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In manufacturing, product development, or maintenance, there are many times when off-the-shelf tools can’t be used on the product you are assembling or repairing. Custom jigs and fixtures help operators ensure accurate and repeatable work, for example by guiding a tool or holding an object in place. In a fast-paced production environment, this efficiency can make a big difference to the bottom line of a business.
Jigs and fixtures have many benefits for the manufacturing industry, making working on products easier, faster, or even possible at all. They can also have ergonomic benefits by making a task easier for an employee to perform.
Custom jigs and fixtures can be designed to be adjustable, so they can handle a range of items. Alternatively, they can also be designed for a specific part.
Creating jigs and fixtures can be time-consuming and costly with conventional production methods. Not every company has a workshop with CNC machines, and outsourcing can take weeks, is expensive, and makes iterating a design a drawn-out process.
3D printed tools usually cost around $10 to produce, whereas traditional methods can cost easily over $1,000 for the same part. By using 3D printing, you will have the first results in a matter of hours, enabling you to validate your design directly.
As many engineers know, the first design is never the right design. So being able to quickly print these parts, makes iterating to the perfect design fast and efficient. And once you have the design finalised, it’s easy to print a replacement part or share your design with other locations around the world. No matter where you need the part, with a 3D printer you can instantly create the right tool without having to deal with long lead times.
Here are two examples of 3D printed jigs and fixtures, proven to save time, money, and make work easier for the user.
The engineers from Volkswagen Autoeuropa in Portugal created this wheelgun jig to guide their wheelgun into the wheel. In combination with another 3D printed jig, all five nuts will be tightened at once, without any chance of scratching the wheel’s rim. The shorter red tube guides the locking nut. It was printed in multiple parts for easy and quick replacement if damage occurs. This way, engineers don’t have to reprint the whole model, saving time and material. Since there are no extreme forces on this tool, it can be printed from PLA.
Safety is key at ERIKS. And a clean environment is a safe environment – one in which work can be completed more efficiently. As such, the company considers safety factors as those integral to – if not inextricable from – goals and deadlines such as production targets and profit margins. One of these tools, for example, is placed atop a nearly human-sized roll of wrapping film, transforming the task of removing and replacing the roll into a quick and safe one-man job.
Jigs and fixtures used in factories might need to withstand high stress or temperature. That’s why it’s essential to use the right material for your jigs and fixtures. Ultimaker offers a wide range of industrial-grade materials. The open filament system enables you to use any material from any brand. Among these are a wide range of industrial plastics and carbon, steel, or glass-fiber reinforced filaments. This way, you have a constantly expanding range of strong, tough, high-temperature resistant, flexible, or rigid materials at your disposal. You can even have filaments custom-designed with the right properties specifically for your needs.
One of the biggest advantages of Ultimakers dual extrusion machines is the possibility to combine various materials. Customers are using materials such as Ultimaker Tough PLA for strength, combining it with the flexible TPU 95A to add grip and protect the product from scratches.
Another great benefit is the use of two colors. When a different color is used for the outside of the part, the inner color will show when a part is worn and ready to be replaced.