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3D printing – it's not just for prototyping

06 April 2014

Although the main use of 3D printing is to manufacture prototypes in a wide variety of materials, there is another very important application – the manufacture of jigs and fixtures.

Often the need for some form of jig or other fixture only becomes apparent as production is about to start in earnest so time is of the essence in their manufacture.

Traditionally, jigs and fixtures have been fabricated or machined from metal, wood or plastic.  This method is time consuming, often taking days or weeks, and can be expensive.  The design and manufacture may also be limited by the machine and fabrication processes used.

An alternative approach is to manufacture jigs and fixtures using a 3D printer. Not only can they be produced in a matter of hours but they are also considerably cheaper - between 70 and 95 percent cheaper, in fact.

As part of its injection moulding service, Rutland Plastics is no stranger to designing and manufacturing jigs and fixtures for its own internal uses, and is now able to manufacture jigs using a Stratasys Objet Connex 3D printer.

The jigs produced via 3D printing range from the relatively simple holding piece shown here, which is used for the insertion of threaded inserts into an electronics enclosure, to much larger suites of jigs for complex assemblies. A number of QC gauges and checking fixtures have also been successfully printed.

Rutland Plastics now offers this service to other companies in just the same way as its rapid prototyping service.

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