and in what they can produce, it really is a material for today and the future.