Top Five Reasons To 3D Print Manufacturing Tools

Jigs, fixtures, grippers, gauges and guides—oh my! Walk onto a production floor in any industry and you’re bound to find a wide array of manufacturing tools aiding repeatability, quality and time efficiencies. Even though manufacturing tools are necessary to get the job done right, some manufacturers aren’t realizing their full potential. They continue to use tired, “good enough” tools because it’s difficult to justify the expense and effort to re-design and re-build jigs and fixtures.

Imagine if you could eliminate these obstacles—would there be opportunities to reduce scrap and rework, decrease labor time, increase throughput or improve quality with new manufacturing tools? Could you take your production to another level? 3D printing can help you overcome these hurdles. Manufacturing tools can be 3D printed more quickly and less expensively than traditional manufacturing methods, lowering the threshold to revamp your production floor. Read the following benefits of 3D printing manufacturing tools to see why this is one of the fastest growing applications.


Design freedom

Additive manufacturing gives you freedom to design. Traditional design for manufacturability rules don’t apply because the technology can build complex geometries with cavities, undercuts, overhangs and more. What may have been an impractical jig or fixture to machine is now feasible. You have freedom to let function and performance be the main drivers of design, rather than cost or time.

Design revisions

Additive manufacturing builds parts layer by layer, from the bottom up so no tooling or machining is required. If you notice an issue with a current tool or discover a way to enhance it, building a new part is as simple as revising the CAD file and printing the updated part. And since it usually costs much less than traditional methods, there is no risk of getting stuck with “good enough” parts because of your investment. You can verify function and design with the actual part and make new iterations without cost penalties.

Consolidating assemblies

With the ability to build complex geometries with additive manufacturing, you can consolidate many components into one piece to increase overall part performance. Solve tolerance challenges by joining mating parts or eliminate assembly time by combining multiple assemblies into one.

Inventory management

Another advantage of 3D printing manufacturing tools is decreasing indirect costs associated with traditionally made tools. Traditional replacement jigs, fixtures and other manufacturing tools are considered assets because they are too expensive to be discarded and therefore are housed as inventory. Inventory causes indirect overhead costs, such warehousing parts, managing and tracking inventory, and locating parts. Additive manufacturing allows for a “just-in-time inventory” in which you store digital design files and print out replacement parts when needed.

Accelerated delivery

Machining a manufacturing tool can take several days, especially if there are multiple designs or assemblies. The ability to print parts on demand and all of the benefits listed above, accelerate the building and delivery process. Manufacturers using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) to create manufacturing tools often see lead time reduction from 40 to 90 percent[1].

Small solutions on the production floor can lead to big profits. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing can help you move from concept to working tool in hours, not weeks using additive manufacturing. Contact our engineering experts to get started today.

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