Jigs and Fixtures
Jigs and fixtures are some of the most common tool types used in fabrication. They are used to improve throughput, cost and first-time quality. Some operations would simply be impossible without holding fixtures for various operations including machining and assembly, while jigs allow for the rapid locating of areas that need to be cut or drilled. 3D printed jigs and fixtures can offer dramatically improved lead times and lower costs when compared with conventional tool manufacturing methods. With 3D printing rapid tooling technology, what once took many weeks, can now be accomplished in days.
Composite tooling offers several unique capabilities including its superior mechanical and thermal properties. Thermoplastics infused with carbon or glass fibers offer excellent strength, stiffness, and heat resistance which make them a great candidate for a variety of applications. Layup tools, trim tools, drill jigs, and machining fixtures are all common fabrication tools that stand to benefit from composite 3D printing materials. Rapid tooling with fiberglass and carbon fiber 3D printing materials can dramatically reduce cost and lead time for tool fabrication.
Investment casting patterns for tooling stands to benefit a great deal from 3D printing as casting requires a relatively high volume to amortize the cost of the pattern mold. With 3D printing, a pattern mold is not required, but can rather be directly printed on-demand. As a result, one-off tools or small batches of tools can quickly and cost-effectively be manufactured with the added benefit of the increased design freedom that 3D printing offers. Conformal channels and complex geometries can be easily printed into a casting pattern and casted into a metal tool. Rapid tooling with 3D printing can be a game-changer for companies looking to speed up their development and fabrication cycles and receive products in days rather than months at a fraction of the cost.