Rutland Plastics is a custom injection molding company located in Rutland, United Kingdom that produces products for a wide range of companies and industries. Because each project is unique, Rutland must create complementary jigs and fixtures to position and hold the project’s components during manufacturing operations like assembly, gluing, drilling, and measuring.
Now thanks to Stratasys 3D printing, creating a steady stream of assembly tools 100% customized for each job, in practically no time, is the new reality at Rutland.
Annual Production Time
Why Conventional Wasn’t Cutting It
Customized jig for a headerpod part 3D printed on an Objet350 Connex 3D Production System by Stratasys
The jigs and fixtures at Rutland are crucial because they streamline the production process, help employees become more efficient, and ensure consistency of the final product. However, as the company grew, creating the jigs and fixtures using conventional methods became a costly burden.
Rutland traditionally made approximately 100 new jigs and fixtures annually from aluminum on its CNC milling machines. This process cost $1,500 per piece or $150,000 per year. But the true cost to the company was far greater. Each new jig and fixture also took 3 days to create. This meant that the company was precluded from using at least one of its CNC machines to generate revenue for 300 business days.
Another problem was that Rutland’s engineers were constrained by the CNC machine’s inability to produce jigs and fixtures with sharp corners and deep contours. As a result, the jigs and fixtures were not optimized for the specific need they were meant to address in the manufacturing process, which created the need for additional adaptive work or support tooling.
Finally, identification labels and felt pads had to be manually added to prevent loss and inadvertent scratching of production parts, respectively.
Perfecting the Process with PolyJet
Heat insert cradle 3D printed on the Objet350 Connex 3D Production System by Stratasys
Originally, Rutland purchased an Objet350 Connex Multi-material 3D Production System to produce rapid prototypes but then realized it was also an ideal platform for creating jigs and fixtures. Leveraging the system’s PolyJet 3D printing technology, Rutland produces jigs and fixtures with exceptional surface finish and intricate detail, benefits which were unattainable via conventional milling machines. Plus, Rutland’s engineers are able to leverage the 3D printer’s multi-material capability to produce rubber-like surfaces that cushion and protect production parts coming into direct contact with the fixture. Identification labels are 3D printed directly as part of the jigs and fixtures. All of this is accomplished in a single build on the Stratasys multi-material 3D Printer, eliminating costly extra steps.
“We don’t have any more machining constraints. We can literally 3D print something that we couldn’t have manufactured any other way,” adds Simon Grainger, Rutland Plastics’ Design Engineer.
Costs and Time Savings Seal the Deal
By taking full advantage of their Stratasys 3D Printer, Rutland has been able to reduce the cost of producing jigs and fixtures and reclaim its CNC machines exclusively for revenue generating processes. In total, the switch reduced Rutland’s per-fixture cost from $1,500 to $900 or from $150,000 annually to $90,000 — a $60,000 (40%) savings. It also allowed Rutland to add 300 production days for one CNC machine back into its annual operations plan.
Finally, the company is able to produce customized jigs and fixtures faster than ever before with Stratasys 3D Printing — a 66% time savings compared to CNC milling. Now, engineers literally design a fixture during the day, print it overnight and have it ready for use the next day. As Carl Martin, Technical Manager for Rutland Plastics put it, “We can now produce jigs and fixtures in a fraction of the time and cost on our Objet 3D Printer without tying up production machinery.”