Jigs, fixtures and grippers for robots are invaluable tools in manufacturing. By 3D printing these tools, you can drastically reduce cost and improve lead times. You also release bandwidth of traditional manufacturing methods, such as CNC milling.
What are jigs, fixtures and grippers?
Jigs, fixtures and grippers are tools, or workpieces that are used to aid in machining, positioning and parts assembly. They are traditionally CNC machined from a number of materials, oftentimes aluminium. Tolerances are usually high, to allow parts to locate accurately. These tools may also include attachments used to secure a part in place. Due to high demands for customization and accuracy, lead times are often excruciatingly long.
The benefits of 3D printing jigs, fixtures and grippers
As said, production tools such as jigs & fixtures have traditionally been machined, often in metal. Many tools are therefore heavy and ergonomically unfit. The manufacturing is a costly process and lead times can be several weeks, or even months, especially when outsourced.
By 3D printing these production tools, you can drastically reduce cost, weight and lead times. In some cases, you will see a 90% weight and cost reduction. If you have access to an inhouse 3D printer, you can iterate as many times as you want, to refine your tools, or adapt to specific ergonomic needs.
Common applications in jigs, fixtures and grippers
Bench top assembly jig
These can be 3D printed with industrial FDM based 3D printers, such as the Markforged X7. This allows for a good build size and super strong carbon reinforced nylon. 3D printed is extremely cost-efficient compared to other methods.
Hand-held assembly device
Here, industrial FDM technology such as the Markforged X7 can print large and lightweight parts. If there is need for threading, this can be done with heat inserts and then assemble parts.
Automated robotic gripper
Depending on the work environment, robotic grippers can be 3D printed with Multi Jet Fusion based 3D printers such as the HP Jet Fusion 5200. They both provide a high level of accuracy using polyamide material. If the grippers are to be put under more stress, they can also be printed in a Markforged Mark Two, using reinforcement fiber.
There are also grippers for assembly line picking and sorting. Depending on the size of the parts to be picked on the assembly line, choose a 3D printer that fit the bill. To give you an idea of how small grippers you can print, check out this case by Danish hearing aid company Widex. They use a Figure 4 3D printer to manufacture very small grippers to handle hearing aid parts.
Clearance gauges often need high tolerances, making them a perfect fit for SLA technology. The 3D Systems Figure 4 printer has superior accuracy and a vast range of materials to choose from.
CMM inspection fixtures
If you require a high level of detail, choose SLA based 3D printers such as the 3D Systems Figure 4. If you require a lower level of accuracy, the Markforged Mark Two will get the job done.
Get started with PLM Group’s 3D printing team
The 3D printing team at PLM Group has several years of experience with helping companies find the optimal 3D printing solution for their jigs and fixture needs. Our application experts have helped numerous companies in setting up their inhouse production of grippers, jigs and fixtures. We work with the world’s leading brands to ensure you get a 3D printing solution that fits your needs. Contact us now to learn more.