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The Basics & Methods of Fixturing

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Jaclyn Schindler Adhoh January 08, 2024
January 08, 2024

Whether it be a jig, clamp, welding fixture, or vise, fixturing is essential to certain manufacturing processes. Fixturing aims to hold, support, position, or secure workpieces, facilitating accurate and consistent results. Fixturing techniques lead to greater accuracy, productivity, safety, and product quality.

What is Fixturing?

Fixturing is defined as a frame or base with additional mechanisms or supports that ensure workpieces are stable. These fixtures may be adjustable to accommodate various part sizes. The importance of fixturing is to ensure correct results when it comes to assembly, machining, inspection, and similar processes. 

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Types of Fixtures

When it comes to fixturing, there are a few main types that manufacturers utilize. These consist of assembly fixtures, inspection fixtures, marking fixtures, and welding fixtures.   

  1. Assembly fixtures: These fixtures support the correct assembly of components and products. The fixture design positions and holds parts during assembly, ensuring that the part accurately fits and functions properly. For assembly fixtures, the benefits of fixturing include increased assembly speed, accuracy, less errors, and improved productivity. Assembly fixtures are typically used in industries such as automotive, appliance production, electronics, and aerospace.   

  2. Inspection fixtures: The fixturing applications for inspection fixtures include specific equipment or tools that are utilized in quality control to position and hold workpieces in place. Most commonly used with a CMM, or coordinate measuring machine, inspection fixtures lead to better accuracy, repeatability, and efficiency during inspection. Inspection fixtures are used in aerospace, electronics, automotive, and precision manufacturing.  

  3. Marking fixtures: These fixtures are implemented in manufacturing processes to create accurate and consistent marking on workpieces. Marking fixtures enhance the quality, efficiency, and repeatability of the marking, which may include branding, serial numbers, product labeling, barcodes, or part identification. Specifically, laser marking uses a laser beam to make precise and permanent marks on different materials. The aerospace, electronics, automotive, and metalworking industries utilize marking fixtures.   

  4. Welding fixtures: They are tools or equipment used in the welding processes to hold and position workpieces during welding. These fixtures stabilize the workpiece so the proper alignment can be achieved which results in accurate welding. The benefits of fixturing include improving weld quality, repeatability, and productivity. Welding fixtures are used in automotive, aerospace, construction, and metal fabrication. 
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Benefits of Fixturing with Traditional Methods

Traditional methods such as fabrication or machining provide certain benefits of fixturing for manufacturers. Specific customization can be achieved, and this results in the accurate fit and functionality of fixtures. These bespoke fixtures can be seamlessly integrated with existing manufacturing equipment or processes. The costs associated with traditional methods may be low since it is easy for manufacturers to produce fixtures in-house or source them at a reasonable price. If the fixture components need to be revised, traditional fixturing can be readily adjusted or reworked. 

Drawbacks of Fixturing with Traditional Methods

Although there are advantages, traditional methods also pose challenges for manufacturers. There is a lack of repeatability for fixture components and a high-volume order of fixtures may produce parts that aren’t exactly the same. In terms of production levels, traditional methods are inefficient and lead to longer wait times. This can result in missed deadlines, the loss of profits, and damage to the business’s reputation. 

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3D Printed Fixtures

Another option to produce fixturing is to 3D print the parts. With additive manufacturing, complex geometries can be achieved which may be difficult using traditional methods. This design freedom allows for optimized performance and functionality. To test out different applications and fixture assembly, rapid prototyping is possible with additive manufacturing. By quickly prototyping, designs can be iterated and improved easily.  

Additive manufacturing also provides many materials to choose from, including thermoplastics, metals, composites, and even specialized materials with specific properties. Specifically, FDM printers offer twenty-six different materials to choose from, including Nylon 6, Polycarbonate (PC), ABS-CF10, ASA, and PPSU.  

Regarding lead time, additive manufacturing accomplishes faster production since complicated tooling or setup isn’t required, resulting in greater savings than traditional methods. Oreck Manufacturing utilized the Fortus 3D Production Systems, using FDM technology, to 3D print assembly fixtures. This only cost Oreck $35,000 as compared to the $100,000 it would have cost with traditional molding and casting. The 65% savings are due to the Fortus’s quick turnaround time and the ability to print the parts in-house.    

Fixturing for Your Business

Since fixturing is vital to specific manufacturing processes, the way in which you produce fixtures will impact your overall outcome. No matter if you choose traditional methods or additive manufacturing, it is important to weigh out what you would like to achieve with your fixturing. Each of the four main types of fixtures lead to more consistent results which affect the success of your operation. Fixturing can be a determining factor for the quality and accuracy of a product.  

Read our Fixturing Guide Today!

If 3D printing fixtures sounds like it could be a game changer for your business, download our fixturing guide here!

Download Here