Manufacturing, jigs, and fixtures go hand and hand. They are essential to efficient manufacturing and are great aids to the manufacturing process. They can be used to check for fit, fixtures to hold parts to be machined or as assembly aids. Using your 3D printer is a great time and cost saving alternative to machining and assembling your jigs and fixture. The materials offered with our Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Polyjet machines match all the demands of jigs and fixtures in the manufacture process:
- Chemical resistance
The advantage of printing your jigs and fixture in-house are the same as prototyping when you own a 3D printer. You have much more design freedom. This allows you to change the design of you fixture as the design of the part changes. Now you can design for printing and not machining. This means you can simplify your design by integrating parts. It eliminates assembly time and leaves you to design for function.
Below is an example of the simplest way of making a fixture to hold a part to be machined or for assembling internal components. This is a housing that needs to be held down for machining and assembling the internal components. The way we will be making this fixture in SolidWorks is by using the extruded Boss/Base feature with the up to body end condition selected. The other important setting in this process is the merge results check box.
1) First thing we need to do is figure out what is the overall size of the base of the fixture and draw it out.
2) Once we have done that we can now draw out the shapes and locations of our post for holding our parts. I started off in the plane view.
3) Once I have drawn out the posts in the locations I needed them I had to make some modifications to my model. One thing about using the up to body end condition is the end of the boss has to end on a closed surface. There cannot be any holes. At this point I had to go back to my model and suppress some holes.
4) I also add a large flange around my part for my extruded features to end on.
5) Now when I extrude these bosses there are a few important settings. First you need to select up to body for the end condition. Then you select the whole part. The other important setting at this point is the little box marked Merge result. We want to make sure this box is unchecked. This will split the part up into solid bodies. Once you are done there you can go towards the top of your model tree, you will now see a folder called solid bodies. Inside that folder you will now have a few different bodies that you can now turn off and on.
6) Now we can right click on our part body we want to turn off and select hide. We are now left with just our fixture.
7) Another benefit of printing our fixtures is part integration. Now I want to add a holding clamp to my fixture. I make an assembly with my new fixture and then add the clamp into the assembly. I mate the clamp with the rubber stopper exactly where I want it. I can now edit the sketch for the base of my fixture. I can just click on the surface of the clamps mounting plate and use the convert entities tool and I don’t even have to draw the bosses.
8) Now I can save my part as an STL file and print it in my FDM machine. It will take about four and a half hours. I can take advantage of the sparse fill mode for the part interior to save time and material. I can also print it at the .013 resolution to save time.
I hope you can take advantage of this process in your own way!