Laminated Object Manufacturing
The Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) systems are used for immediate creation of complex 3-D objects directly from computer images or CAD data. The parts produced with LOM machines are primarily used for secondary manufacturing processes such as silicon molding, spray-mew tooling and plaster, sand and direct investment casting. The LOM process can be applied to many innovative industries such as automobile, aerospace, medical, computer and electronics.
The patented LOM process uses a single laser beam and thin sheet materials to create solid objects of virtually any complexity. The sheets, which are precoated with heat sensitive adhesives, are laminated one on top of the other in order to create a multilaminar structure. Once the layer is bonded, the CO2 laser cuts the outline of the specific cross-section. Each layer of material represents a thin cross-section within a 3-D object so this fully automatic and unattended process continues until all layers are laminated and cut, creating a solid 3-D output from any CAD design.
Accuracy--Since materials used in the LOM process are in sheet form and the process does not subject them to either physical nor chemical phase changes, the finished LOM parts do not experience shrinkage, warpage, internal stress, and other deformations.
A precise X-Y positioning table is used to guide the laser beam resulting in production of accurate parts. Accuracy of 0.010" is easily achieved regardless of the size of the part.
Speed--The LOM process does not convert liquid polymers to solid plastics nor does it convert plastic powders into sintered objects, but instead it uses existing solid sheet materials which are glued using a hot roller and cut with a laser beam.
Unlike competitive technologies such as Stereolithography and Selective Laser Sintering, the laser in the LOM process does not have to scan the entire surface area of each cross-section, rather it only has to outline its periphery. Therefore, parts with thick walls are produced Just as fast as those with thin walls.
The LOM process is especially advantageous for production of large and bulky parts which are often encountered in the aerospace and automotive industries. The reason for this unique advantage is the fact that the core manufacturing material does not need to be formed since the laser merely determines the geometrical shape by removing excess material.
Variety of Materials--Paper, plastics, composites, and ceramics can be used in the LOM systems. Commercial availability of various sheet materials allow the users to vary the type and thickness of the manufacturing material for their specific applications.
Paper is the simplest and least expensive material, and it produces rigid and durable parts which have properties similar to plywood. Plastic films are more expensive and they result in parts which are more flexible.
Special adhesive pre-impregnated composite materials are currently under development targeted to producing high strength functional prototypes and small batches of working components.
Simplicity--The simplicity of the LOM process and systems allow them to be practical extensions to many manufacturing and design environments. LOM machines can be thought of as peripheral devices to a CAD workstation, allowing any designer to output any design directly to an LOM system. The need to create additional support structures is completely eliminated with the process; something which is essential for competitive stereolithography systems.
The LOM process is quite straightforward and the user does not need to have any specific knowledge of chemistry, physics, mechanics or electronics in order to operate the machine. The systems are designed using standard electromechanical components which makes them easy to maintain and troubleshoot.
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