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A Guide to 3D Printing Jigs

For most manufacturing companies and organisations in the industrial world, having 3D printed jigs is becoming increasingly important . This guide will help explain why this is so – and why your firm should consider investing in a 3D Continuous …

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Steve Lumley

April 12, 2020

For most manufacturing companies and organisations in the industrial world, having 3D printed jigs is becoming increasingly important . This guide will help explain why this is so – and why your firm should consider investing in a 3D Continuous Carbon Fibre printer.

Essentially, for the growing numbers of manufacturers who have invested in 3D printers, they are appreciating that these printers are capable of delivering jigs that will:

  • Boost productivity
  • Lower costs
  • Deliver essential manufacturing aids.

The main point is that a 3D printer is able to increase the manufacturing process with jigs and fixtures by delivering quality items quickly – and usually this can be done in-house with minimal leadtime.


What is a 3D Printed Jig?

For those who may not appreciate it, a jig is a custom-made tool that is held in place to control another device’s motion or for parts being used in the manufacturing process.

Essentially, a jig enables a manufacturer to boost the construction or assembly of a particular product by allowing for increased interchangeability.

This means that jigs are used in just about every mass production system around the world and until 3D printing technology arrived, many small and medium-sized companies were unable to create custom-made jigs in-house.


Why 3D Printed Jigs?

Because most firms would prefer to avoid the expense of producing traditionally manufactured jigs for adding to their building and assembly lines, a 3D printer offers a convenient and cost-effective solution.

With the growing popularity of additive manufacturing, these productivity enhancing jigs, as well as grips and fixtures can be produced by a 3D printer at the fraction of the traditional cost.

Markforged-3D-Printing-Guide
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A typical 3D Printed Carbon Fibre part costs around 10-20% of its machined metal counterpart.

This makes a 3D carbon fibre printer a cost-effective investment to help speed up the manufacturer’s development times and help reduce overheads such as labour costs.

The other benefit for using 3D printers for creating jigs means the design can be updated easily for the parts to be printed and the assembly line to keep working.

3D printed jigs also deliver:

  • Better weight reduction, particularly when using high-strength plastics and carbon fibre
  • Ergonomic superiority when using customised items
  • Reduce manufacturing process complexity.

3D Printer Manufacturers Available

Since the world of manufacturing is so broad, it should come as no surprise that is a wide range of 3D printer manufacturers available, and indeed different types of machine to create various jigs. This can be divided by strength requirements, build volume and strength/ stiffness.

The bottom line is that a 3D printer will help boost a firm’s competitive advantage because the company is then able to:

  • Make their products faster
  • Produce parts more cheaply
  • Produce products more efficiently.

And that’s by simply integrating a 3D printer into their everyday manufacturing workflow.

One of the market leaders for 3D Printers is Markforged who highlight that their products can also:

  • Reduce manufacturing downtime by utilising on-demand 3D production
  • 3D printers can create parts up to 50 times quicker than using traditional manufacturing methods
  • Firms can save up to 90% on traditional manufacturing costs on a per part basis.

Click here to get your free Unbreakable Carbon Fibre Sample


Materials used in 3D Printing

Depending on the purpose of the jig, among the most popular materials to use is carbon fibre. This offers the highest strength-to-weight ratio of available materials.

This is also highlighted by Markforged who say that carbon fibre is stronger than aluminium. It’s also 20x stronger than nylon and PLA -with a much higher yield strength.

It’s for this reason that the automotive and aerospace industries are big users of carbon fibre.

The potential for using continuous carbon fibre means it’s strong enough as a material to replace aluminium – yet half the weight. It will also deliver minimal deflection and better stiffness.

Markforged Onyx Spools
Markforged Carbon Fibre here

Production Line Solutions

Another benefit for using 3D printers is that they deliver freedom and convenience to manufacturers.

Once 3D printing is identified as a potential design solution, then the manufacturer will enter a new world of  production line solutions.

That’s because tool configuration can be completed in-house whereas it would need a lengthy CNC machining process, usually with an outside supplier. This is no longer necessary.

And since a 3D printer will deliver intricate and precise designs, the manufacturer will appreciate that their jigs will be able to complete their functions accurately and completely.

As all manufacturers will understand, the accuracy involved in machining tools is a crucial part to ensure that their production line works efficiently.

Another big benefit to using 3D printers for creating jigs is the lead time that many manufacturers find to be a sensitive issue.

By altering the digital design of a prototype, the work can be done quickly and incrementally. In other words, this means a manufacturer is able to ensure that the final jig is manufactured to high precision when added to the product assembly line. In addition, this can be done in hours rather than weeks. There are big savings to be enjoyed in both money and time when firms invest in quality 3D print technology.


Markforged printers are worth a closer look

There’s no doubt that by using 3D printers integrated into every part of a firm’s manufacturing process, money and time will be saved. For instance, even from early prototypes to the end-use parts as well as manufacturing tools, Markforged printers should make your shortlist.

As previously mentioned, carbon fibre 3D printers gave manufacturers the opportunity to replace machined aluminium jigs with carbon fibre options.

This means the parts are stronger and the firm will save time and money when using a 3D printer.

To help, Markforged produce a range of composite 3D printers, including their industrial series which consists of:

  • X3: The stiffness and strength of carbon fibre meets the versatility of using tough nylon
  • X5: For those load-bearing applications that need strength, the created jigs will not only make the grade but they can be created more cheaply and quickly than machining metal
  • X7: For supremely stiff and strong but very lightweight parts, this carbon fibre printer delivers those jigs demanding performance.

Markforged also produce a desktop series, including the Onyx One, the Onyx Pro and the Mark Two  which are also worth considering as excellent carbon fibre printers.

If you would like more help and advice when it comes to sourcing quality 3D continuous carbon fibre printers, then you need to speak with the experts at Solid Print3D on 01926 333777.

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