Use of 3D printing to assist tooling manufacture

At LKD Engineering the use of 3D printing to aid in the manufacture of robot weld jigs has become a regular feature.

The process whereby the customer 3D model data is transferred directly to the printer allows us to quickly create a production likeness part.

The 3D modelling process can reproduce parts that are usable as a direct component representation allowing tool designer’s to physically adapt their designs.

From a solid works file, a 3D printing image is created in STL format to drive the 3D printer.
Some files can take up to 24hrs to complete dependent upon the quality of print required.

Many precision engineering companies now use this design tool to great effect.
The printed product comes in to its own in the design and manufacture of robot welding tools.

Robot welding is the most extensively used process in the automotive industry and today the robot tooling industry is almost completely supported by the automotive sector in the UK.

Alongside the use of 3D printing for assisting robot weld tool design is the versatility of the CNC machine and in particular the vertical CNC machining centre.
The CNC machining centre is basically the mechanical forefather of the 3D printer.

It’s a clear benefit to have a 3D printed part to design and build hard tooling from.
There is often a mental block in tool design which can now be overcome with the aid of the 3D print.

A robot jig and tool designer now has the opportunity to create access for the robot gun when designing jigs.

Using the very same modelling techniques present in the creation of the 3D print the CNC machine can recreate a precision part developed from the inclusion of 3D printing in the early design and development stage of the tool.