Fixtures would typically be produced in the machine shop where many other parts are created for TRAK® equipment. This not only consumes valuable machining resources, but it results in heavy fixtures that have the potential to damage delicate electronic components. In order to eliminate these issues, the decision was made to fabricate them using a 3D printer.

3D printing would allow for:

  • the production of multiple fixture types in a “lights out” environment
  • a considerable reduction in the weight making them easier to handle and less likely for the electronic panels to be damaged
  • the elimination of re-work due to scratched electronic panels by using 3D printer materials that produce a smooth surface
3ntr 3D Printer with Material Management System
3ntr A2 3D Printer shown with MMSv2 Material Management System

Challenges

Despite having a very capable in-house machine shop, it was apparent that the complexity of these part designs would require multiple machines and/or multiple set-ups. That would mean a heavy burden on resources. Farming the work out didn’t make sense because it would:

  • cost more than machining the fixtures in-house using expensive overtime labor
  • result in longer lead times
  • increase Engineering support costs

How 3D Printing Helped

Using in-house 3D printing capabilities allowed for a cost-effective way to produce the fixtures without impacting the high dollar machine shop operation. The requirements of the job fit well with the capabilities of 3D printing.

Since the fixture designs resided in CAD, it was simple to export those files, generate G-code files using 3D printer Slicer software, and print the fixtures. Only one set-up was required per fixture and the printer ran lights-out so minimal labor was consumed. Valuable machine-shop resources were not consumed, and the fixtures were printed from light-weight, low-cost, non-scratch materials.

Conclusion

3D printing can play a major role in increasing the efficiency of companies that require fixturing and tooling for their operations. TRAK Machine Tools sells, services, and supports 3D printers and therefore has the necessary expertise that you may need to fill your manufacturing needs.


The TRAK Toolroom VMC is a unique vertical machining center that combines toolroom functionality with the ability to operate as a full-functioning production machine — all through the power of the ProtoTRAK RMX CNC.