Key Differences between Jigs and Fixtures – Their role in Production technology

Jigs and Fixtures have been an indisputable part of modern machining. Often confused as a part of a whole, they actually have completely different identities. Pitting Jigs Vs Fixtures can give us a much more defined understanding of the evolution of their individual roles in the current production technology.

While the human hand is naturally designed to handle tools and perform necessary tasks for daily life, since the very beginning of time we have also been very invested in improving the performance and convenience for all manual tasks. When man learnt how to walk, he invented the wheel to make travelling even easier and faster.

In the quest to manufacture more tools, the need for work holding technology was discovered. Jigs and fixtures have been quite sincerely fulfilling their roles as high functioning work holding devices. In fact, they have continued to sustain the demand for new technologies and innovations for work holding support in machining. They have proved to be much more convenient and functional than traditional vises and the three-jaw chuck.

Here we have curated an overview of the functional and identifiable aspects of Jigs vs Fixtures. Understanding the features of each of these tools better, will help you identify the one that best suits your project needs.

So, let’s dive in!

All about what are jigs?

A Jig is a fundamental manufacturing tool. It has a three-part function to play in the setup of a product manufacturing process.

  • A jig helps to support the product
  • It helps to locate the workpiece
  • A jig also helps to guide the cutting tool as part of the operations of the manufacturing process.

Basically, the jig improves the accuracy of the manufacturing process even when the operation requires multiple repetitions of the same work process. Using a Jig can exponentially increase the productivity of the final manufactured parts by automating the workpiece holding and tool guiding

Types of Jigs

There are literally multiple types of jigs based on their industry of application. Some of the most popular ones include Welders’ jigs, woodworking jigs and machining jigs. Apart from that, there are some types of machines which are a combination of a jig and fixture but they are still referred to as Jigs. In fact, that might be the leading cause of confusion that most people have for these two parts.

One of the most relatable jig and fixture design examples is a woodworking Jig. The jig-saw part is being used to guide the saw and repeat the process of cutting shapes and patterns on the wood. In this set up the clamp that is holding the piece of wood in place for the entire process is the fixture. It is primarily holding the piece without guiding the process in any way.

However, in automatic woodworking Jigs and CNC machines, the jig is completely unnecessary because the instruction for guiding the tool is fed directly in to a digital program where it is saved for repeated use in the future. The fixture continues to act as the functional work holding piece in the setup.

Knowing all about what are fixtures

A fixture is also fundamentally a work holding tool used in manufacturing processes. However, where it differs from Jigs is that a fixture does not help in guiding the tool. The primary advantage of a fixture is it reduces the unproductive aspects of loading, unloading and the overall fixing time of the tool. The fixture is a much more functional option as compared to a traditional vise.

For instance, in cases of a milling machine, when you need to give a chamfer at each corner of the rectangular work pieces, you will need to set the workpiece in place before you start cutting. However, a traditional vise will need additional time for fixing the working piece in the right position every time for each corner. That is a whole lot of time wasted for each workpiece which increases the overall manufacturing time.

Instead, using a fixture for this exact same case, will have a completely different functionality. If you bolt the fixture to the machine bed, you will no longer need to fix the work pieces every single time for each cutting phase. By simply opting for a better tool, you can cut back on manufacturing time by a large fraction.

Types of fixtures

Depending on their purpose, you can segment fixtures broadly into two main categories

General Fixtures-These are comparatively less expensive than other fixture models. They are available in a variety of different sizes and are applicable in a wide range of industries. Split collets, clamps and regular vises are the most popular examples for this category.

Customised Fixtures- These are specially customised for a particular project or type of workpiece to carry out specific functions for that operation.

Jigs vs Fixtures – The Key Differences

Jigs and fixtures differ from each other based on 9 key elements. If you intend to understand the role of Jigs vs Fixtures, you have to compare them on these factors.

Jigs Vs Fixtures Functionality
  1. Functionality– Jigs are a work holding device with the added guiding functionality. Fixtures do not have this function.
  2. Weight– Fixtures need to function as a holding piece primarily withstanding huge bouts of pressures and vibrations. Therefore, Fixtures are commonly heavier in weight than Jigs.
  3. Machine fitting– Jigs are manually held or secured by a clamp for faster handling. However, fixtures are almost always clamped or fitted to the machine.
  4. CNC applications– Fixtures are mostly find applications in milling, shaping and planning with CNC machines. Jigs aid in boring, drilling and tapping CNC applications.
  5. Complexity– Jigs have a much easier application as compared to fixtures. However, fixtures are relatively complex and require special training for handling.
  6. Cost– Jigs are much more expensive if you compare them to Fixtures.
  7. Design – Jigs have a more complex design pattern compared to the fixtures.
  8. Material– The primary material used for jigs manufacturing are bushes and screws. However, for fixtures the process focuses more on welding cast iron or steel.
  9. Contact– Jigs are fixed directly in contact with the tool while fixtures are clamped to the machine instead.

How can Jigs and Fixtures improve your manufacturing process?

Improve productivity

Jigs and fixtures reduce repetitive work freeing up machine idle time and increasing productivity..

Increase the quality of products

Jigs and fixtures reduce the inaccuracy of manual cutting which increases the overall quality of the manufactured parts.

Decrease manufacturing budget

Increase in productivity and product quality automatically leads to more ROI for the same budget for manufacturing services.

Functional areas where Jigs and Fixtures find active application

Jigs and fixtures find application in a wide range of niches.

  • Mass production of manufacturing and automobile parts
  • Ingot cutting in steel plants
  • Assembling process for pumps manufacturing
  • Multi-spindle machining purposes
  • Guiding machining tools during the contours process
  • Used for mass turning, automated milling and grinding industries
  • Accuracy and parts inspection for manufacturing industries during continuous production process

To sum up, Jigs and fixtures often work together for the same objective-to reduce the overall non-productive time particularly for mass manufacturing production. The jig is primarily responsible for guiding the cutting tools. The bush component of the jig attaches directly with the cutting tool to pre-set it to trace the same cutting patterns repeatedly during production. The fixtures work to secure the working piece on the machine table. They ensure that you can attach every working piece at the exact same position to allow for consistent cutting throughout the machining process. Since you attach the fixtures already to the machine table, so it reduces the time it takes align and set position for every working piece individually. You just have to set it in place within the fixture grooves and you are all set to go ahead with the next steps of the production process.

STAMOD offers jigs and fixtures prototype designing for production and CNC machines. You can check out our entire range of service offers for Jigs and Fixtures manufacturing here.

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