1/26/2017 | 1 MINUTE READ

Thermwood Adds Thermographic Imaging to LSAM

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A thermographic camera mounted inside the machine monitors temperature conditions to improve print quality.


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Thermwood Corporation has added thermographic imaging as a standard feature to its large scale additive manufacturing (LSAM) machines, making it easier to adjust and control the printing process. The system uses a thermographic camera mounted inside the machine combined with a thermographic imaging system and the company’s print head control to monitor conditions and make adjustments.

The thermographic camera can be mounted in three different locations: fixed on a stand inside the machine, mounted on the print gantry or mounted to the print head itself. Image output from the camera is integrated with Thermwood’s print gantry CNC control and the full color temperature image is displayed on a resizable window right on the control display itself. A touchscreen allows the operator to touch any point on the image and read the exact temperature of that point.

The thermographic imaging system shows the operator a full color thermal image of the part as it is being printed. Different colors depict different surface temperatures. In order to print high-quality, void-free large structures, the previous layer must be cool enough to support a new layer without distortion, but also warm enough to fuse completely with that new layer, leaving a narrow range of optimal operation. In the LSAM system, the color green is assigned to this ideal range of temperatures.

Once print temperatures are known, Thermwood’s print head control makes it possible to adjust printing parameters to achieve the ideal print surface temperature. If the part becomes too hot, fan cooling can be increased or print speed can be reduced to allow more cooling time between layers. If the part temperature becomes too cool, print speed can be increased or cooling can be reduced. 

Using this technology, Thermwood has been able to produce large tools that are solid and void-free enough to maintain vacuum without sealing or surface coating, the company says. This simplifies production of the tool, allowing accurate machining of the surface without having to deal with distortions that might be caused by variations in the thickness of a coating. 

The LSAM produces large components from reinforced thermoplastic composite materials, such as industrial tooling, patterns, molds and production fixtures for the aerospace, automotive, foundry and boating industries. The dual-gantry system enables both printing and trimming parts on the same machine. The machines can be as long as 100 ft. with print head output rates ranging from 150 to 500 lbs/hr.