The FDM Assembly Fixture Generator is built to automate the design of jigs and fixtures for the FDM process, allowing engineers to prepare tooling parts in a simple drag-and-drop manner. It does this through the use of nTopology’s well-established topology optimization software engine, which operates on a goal-driven and generative premise to optimize part designs with the end-use application in mind.

The goal is to remove bottlenecks in design and manufacturing by maximizing efficiencies through time and material savings. Their plan is to create a series of Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) workflows to enable users to make the most out of 3D printing on the shop floor.

The DfAM workflow can be used for many common applications, such as kitting trays, storage cases, and other simple fixtures to support manufacturing operations.

Jigs and fixtures currently account for 10 percent of all end-use parts 3D printed, however, less than one percent of all fixtures used in factories globally are 3D printed. That’s going to skyrocket over the next few years. According to nTopology, automated DfAM tools that simplify the design of fixtures are needed to make these parts more accessible to shops across the globe.

The FDM Fixture Generator automates 90 percent of the design work required for simple jigs and fixtures, with the new Masking Fixture Module eliminating the need for manual masking techniques, regardless of model complexity.

According to nTopology, the new workflow program is capable of saving users hours of work in CAD design for each job through automating the design of fixtures. The module turns complex part surfaces into customized protective plugs, masks, and enclosures in just “a couple of clicks”.

With the new module, you simply select a surface, and the tool automatically generates an enclosure for any openings in that surface. 3D print the fixture and attach it to the part, and you protect its interiors from grease, media, or paint.

Potential use cases for this functionality include protecting critical faces, gaskets, holes, or mating surfaces of parts during a variety of post-processing operations. Protective fixtures can also be added with a click to safeguard against shipping, logistics, and downstream operations.

Designing plugs for holes or slots is not an arduous task in traditional CAD software. But managing dozens of plugs takes a lot of time, and it is much easier to do in the FDM Fixture Generator.

The Masking Fixture Module includes a great selection of built-in features that enable you to automate the whole design process. From the ability to add a taper on your plugs to customizing their clearance for slip fit, press-fit, or interference fit.

nTopology says that a prime use case would be an anti-rotation fixture, for example, which can elevate and position chain wheels for assembly. 3D printing the part would enable users to precisely cradle large components for assembly, regardless of their geometries. A fractal infill pattern can also be used here to save on both material and print time.

Castings are often expensive to produce, so it is common to repair or “remanufacture” a casting rather than replace it.

The partners have reportedly received “extremely positive” early customer feedback for the Masking Fixture Module, with users in the aerospace and defense sectors seeing potential for the tool to reduce scrap rate and increase throughput. nTopology also revealed that a machine shop creating medical devices and aerospace parts is planning to use the tool to protect component faces during deburring and abrasive processes.

As time goes on, we’re seeing more and more of the software revolution for 3D printing -- the ai-enabled, highly complex software designed to simplify the entire process, and frankly, this is a huge step in the right direction, for the largest sector of 3D Printing -- the manufacturing sector.

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At Vision Miner, we specialize in Functional 3D printing, especially high-performance plastics like PEEK, ULTEM, PPSU, PPS, CFPA, and more. If you're interested in using functional 3D printing and materials in your business, feel free to reach out, and we can help you make the right choice for your application.

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