Additive Manufacturing, turned on its side!

Vertical layer printing (VLP) prints layer upon layer vertically rather than horizontally, an additive manufacturing process currently unique to the Thermwood LSAM. The main benefit of this is that it allows parts to be printed which are much taller or longer than previously possible. The LSAM’s print envelope is 10 to 15 feet wide, 10 to 100 feet long and 5 feet tall. This had limited the size of pieces printed, with VLP the size is only restricted by the length of the bed.

What does this mean in reality?

When Thermwood worked with Tahoe boats to 3D print a mould of a boat vertical layer printing wasn’t an option. Everything was done horizontally which resulted in six different pieces being printed. It still only took 10 days to complete including trimming and bonding. However with VLP the boat hull could be printed in one piece and in half the time as well as avoiding assembly and bonding times.

vertical layer printing on an LSAM - almost limitless large scale additive manufacturing

Are Vertical Layer Printed parts as good?

When printing horizontally gravity doesn’t cause an issue whereas in the VLP development stage sagging was found on some products which could change the shape. Thermwood have built in safety measures to counteract this:-

  • A compression wheel. As the print head lays down the bead, it is followed by a compression wheel that presses the new material into the layer beneath, ensuring good layer adhesion whether in a horizontal or vertical orientation.
  • Dynamic print adjustment based on thermal imaging. The LSAM is equipped with a thermal camera that monitors the heat of the part as it is printed, enabling what Thermwood calls “Continuous Cooling” printing. The system’s software controls the print so that new layers are added when the previous layers are at the optimal temperature — neither too hot, which could cause distortion, nor too cool, which could cause delamination. This careful attention to print temperature coupled with the compression wheel results in layer adhesion such that parts can hold a vacuum right off the printer without coating

Case study

When Boeing needed a new 12 foot long research and development tool manufacturing Thermwood worked with them to showcase the VLP technology.

Boeing’s Michael Matlack believes the use of Thermwood’s large scale additive manufacturing technology provided a significant advantage, saving weeks on delivery over traditional tooling methods meaning they were able to get to work using the new tool much quicker.

The LSAM has proved time and time again that it can quickly produce quality tooling, saving in excess of 60% on time and material costs, now with vertical layer printing on offer the sky really is the limit!

If you would like to find out more about how VLP or any aspect of the LSAM contact us here.