On the production floor, jigs and fixtures play a pivotal role in the manufacturing line. Jigs, custom-made tools used to guide and control the motion of another work piece during an operation, and fixtures, devices used to hold a piece in a fixed location during an industrial process, are used to produce products reliably and repeatedly.
With fast and near labor-free production, 3D printing (aka additive manufacturing) offers a powerful solution for producing jigs and fixtures. 3D printing manufacturing aids can reduce lead times, provide cost savings, improve performance and add efficiencies to the production floor.
The beauty of 3D printing is shorter lead times; some parts can be produced in a matter of hours. Prototyping a jig or fixture to test its performance is sometimes critical and can be accomplished with 3D printing faster than ever before. 3D printed jigs and fixtures are built from a digital file rather than hard tooling, allowing you to produce aids on-demand and as needed. The CAD file can be updated and redesigned at any time, then reprinted and delivered in days.
With advantages such as quick turnarounds, part consolidation and near labor-less production, 3D printing jigs and fixtures delivers an overall cheaper venture. The process also reduces material waste and helps you avoid costly expenses associated with inventory and storage.
The ease of customization and ergonomic enhancements with 3D printed jigs and fixtures delivers an overall improved performance on the production floor. CAD files can be easily modified before each build, allowing for the painless customization of tools and aids. With additive manufacturing’s design freedoms, these customizations can include contours that improve tool handling and ease of use to help increase worker comfort. With no added cost, the jigs and fixtures can increase efficacy and safety for employees.
A complicated jig or fixture that may have been designed for manufacturability and requires extensive machining or other conventional production methods can find new value with 3D printing technology. The design freedom of additive manufacturing removes traditional manufacturing constraints and opens new opportunities for tool configuration. Because of the technology’s ability to handle design complexity, tools previously envisioned with multiple components can be redesigned as one contiguous component.
This component consolidation also contributes to creating a lighter weight tool, increasing in worker comfort. Strong plastics used in 3D printing processes are an excellent alternative to conventional metals. Light-weight, 3D printed jigs and fixtures produce the same, or better, functionality while improving ease of use.
The improvements offered by 3D printed jigs and fixtures can add up to major advantages for your company. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing produces aids for nearly every stage in manufacturing, and our Professional Services team can help you identify opportunities to implement 3D printed jigs and fixtures to streamline your operations.
Download our white paper to learn more about the benefits of 3D printed jigs and fixtures, and how you can use this ground-breaking technology for better production-floor proficiency.