FDM for Jigs and Fixtures

Article by Rod Mackay updated May 30, 2014

FDM Fixture

Using FDM for Jigs and Fixtures

Manufacturing relies on tools including jigs, fixtures, templates and gauges to maintain quality and production efficiency. They are used to position, hold, protect and organize components and subassemblies at all stages of the manufacturing process. And although these tools are virtually invisible when production is running smoothly, their importance becomes evident when problems arise. To avoid production halts or product defects, new jigs and fixtures must be rapidly designed, manufactured and deployed.

Traditional Manufacturing of Jigs and Fixtures

Jigs and fixtures are most commonly fabricated from metal, wood or plastic in quantities of 1 – 100+ using a manual or semi-automated process. On average, each tool takes between one and four weeks to design and build, however elaborate or intricate tools may require several cycles of design, prototyping and evaluation to attain the required performance.

New FDM method for Jigs and Fixtures is less expensive

Fused Deposition Modeling™(FDM®) provides a fast and accurate method of producing jigs and fixtures. FDM is an additive manufacturing process that builds plastic parts layer-by-layer using data from computer-aided design (CAD) files. By using FDM, the traditional fabrication process is substantially simplified; toolmaking becomes less expensive and time consuming. As a result, manufacturers realize immediate improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality. Additionally, these tools can be designed for optimal performance and ergonomics because FDM places few constraints on tool configuration. What’s more, adding complexity does not increase build time and cost.

FDM Fixture for a Hard Drive assembly

FDM Fixture for a Hard Drive assembly

The efficiency of FDM makes it practical to optimize jig and fixture designs and increase the number in service. Engineers can easily evaluate the performance of the tool and make quick, cost-efficient adjustments to the design as needed. FDM also makes it practical to produce jigs and fixtures for operations where they have not been previously cost or design feasible when produced with traditional manufacturing methods.

Finally, FDM jigs and fixtures are made from tough and durable thermoplastics that can withstand the rugged manufacturing environment. With several bio-compatible options, they are also ideal for use in medical applications.

Want to learn more?

Attend an ‘Experience 3D Printing for Jigs, Fixtures, Patterns, Gauges, Mold, Tool & Die Applications’ event in London ON., on June 18, or an event in Windsor ON., on June 19.


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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.