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5 Advantages of 3D Printed Tooling, Jigs and Fixtures

 

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has already been adopted by many big name companies to replace their current prototyping methods and even to be used as part of the manufacturing process. With an increasing popularity that is already spreading into the consumer market, additive manufacturing is certainly one of the lead technologies in the 21st century.

Not only does having a 3D printer allow companies to create prototypes of their parts/products and evaluate their designs, it is also a versatile machine that can also be used to assist companies in fabricating and modifying parts or products.

This case study will show how the AXIOM 3D printer can be used to make simple tooling, jigs, and fixtures. Part tolerances should be kept in mind and shrinkage rates of plastic should be taken into account when these parts are made.

Some of the advantages of 3D printed tooling, jigs and fixtures:

  1. Ability to instantly fabricate your part (can take a few minutes, hours, or days to make depending on size of part).
  2. Fast lead times (i.e. .amf or .stl file is created and sliced in a g-code generating software (such as CURA or Simplify3D and then printing can begin).
  3. Does not require use of current manufacturing methods such as creating part drawings, CNC machining, and EDM (electrode discharge machining).
  4. No extra costs involved compared to other manufacturing methods. (i.e. cutting tools, coolant, cleaning up excess material and equipment after machining process, having to create electrodes for EDM).
  5. Ability to create interlocking parts and part features not possible with other manufacturing methods such as CNC machining, electrode discharge machining, and injection molding.

Example:

A simple jig such as a rectangular plate with multiple holes can be created and drill bushings can be placed in it to modify current production parts such as a panel or any flat type of part requiring new hole features or feature modifications. This would be a good method to use for low volume production of parts or a quick fix when other alternatives are not possible or available.

With so many potential and obvious benefits for 3D printing there is no surprise that this technology is making its way through a varied number of industries with prototype creation, parts modifications, life-saving applications and personal entertainment uses.

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