Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) successfully completed testing of 3D printed thermoplastic moulds to demonstrate the potential of additive manufacturing in the tooling industry.
ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility teamed up with industry partners to 3D print several large thermoplastic moulds that were then tested in one of Boeing’s industrial autoclaves, a high pressure and high temperature chamber that is primarily used for curing aerospace-grade composite parts.
ORNL researcher Vlastimiil Kunc confirmed: “This was the first successful demonstration of 100 percent digitally manufactured tools in an industrial autoclave.”
Each tool was printed and machined in just a few hours, compared to conventional methods with an average lead time of two weeks. This proofs that 3D printed tools could lower manufacturing costs by accelerating production times.