Advertorial: Additive Manufacturing 3D printed jigs and fixtures

Editor: Barbara Schulz

Rutland Plastics is a custom injection molding company located in Rutland, United Kingdom that produces products for a wide range of companies and industries.

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Wastebasket cover fixture that incorporates black soft-touch pads to protect surface finish of part. “We can now produce jigs and fixtures in a fraction of the time and cost on our Objet 3D Printer without tying up production machinery.” — Carl Martin, Technical Manager for Rutland Plastics
Wastebasket cover fixture that incorporates black soft-touch pads to protect surface finish of part. “We can now produce jigs and fixtures in a fraction of the time and cost on our Objet 3D Printer without tying up production machinery.” — Carl Martin, Technical Manager for Rutland Plastics
(Source: Stratasys)

Because each project is unique, Rutland must create complementary jigs and fixtures to position and hold the project’s components during manufacturing operations like assembly, gluing, drilling, and measuring. They are important because they streamline the production process, help employees become more efficient, and ensure consistency of the final product. However, as the company grew, its practice of creating jigs and fixtures became a burden.

Rutland traditionally made approximately 100 new jigs and fixtures annually from aluminum on its CNC milling machines. This process cost $1,500 per piece or $150,000 per year. But the true cost to the company was far greater. Each new jig and fixture also took 3 days to create. This meant that the company was precluded from using at least one of its machines to generate revenue for 300 business days.

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Another problem was that Rutland’s engineers were constrained by the CNC machine’s inability to produce jigs and fixtures with sharp corners and deep contours. As a result, the jigs and fixtures were not optimized for the specific need they were meant to address in the manufacturing process, which created the need for additional adaptive work or support tooling.

Finally, identification labels and felt pads had to be manually added to prevent loss and inadvertent scratching of production parts respectively.

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