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.
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 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)
Benefits & Best Fit for PolyJet
PolyJet 3D printing technology provides a fast and cost efficient alternative for making jigs and fixtures. PolyJet is a 3D printing process (additive manufacturing) that builds objects layer by layer, using data from computer aided design (CAD) files. The automated process eliminates CNC programing, setup and operator oversight to make overnight production and one-day delivery possible.
PolyJet is fast and efficient for even the most complex designs. This allows jigs and fixtures to be optimized for worker comfort, low cycle times and error-proof procedures. Another benefit of PolyJet is its multi-material capability, which can produce jigs and fixtures with a combination of rigid and flexible as well as opaque and translucent features. For example, a PolyJet fixture can have a flexible coating over rigid plastic to provide a non-marring, anti-slip surface or a pliable interface that compensates for manufacturing tolerances.
Multi-material printing can also be used for labeling purposes. Identification numbers, alignment guides or usage instructions can be printed while the jig or fixture is made. This approach to labeling is simple, and the label won’t peel, fade or wash off.
Since it is quick and efficient to 3D print jigs and fixtures, companies can shift to a digital inventory concept. Rather than storing these manufacturing tools when they are not in service, simply print out jigs and fixtures as they are needed. This eliminates the time, cost and labor for tool storage and inventory control, as well as time lost trying to locate an infrequently used jig or fixture.
Benefits of PolyJet:
Average lead time savings: 60% – 90%
Average cost savings: 50% – 70%
Increased efficiency: Few operational steps, Virtually labor-free, and Automated
Improved performance: Optimized designs, Ergonomic designs, One-piece assemblies
Eliminate secondary operations: Integrated rubber-like features and In-process labeling
Reduced inventory expense: Digital inventory – print as needed
PolyJet is a best fit
Design:Complex, intricate, Moderate to thick walls, and Revisions likely
Operating environment: Moderate loads applied, Reasonable temperatures, No exposure to chemicals/petroleum products
Size: 25 mm (1 in) to 305 mm (12 in)
Quantity: 1 to 100