A well-planned fixturing system can make or break the efficiency and accuracy of your manufacturing production processes. Poorly designed fixturing creates bottlenecks that slow down your entire operation.
However, with the right fixturing, an assembly line moves quickly and efficiently from one production phase to the next. In-house fixturing reduces lead time, cuts costs, and improves accuracy by frequently eliminating the need for outside support.
Producing fixturing in-house allows you to tailor your tooling precisely, so it's an optimal fit for all required operations. To understand how important custom fixturing is to your manufacturing process, we need to determine how it improves your production flow.
When you consider its role in various operations and its potential benefits, you'll know exactly when and where fixturing could help you cut costs, increase employee output, and reduce waste.
What is Custom Fixturing?
Custom Fixturing refers to the temporary mounting of components or tools to a support structure adjusted to fit the needs of a specific operation, such as welding or machining. It's important to note this support structure is not part of the final product; instead, it provides temporary stability and alignment during the manufacturing process. When properly designed, the custom fixture fits a specific component or tool, allowing easy insertion and removal without using tools and wasting precious production time.
What Makes Fixturing so Bloody Important?
Fixturing is integral to every production operation, providing a stable, repeatable work environment for all equipment, tools, and components. Without fixturing, production may grind to a halt as technicians struggle to find a suitable location for each piece to be used effectively.
If mechanical engineers have the ability to text the fixture before building it, they can verify its compatibility with the machine it will be running. This creates an ideal situation where problems are spotted and fixed before finalizing the fixture's design.
With the right fixturing in place, production moves quickly and smoothly as operators easily locate components and tools, consistently positioning them correctly for the task at hand.
Within the context of quality control, fixturing ensures positioning each component correctly and aligning it for each operation. This helps ensure the final product is accurate and consistent from one unit to the next.
Some Benefits of In-House Custom Fixturing
Reducing Lead Times
You can reduce lead times by eliminating the need to hunt down and order custom fixtures. In fact, it's possible to design and build custom fixtures in-house in just a few hours. The alternative is relying on production schedules for outside vendors. Obviously, your prioritized job may not be as important to them as it is to you.
Designing and fabricating a custom fixture in-house is substantially less expensive than purchasing it from an outside source.
With the ability to design customized fixtures for each operation, you ensure you correctly position every component or tool and can make necessary adjustments.
A well-designed fixturing system helps techs consistently place components correctly, ensuring each unit produced is identical to the last one.
Welding and Machining Operations
For welding and machining operations, fixturing must position each component correctly, and the final product emerges with the desired dimensions.
Welding fixturing holds components together during the welding process and positions them to be aligned correctly and in the right place, leaving proper access for welding. Afterward, the part can easily be removed as a single piece.
Machining fixtures position the components so they emerge with the desired dimensions. Sometimes, the fixture may have pins or other features positioning the components in the exact location for drilling, cutting, or other machining processes.
Assembly and Machining
When it comes time to assemble the parts created by welding or machining, fixturing again comes into play. Fixturing holds all the components together at the desired location and alignment to complete the assembly correctly. The custom fixtures hold the assembly in the right position and correct alignment during the process. One factor commonly overlooked is ergonomics. When correctly designed, the custom fixture creates a proper ergonomic situation helping the operator deal with the constant repetitive motion.
When you consider the importance of fixturing in various operations, you'll see it has a critical role in manufacturing production processes. Yet, as important as it is, many manufacturing companies are reluctant to use any custom fixturing systems for fear of being unable to produce the same quality level as they would from an outside source. Floor space is another hurdle companies need to consider, too.
Designing in-house fixturing systems to your exact specifications provides the most flexibility, customization, and control over the process. Besides, you never know when you might need them to support equipment repair, maintenance, or upgrade.
The best way to design your in-house fixturing system is to discover the specific operations needed to support and then determine the needed components and tools. Once you've got a handle on the components and tools you need, you can start exploring how to design the perfect fixturing system for each operation.