Thermwood announced the LSAM 1010 large-scale 3D printer, and it has an enclosure.
Enclosures are increasingly found on desktop 3D printers, which originally were quite open: some were (and still are) mere open gantries, with lots of moving parts exposed.
The idea behind enclosures on these machines was to capture stray heat and thus decrease the temperature gradient between the print and the ambient air. This reduces warping and increases print quality and consistency.
Thermwood LSAM 1010
Now I’m reading about Thermwood’s latest product, the enormous LSAM 1010. If you’re not familiar with Thermwood, they are an Indiana-based company that manufactures large CNC equipment for manufacturers. Some years ago they decided to get into the additive manufacturing business and developed their LSAM line.
The LSAM line (an abbreviation for Large Scale Additive Manufacturing) is essentially a thermoplastic deposition system that is mounted on a CNC platform. They use a Cartesian motion system that is perhaps the largest you’d ever encounter.
You might suspect that their deposition process is similar or identical to that used on smaller machines, but it is not. First, they’re using pellets instead of filament, as their capacity of up to 500 lbs of material PER HOUR would be impossible to handle with filament input.
They extrude material in a very large bead, which is then immediately subjected to a roller that flattens it and ensures bonding between these fat layers.
The bead results in a very coarse surface on 3D prints, and so a secondary CNC process mills down the exterior surface to a smooth finish. You can see how it works here:
In order to achieve the fantastic print rates, Thermwood has designed an incredibly interesting extrusion system that can not only hit 450C at these large scales, but also is able to handle “any” thermoplastic material without need for change.
LSAM 1010 Enclosure
The new LSAM 1010 includes an enclosure, but it’s not like other enclosures. In the image you can clearly see that the top is entirely open! There is no way this enclosure design will capture any stray heat, as is done in much smaller 3D printers.
Heat is not the reason for the enclosure; instead, it is regulatory. In some regions (namely the EU), robotic equipment of a certain size requires fencing or similar protective measures to ensure passers-by don’t accidentally encounter the moving parts.
By including an enclosure on the LSAM 1010, Thermowood hopes to enable certified use of the machine in the EU — and all areas where safety is a concern. They say that the cost of LSAM 1010 system is less than buying a normal system and then adding walls.
Thermwood is definitely a company producing interesting additive manufacturing equipment, but the sheer size of their devices is suitable only for those with very serious manufacturing ambitions.