Jigs and Fixtures

Jigs and fixtures are often used as complementary terms, and are both widely used in the modern industries. In the machine shop, a jig is normally an appliance that guides a cutting tool, whereas a fixture is a simple work holding device. In the automotive industry, a jig is a work holding device in which all positions for fabrication and assembly operations are pre-located, while fixture acts a work holding device which must be set relative to the operating tools as part of the fabrication or assembly process. In the aircraft industry, both jigs and fixtures can be applied vastly to all special assembly tools. 

There are actually many types of jigs, including template jigs, plate jigs, diameter jigs, channel jigs, ring jigs, box jigs, leaf jigs, leaf jigs, indexing jigs, angle plate jigs, trunnion jigs, etc.  

What are Jigs

To illustrate better, a jig, also known as a mechanical jig, is a device which supports a work piece and has it held at the proper location with the help of locators. In most of its applications, a jig’s job is to guide the cutting tool to make sure that the operation is performed at the exact location. It is primarily used in reaming and drilling operations.

Mechanical jigs are typically equipped with hardened steel bushings to guide the cutting tool. They are either mounted or not mounted on a workbench. Jigs cannot be fastened to a machine tool on which they are used, especially for smaller sized cutting tools. 

For drilling multiple holes on the same part, jigs may be designed to allow a certain degree of movement so that it could be moved around or indexed on a workbench to bring each bushing under the drill spindle. Jigs should be constructed in such a way that the removal and insertion of a work piece is performed within as little time as possible.  

In short, here are some of the important things you should remember about jigs:

● Jigs are used in uni-dimensional machining processes, such as drilling, tapping, reaming, etc.
● Jigs are typically designed to be lightweight and have complex shapes
● Gauge blocks are not needed to complement jigs.
● Cost of jigs are typically higher than fixtures. 
● Jigs cannot be fixed on a machine tool unless a large operation is involved.

Application of Jigs

Generally speaking, both jigs and fixtures are found in machine shops for various machining operations, and are used across an extremely broad range of industries. Here are some of their usage:

● Jigs are widely used for mass production of automobile parts in the automotive industries.
● Jigs are used for inspecting parts in ongoing production in manufacturing industries.
● Jigs are used for metal cutting, such as cutting of ingots in steel plants.
● Jigs are used in the refrigeration industry.
● Jigs are used in pump assembling processes.
● Jigs are used for flanges drilling as well as drilling holes based on the designated angles.
● Jigs are used for multi-spindle machining.
● Jigs are used for mass turning, grinding and milling operations.
● Etc.

Despite the many applications, jigs do have their limitations. For instance, they can wear away over time, and have a higher upfront cost for setting itself up. Also, jigs can use a lot of materials and can end up being very bulky.

Factors to Consider When Designing a Jig

Before setting forth to design a jig, you should take the factors outlined below in considerations:

● The sturdiness of the component.
● The sturdiness of locating elements.
● The type and capacity of the machine on which the jigs will be used.
● The arrangement for loading and unloading.
● The clamping arrangement.
● The sturdiness of power devices that are utilized for clamping and operating elements.
● The safety arrangement device should also be taken into account as well.
● The clearance between the components and the jigs.
● The degree of sturdiness for tool guiding, cutter setting components as well as potential rigidity and vibration issues. 
● The user-friendly arrangement, or can also be interpreted as the fool-proofing arrangement.
● The sturdiness of ejection devices, indexing devices as well as table fixing arrangement.
Swarf removal arrangement.

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