Source: | April 13, 2018

The unveiling of the Thermobot 3D printer at the ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration facility in Tennessee. (Photo via Innovation Valley Twitter)

Magnum Venus Products (MVP), a manufacturer of composite application equipment based in Tennessee, has installed the first large-scale thermoset 3D printer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Manufacturing Demonstration facility in Tennessee.

With this new 3D printer, named the Thermobot, ORNL researchers will be able 3D print with previously unworkable materials.

At the grand unveiling Vlastimil Kunc, ORNL’s lead for polymer materials development, said, “The ability to print thermosets on a large-scale opens new possibilities with respect to the performance and integrity of printed structures.”

Unlocking the potential of thermosets

Thermosets are plastics that are irreversibly cured. The curing process changes the resin into an insoluble polymer network. This means that unlike thermoplastics, which are widely used for 3D printing, re-heating thermosets for recycling or reshaping is not possible.

For this reason, thermosets are ideal for high-temperature applications. Until now, it has not been possible to 3D print thermoset plastics.

Thermobot 3D printer specifications 

The Termobot 3D printer has a maxmimum build volume of 16 x 8 x 42 in, allowing 3D printing of large structures and molds. It is operated gantry system that can be tailored to different printing applications. A “roll-in/roll-out” printing bed allows the printer to continue operating whilst pre/post-processing is carried out on an additional print bed outside of the machine.

Bob Vanderhoff, CEO of MVP, said, “Thanks to this innovation research and development managers will be able to prototype faster and bring products to market faster,”

“Procurement departments will also enjoy shortened lead time on crucial molds – allowing for rapid deployment. This was made possible through ORNL slicing software that allows the integration of multivariate print process parameters.”

Specifications include:

  • A multi-axis print-head
  • A build volume of 16’ x 8’ x 42’’
  • Print speed of 50 inches per second, depending on the material used
  • A deposition rate of up to 10 lbs an hour
  • 6mm+ layer resolution
  • A 1,000 lbs capacity print bed
  • Repeatability of ±0.005

The project was paid for by a fund managed by the DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.

ORNL’s multivariate 3D printing innovations

Last year, ORNL fabricated the U.S. military’s first 3D printed submarine hull measuring 30 inches long   the Navy’s largest 3D printed asset.

Other large-scale 3D printing projects include Thermwood’s LSAM machine which has completed a 3,000 lb pattern for the hull of a fiberglass motorboat, Made In Space’s record breaking 3D printed beam.