3D print large jigs and fixtures
Jigs, gauges and fixtures are essential elements wherever there is a need to hold, position, place or organize. From research and development, through testing, manufacturing assembly, inventory control, up to transportation, companies use specific tooling in order to develop a high-standard end product. The aerospace, automotive and consumer product sectors are just examples of where high precision, efficiency and workflow optimization are important at each stage of assembly line.
It comes as no surprise that implementation of 3D printing into manufacturing processes results in significant cost and product delivery time reduction. In the plants of top-notch car manufacturers, which employ thousands of people and manufacture hundreds of thousands of cars each year, the improvement is tremendous. Application of additive manufacturing is a relatively low cost solution with a quick return on investment, even in terms of large-scale industrial machines.
In the innovation-driven world, we cannot forget that profit and time-to-market are not everything. Our customers who are already using not only desktop FDM printers, but also large-scale FDM machines, claim that they see a lot of improvement in ergonomic aspects. Tools customized to the specific project result in higher productivity and satisfaction of the operators.
The manufacturers often find it troublesome not to be able to produce their components internally. The need to rely on the external suppliers results in a significant weight on the budget, as the cost per part gets higher. Project lead time is also dependent on the capabilities of suppliers and if there are delays, the whole production might be on hold.
From the supply chain perspective, having a machine in the factory that is able to produce a new tool from the top of one’s head within hours seems like a miracle. And it only gets better when the machines is, for instance, able to print a full-size prototype of a new motorcycle casing within days.
Tooling that comes from the external suppliers tends to be more expensive and sometimes it is impossible to replace only its one damaged element without scrapping the rest of the device. With 3D printing, engineers can come up with their own convenient to use tools and design them in a way that the particularly fragile parts can be easily replaced when they wear off.
When it comes to the materials, durable thermoplastics used in fused deposition modeling are perfect for the product life cycle testing. When simulations reveal that the design needs to be changed because of the critical issues, 3D printer is there to instantly produce a new tool and go for the next round of testing. That makes the new product development easier and more inexpensive. It also helps to facilitate the labor-consuming tasks. For instance, service engineers can 3D print specifically shaped covers instead of cutting out and taping it manually. The same applies to nesting assembly fixtures, rivet guides or customized guards for all the processes, one-of-a-kind tools can be manufactured within hours.
“Low production cost, high standard and repetitive quality result” is how one of the Process Engineers summed up his experience with Builder Extreme 1000 PRO, that has been recently installed at the company which is focusing on development and creation of assembled industrial products.
Traditionally, jigs and fixtures were manufactured out of wood and metal with hand tools. Being able to produce them on-demand, straight from your CAD software, is a great benefit. The potential of 3D printing is huge.