Replacing machined jigs and fixtures with 3D printing

Jigs and fixtures are used to make manufacturing and assembly processes simpler and more reliable, reducing cycle times and improving worker safety.

Utilising 3D printing to create jigs and fixtures - image courtesy of FormlabsBefore 3D printing, the jigs and fixtures were typically made with metal using machine tools, either in-house or through outsourced vendors. Depending on the forces experienced by the part, however, it is now not always necessary to produce these tools in metal.

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing materials have advanced significantly, and there are a number of functional resins well suited to 3D printing jigs and fixtures, including Formlabs Standard Resins and Formlabs Engineering Resins. Manufacturers around the world have used these materials to replace metal fixtures in automated machining operations, electronics assembly lines, foundries, and other production facilities.

There are eight specific examples of jigs and fixtures that can be 3D printed for some ideas to start implementing 3D printing on your production line.

  1. Soft Jaw Inserts for Vises
  2. Drill Guides
  3. Go/No Go Gauges
  4. Assembly Jigs
  5. Disassembly Jigs
  6. Bonding Jigs
  7. Labeling, Marking, and Masking Templates
  8. Surrogate Parts

Want to know more?
 
This blog post is an excerpt from our white paper, Designing 3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures. Download the full white paper for a comprehensive look at jig and fixture design basics, best practices for designing 3D printed jigs and fixtures, and tips for validating printed fixtures.
 

Download the White Paper:
Designing 3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures


 

Other beneifts of 3D printing jigs and fixtures

Unlike CNC machining and related processes, 3D printing doesn’t get more expensive and time consuming just because your design is more complex. That flexibility frees you to optimize jigs, fixtures and other manufacturing aids, for specific tasks, components, individuals or equipment.

Assembly

Bring production online faster and avoid more costly errors. 3D printing work holding devices, dunnage trays, kits, guides and templates is a great way to support agile manufacturing and improve product quality.

End-effector tooling

Reduce wear and tear on robotic arms, motors and bearings by reducing end-effector weight. By 3D printing with lightweight plastics, you can control material density, consolidate gripper or fixture components, embed fittings and sensors, or create hollow channels for cables or vacuum lines.

Equipment

Customize protective guards and covers for valuable equipment. Tough, impact resistant 3D printing materials like FDM Nylon 12 can withstand punishing conditions on the shop floor.

Health and Safety

Improve worker safety and comfort. Switching from traditional metal tools to lightweight thermoplastics can help operators move for freely and comfortably to reduce strain and enhance productivity. Work-holding devices, jigs and fixtures can be customized to each individual and task for better ergonomics.

Quality Control

Support your quality-control process with part-specific tools, cradles, text-fixture components and measurement aids. You can even 3D print with non-slip or static-dissipative materials that won’t scuff finished surfaces or damage sensitive components.