Jigs and Fixtures

3D Printing for Custom Manufacturing Tools

Manufacturers rely on highly customized jigs and fixtures to ensure quality, efficiency and worker safety. 3D printing streamlines and enhances the production of these tools, resulting in greater productivity and better ergonomics.

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Overview of the application

Manufacturing relies on tools including jigs, fixtures, templates and gauges to maintain quality and production efficiency. They are used to position, hold, protect and organize components and subassemblies at all stages of the manufacturing process. And although these tools are virtually invisible when production is running smoothly, their importance becomes evident when problems arise. To avoid production halts or product defects, new jigs and fixtures must be rapidly designed, manufactured and deployed.

Value of using FDM or PolyJet

Jigs and fixtures are commonly fabricated by machining metal, wood or plastic. When this work is done in-house, it can tie up machine tools used for production work. When the work is subcontracted, lead times can take weeks. Whether they’re made in-house or outsourced, jigs and fixtures are subject to the same design-for manufacturability limitations that govern production work. This can result in designs that are not optimal for the operation.

Benefits & Best Fit for FDM

FDM FixturesFDM provides a fast and accurate method of producing jigs and fixtures. FDM is an additive manufacturing process that builds plastic parts layer-by-layer using data from computer-aided design (CAD) files. By using FDM, the traditional fabrication process is substantially simplified; toolmaking becomes less expensive and time consuming. As a result, manufacturers realize immediate improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality. Additionally, these tools can be designed for optimal performance and ergonomics because FDM places few constraints on tool configuration. What’s more, adding complexity does not increase build time and cost.

The efficiency of FDM makes it practical to optimize jig and fixture designs and increase the number in service. Engineers can easily evaluate the performance of the tool and make quick, cost-efficient adjustments to the design as needed. FDM also makes it practical to produce jigs and fixtures for operations where they have not been previously cost or design feasible when produced with traditional manufacturing methods.

Finally, FDM jigs and fixtures are made from tough and durable thermoplastics that can withstand the rugged manufacturing environment. With several bio-compatible options, they are also ideal for use in medical applications.

Benefits of FDM

Average lead time savings:40% – 90%
Average cost savings:70% – 95%
Greater efficiency:Streamline and improve process
Eliminate detailed drawings
Minimize paperwork
Greater design freedom:Integrate / consolidate / improve
Eliminate assembly
Improve performance, accuracy and ergonomics

FDM is a best fit

Quantity:Low – volume (1-100+)
Properties:Thermoplastic is acceptable. Size
Size (XYZ):< 300 mm (12 inches) per side Environment:
< 200° C (390° F)
Deployment:Limited due to time and cost.
Fabrication:In-house is not feasible.
Revisions:Frequent replacements, alterations and revisions must be made.
Tolerance:> +/- 0.13 mm (0.005 in)