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Jigs and Fixtures

When assembling a product, we can’t often use off-the-shelf tools during product development. It is through custom jigs and fixtures that help us get repeatable work. Custom jigs and fixtures can be adjustable, or specifically designed for a certain part, which makes production easier, faster and more accurate. However, producing these jigs and fixtures via traditional manufacturing methods might be expensive and time-consuming. Traditional methods are 100 times more expensive than 3D printing these jigs and fixtures, and much faster. 3D printing helps reach the final design faster, making it easier for engineers to print replicas, thus minimising lead times.

Ford’s engineers in Cologne produced a tool that they can hook at the back of the car, enabling them to position badges and emblems quickly. This tool was 3D printed with tough PLA in two parts on the Ultimaker s5 and glued together later on.

Volkswagen Autoeuropa’s engineers in Portugal developed a wheelgun jig, which helps them to place their wheelgun into the wheel. The part was 3D printed in multiple parts so that it can be quickly replaced in case of damage.

Traditionally, it takes a very long time to attach the pedal to a bicycle as one has to tighten it manually using a wrench. eBike Manufacturing 3D printed a tool using polycarbonate, which fits perfectly around the pedal and holds the nut in place. The pedal can be attached in less than a minute with the help of a drill.

At Ultimaker, several tools, jigs, and fixtures are 3D printed on Ultimaker 3D printers. The main axis of an Ultimaker 3D printer is connected to its motors via sliding blocks. Ultimaker uses a custom-designed pressure fixture that helps assemble the sliding blocks. This tool is 3D printed from XSTRAND™ GF30 PA6 (nylon with 30% glass fiber) which provides strength. It is combined with Ultimaker TPU 95A, which is a soft and flexible material, protecting the sliding block from any type of damage.

Factories may subject jigs and fixtures to high stress or temperature. So, it is important to choose the correct material. Ultimaker provides an open filament system, which offers a variety of industrial-grade materials from any brand, including industrial plastics, carbon, steel, or glass-fibre reinforced filaments. Therefore, you are provided with strong, tough, high-temperature resistant, flexible, rigid materials to choose from. Also, it is possible to have custom-designed filaments specifically designed for your requirements.

With Ultimaker’s dual extrusion 3D printers, it is possible to combine many materials. Many companies prefer Ultimaker Tough PLA for strength, combined with the protectiveness of TPU 95A. Another advantage is that you can use two colours. If you choose to use another colour for the outer surface of a part, the colour of the inner surface will show whether a part is ready for replacement.

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