Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. (Rockford, IL), which made its reputation with colossal machines, had a big week at the end of July.
Early in the week, Ingersoll introduced a giant Mongoose (automated fiber placement-tape laying) machine it recently built. The next day, Tino Oldani, Ingersoll’s president and CEO, emailed his partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL; Oak Ridge, TN) that the University of Maine had ordered the company’s Wide and High Additive Manufacturing (WHAM) machine. Ingersoll began developing WHAM two years ago through a cooperative R&D agreement with ORNL, a U.S. government lab.
The 3D printer, sold under the MasterPrint brand, has a print envelope of 20′ × 60′ × 10′ (6.1 x 18.3 x 3.0 m). The university will use it to research composites and advanced structures.
MasterPrint can automatically switch from a print head to a five-axis milling attachment for post-processing. “Rather than pushing a plastic filament toward a hot nozzle, we have a screw that exerts pressure inside a heated barrel that melts plastic pellets of the type used in injection molding,” said Curtis Goffinski, Ingersoll’s principal technologist for advanced manufacturing. “We load those pellets 1,000 lb at a time.”
Higher Temperature Materials Tested
In 2016, pellets were ABS with 20% chopped carbon fiber from Techmer PM, but Goffinski said Techmer is just one supplier. Ingersoll has successfully tested higher-temperature materials that would increase MasterPrint’s utility.
The first machine has the smallest print nozzle, with an extruder diameter of 0.25-0.5″ (0.6-1.3 cm) that lays down a rectangular bead of thermoplastic 0.5″ (1.3 cm) wide by 0.2″ (0.5 cm) tall at a rate of 150 lb/hr (68.0 kg/hr).
A filler of 20-25% chopped carbon fibers helps keep the material stable during cooling and stronger afterward.
The goal is to make a MasterPrint with a standard work envelope of 23′ × 10′ × 46′ (7.0 × 3.0 × 14.0 m) and a target material deposition rate of 1,000-1,200 lb/hr (453.6-544.3 kg/hr).
Bigger and Better
According to Ingersoll, Mongoose—at 51′ × 136′ × 43′ (15.5 × 41.5 × 13.1 m)—is bigger than the world’s previous largest fiber placement machine, also built by Ingersoll.
Mongoose and MasterPrint are not only big, they’re big deals for Ingersoll, which almost went out of business 15 years ago in a bankruptcy. Oldani, who operated a competing engineering company in Rockford, stepped in to rescue its machine tools division with the financial backing of the Camozzi Group.
Key Player in Defense, Aerospace
In the years since, Oldani and his team burnished Ingersoll’s reputation by developing advanced machine tools for heavy industries and creating gigantic machines and one-off components that no one else can make.
“Ingersoll used to be a large company,” Goffinski said. “It’s not like before, but it is a key player in defense and aerospace.”