Streamlining Processes with 3D Printed Part Fixtures

At Graphite Additive Manufacturing, we have worked with Impcross to develop their Component Marking and CMM Inspection Fixtures.

Due to the complexity of the parts, the challenge was to repeatably secure components quickly, whilst also reducing the potential for damage.

The original set-up included using multiple clamps and V-blocks and relied on the Operator to remember the setup from batch to batch. This caused the setup time to be high and risked mistakes as well as damage to the parts or machinery, resulting in production delays. The team were also seeing quality-related issues with this operation.

Impcross had some initial ideas about the type and style of fixture they wanted and how they could reduce the set-up time. They got in touch with us here at Graphite Additive Manufacturing and had discussions with Senior Project Engineer, Samuel and Managing Director, Kevin to come up with a solution. The Impcross team found the meetings very useful as they quickly uncovered the type of application required, which in the long run, made the design process very quick and easy.

The team at Impcross decided to start with one fixture at first, as they had some concerns about how robust the 3D Printed material would be. Our team recommended Sinterworx G4 SLS (Graphite filled Nylon-12) for its excellent build quality, mechanical properties and attractive dark grey surface finish. It is a tough material with a high-temperature resistance and anti-static properties. Sinterworx G4 material was recommended alongside our popular Cosmetic Finishing option. This finish removes excess powder leftover from the manufacturing process making the parts shinier and more aesthetically pleasing as a result.

Due to the nature of the products produced at Impcross, the team had to understand the surface treatment to ensure that these never became damaged. A thorough design review process allowed us and Impcross to clearly define the design requirements including fixture function, part orientation, critical features and clamping mechanisms. From there, the conceptual model was created in order to price the production (see our article on how 3D Printing costs work).

The detailed design was next completed by our in house design team, ensuring the fixture was functional and optimised for production. Redundant material was removed and the internal solid structure replaced with our lightweight mess and access holes to remove excess powder. Our team also designed the clamp mounting location and assembled the fixture ready for introduction within the department. A simple base plate was produced at Impcross with mounting locations to locate onto the part marking machine.

The first design took around 2 weeks and Impcross had the physical 3D printed fixture just a week later. With a now streamlined process, parts can be designed, produced and dispatched within a week through our Express Service.

Once delivered, the fixtures were assembled to aluminium plates and implemented into production, where they allow parts to be fixtured efficiently and effectively with minimal setup time and reduced opportunity for human error. The ability to rely on a production process that has the freedom to produce form matching geometry, without the constraints of removal production methods, means the technology can be applied to a wider range of parts.

Since the first fixture was produced, Impcross have introduced a further 10 fixtures for other key components they produce. Lee Barrett, Quality Engineer at Impcross said, “the fixtures have helped us massively and have reduced the setup time by 80%.” Impcross are now looking to use this technology in other parts of the business to improve efficiency, which will only have a positive effect on their customer output.

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