What is a Jig and Fixture?
Jigs and fixtures are just one of those words we always hear together but it's worth asking all the same, what are jigs and fixtures?
Jigs are custom tools used to guide/control the action or movement of another tool. It can help streamline the making of a part because it prevents any unintended action performed on the part since it occurs on a fixed path which in turn prevents any errors.
A fixture on the other hand locks a piece into a fixed position, orientation, or location. Since the piece in question is immovable, it allows for the industrial process to be automated. That said part can be placed on an assembly line and let any machines do the work.
Both tools have such a wide range of applications across many different industries. The most common industries you are most likely to find jigs and fixtures however are within the automotive and aerospace industries.
The Importance of Jigs and Fixtures
Both tools either guide a worker or hold a part for a machine, there is less time wasted in checking, repositioning, or even measuring and marking a part. It streamlines the entire production process and allows for that newly acquired time to be spent just making more of what is needed. On an assembly line, fixtures become invaluable in how much it boosts productivity because it allows for greater automation.
Quality assurance and safety
Since the jig or fixture is standardized and repeatable, one can expect any part created using one or the other to be consistent and free of manufacturing errors. This also shortens the amount of time needed to check for quality and creates an overall safer environment for workers because the guesswork is removed.
Low Skill Requirements
Due to a jig guiding a worker when manufacturing a part, the worker does not need to have extensive knowledge or skill that comes with free handing a part. No measurements, readjusting, or complicated actions are needed for a worker to do their job correctly. A fixture potentially does not even need any human intervention which simplifies things even further.
Modularity and customization
Depending on how a jig or fixture is designed, one could have the tool be interchangeable or dismantlable so that switching from building one part to another is just as easy. Once someone has the design for a jig or a fixture, it can be easily replaced should it break and can be modified as the job needs. Adding 3D printing into the mix allows the jigs and fixtures to be created even faster and with whatever material is needed for greater efficiency.
Since jigs and fixtures address many of the shortcomings I have listed above, it naturally saves a factory a ton of time and money wherever a part is in the process. Skilled/unskilled workers can work on a part without fear of injury and expenses that come with workplace accidents. Parts created with jigs or fixtures reduce material costs because there are less mistakes during the manufacturing process. There is consistent quality across said parts which cuts further QA expenses and shortens development time/cycles.
Jigs, Fixtures, Combined with Additive Manufacturing Changes Everything
Jigs and fixtures have already made a significant impact on various industries. It is arguably one of the most crucial steps in making the manufacturing process efficient on all fronts. Most of the things you interact with on a day to day basis were created with jigs or fixtures. Manufacturers that have also integrated 3D printing into their production of jigs and fixtures will see an even greater improvement in the areas that I have mentioned above.
This mixing of revolutionary technologies will only make all things manufacturing faster, efficient, and even more affordable for the average consumer. Stratasys and nTopology are such companies that are spearheading this shift and you can be a part of it as well by checking out their Best 3D Printed Fixture / Tool Design Competition!