Fixtures are a necessary evil. Make designing them easier.
Welding fixtures can be expensive and complicated – and sometimes a product of simple luck and flaw. For manufacturers, the question is often “How fast can I get a fixture, at what cost and for what return?”. In this just-in-time (JIT) world, short runs are becoming common. So, when fixturing can be done in part or in total using a quick and cheap manufacturing process, bidding on such jobs becomes attractive. This is where technology comes in. Creatively inserting a little technology into your process can absolutely increase your efficiency.
Computer versus Traditional
For some time, software-derived fixturing has played a part in chip-cutting applications. Mainstream Solid-Based CAD systems have enabled tooling designers to use solid body subtraction to create a fixture model for any given manufacturing process. Depending on the component to be fixtured and the CAD system, this process can be quick and easy or not much better than a traditional, manual extrapolation using desired contact points, etc. Time to develop a fixture and the accuracy of the manufacturing are part of the efficiency equation, as is controlling material and conventional hard-tooling costs.
Adapting Existing Processes for Fixturing
Hard tooling for traditional fixtures often depends on costly milling and other “non-sheet metal” processes. So, how can this be minimized? The simple answer is to marry the processes and machinery you already have‒ lasers, waterjets, punch presses, etc. ‒ to the appropriate CAD system.
- Conduct a short run without a robot, using a precious manpower to do the welding and make or source an expensive fixture.
- Conduct a short run with a robot sitting idle while an expensive fixture is made or sourced.