Nesting and fixtures are essential for smooth and consistent automated manufacturing processes. A high number of manufacturing cycles can cause nests or fixtures to lose tolerance, become ineffective and cause items to be manufactured out of tolerance. The challenge is to find a material that will remain durable and strong while also not damaging the items that are being held in position in them. Nesting and fixtures in an industrial setting are often exposed to high compression forces, stamping and impacts from industrial machines, but must be able to handle fragile class-A surfaces without damage.
Moreover, many nests and fixtures are routinely exposed to common shop and industrial cleaners, solvents, and coolants. As a result, they must be made of highly chemically resistant materials that also provide high impact and abrasion resistance.
New nests and fixtures are often required with very short lead times to ensure that manufacturing operations are not interrupted. Cast urethane has previously been the preferred solution for manufacturing nests and fixtures, but the process is time consuming, messy, expensive, and limits the geometries that can be created.
Forerunner 3D, a 3D printing service bureau and designer of automated machines and robot cells, uses Lubrizol 3D Printing Solutions’ ESTANE 3D TPU M95A thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) via powder bed fusion to produce high-performing nests and fixtures that are long lasting and durable. Not only is the 3D printing process faster and offers more design freedom than traditional manufacturing, the abrasion resistance of ESTANE M95A is excellent.
ESTANE 3D TPU’s impact resistance is higher performing compared to more rigid materials (like PA12) that will shatter or crack when subject to repeated impacts. M95A is also a class A finish safe material, it has been tested on painted, chrome plated, mold-in-color, and lenses, without scratching any of these finishes over 100,000 of cycles. Lastly, the TPU’s chemical resistance ensures that exposure to common shop chemicals will not permanently degrade or warp the nest or fixture.
The application of ESTANE 3D TPU has improved the chemical, impact and abrasion resistance of the nests and fixtures that are being used, while maintaining consistency in dimensional stability. The high abrasion resistance allows for many cycles without a loss of tolerance of the jig and fixture or damaging the finish of the part.
Additive manufacturing (AM) allows for the best customer experience when facing different part designs, making it easier to design with a more cost-effective solution. Larger freedom of design is possible with AM as this is not as limited as in cast urethane and allows for more complex structures.
Not only are the process and resulting part improved, but Forerunner 3D can also achieve a Class A surface safe finish because lots of nests and fixtures are designed to handle high value surface parts during manufacturing (chrome parts, automotive paint…). Damage to the high value parts that they are in contact with can be avoided.
For examples of M95A testing being used by Forerunner 3D visit: https://forerunner3d.com/3d-printing-for-automated-equipment/
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