Best Materials for 3D Printed Fixtures and Jigs

| The Essentium Team


Best Materials for 3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures

Jigs and fixtures are used in all kinds of manufacturing environments to make repeatable assembly processes more accurate, faster and safer. Specialized tools like gauges, drill guides, masking templates and cradles have been traditionally machined from metal. That makes them heavy, expensive and subject to long lead times to design and produce. On the upside, having a single choice for material, usually aluminum, simplified the selection process while providing all the necessary qualities of strength, heat and chemical resistance.

Today, additive manufacturing has evolved to the point where 3D printing is a viable substitute for many jigs and fixtures used on assembly lines. There are now a number of materials that can match desired qualities pound-for-pound while offering a number of benefits over traditional tools including lighter weight, lower cost and faster speed of production. 3D printed jigs and fixtures can increase worker safety and help eliminate repetitive motion injuries through the ability to design ergonomic, lightweight tools with an equal or better strength-to-weight ratio than machined parts.

This expanded choice in additive materials increases creativity, but complicates the selection process. There are filaments with varying levels of flexibility and rigidity. There are general purpose filaments and those with ESD-safe, heat- or chemical-resistant properties. Some are clear or translucent, others are available in different colors, diameters and spool sizes. Engineers need to match the proper filament to their application to achieve desired results. It all starts with the customer application and the primary property of the end-use tool needed for the job.

Essentium offers a wide range of industrial-grade open ecosystem materials to meet most any application and that stand up to the rigors of the toughest manufacturing environments. Here’s a little cheat sheet on the superpowers of each class of materials in our portfolio:

  • Standard filaments including PCTG and PLA are general purpose materials that offer a good blend of stiffness and impact resistance to provide durability with affordability. Strong enough for lightly loaded fixtures, their low melting points support fast production for things like handheld tools, guides and gauges.
  • Nylon and Carbon Fiber-reinforced Nylon filaments such as PA and PA-CF are extremely impact, chemical and abrasion resistant. Nearly indestructible with superior tensile strength and stiffness, they are excellent for low friction gears and bearings, automotive parts, as well as check sockets for prosthetics.
  • ESD-safe filaments in our Z Collection consist of a number of non-marring electrostatically dissipative materials specifically formulated for electronic manufacturing applications. ESD-safe filaments in a number of durometers are used to prevent damage to electrical components or circuit boards during assembly, for example, as well as to print tools used in environments with a high risk of combustion.
  • Flexible filaments including TPU 95A and TPU 80A are made from thermoplastic urethane rubbers that balance superior elasticity with strength and tear resistance. Excellent for applications requiring a snug yet gentle fit such as soft robotic grips, gaskets and flexible hosing. TPU filaments are also great for masking tools and sneaker soles, and Essentium even offers an ESD-safe version to wrap flexibility and electrostatically dissipative properties into one material.
  • High Temperature filaments such as PEEK and high temperature nylons (HTN) are meant for the most demanding applications. An alternative to Delrin®, HTN filaments are available in ESD-safe and carbon-fiber reinforced versions to deliver all the benefits of standard nylon materials plus increased temperature resistance and reduced moisture absorption. This allows 3D printed jigs and fixtures to be used in harsh environments where parts are baked in ovens, bathed in chemical processes like electroplating, or exposed to solvents, fuels and hydrocarbons as part of everyday use.

So, what are the best materials for 3D printed jigs and fixtures? The answer is, it depends. Fortunately, Essentium has the materials expertise to help you select filaments with the right properties to meet your application. Click here to learn more about how Essentium’s broad catalog of industrial-grade materials can transform how you make jigs and fixtures.

Essentium, Inc. provides industrial 3D printing solutions that are disrupting traditional manufacturing processes by bringing product strength and production speed together, at scale, with an open ecosystem and material set. Essentium manufactures and delivers innovative industrial 3D printers and materials enabling the world’s top manufacturers to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining and embrace the future of additive manufacturing.

A Guide to 3D Printing Jigs & Fixtures


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