In manufacturing companies, component-specific fixtures account for a significant proportion of costs. One approach to reducing fixture expenditures in car body construction is to manufacture more cost-effective welding fixtures using plastic-based additive manufacturing. Conventionally, welding fixtures are usually made entirely of steel to ensure the necessary requirements for stiffness, strength and quality. In order to lower the resulting manufacturing costs of these component-specific fixture elements and significantly reduce the provisioning effort, the use of plastic-based additive manufacturing processes at this point offers the potential to shorten and accelerate the process chain from fixture design to ready-to-use fixture, as well as to reduce the cost effort.
First, existing fixtures of the manufacturing companies were analyzed and possible applications of the polymer replacement components were identified. With a view to the design of the polymer components suitable for production, a re-design of the jigs used was carried out with subsequent preliminary tests for additive manufacturing. In this way, specific design solutions and recommendations could be derived from the developed prototypes. Further series of tests on selected fixture components and the recording of relevant process data were carried out at the Ramp-Up Factory under production conditions. In this way, the so-called fused filament fabrication process, FFF for short, using the plastic polyamide (PLA), was identified as particularly suitable for the cost-effective production of the fixture components.
The result of the collaboration was a reduction in the manufacturing costs of component-specific fixture elements of up to 60% when these components were implemented using the FFF process and the polymeric plastic PLA. In addition, the concept was validated and confirmed by a successful trial phase using a vehicle longitudinal member assembly. In the future, the industrial partner’s industrial fixture construction can rely on the developed design recommendations for additively manufactured fixture elements and a significant cost reduction in the manufacturing process can be realized.