Jigs and fixtures are used in all kinds of manufacturing environments to make repeatable assembly processes more accurate, faster, and safer. Specialized tools like gauges, drill guides, masking templates, and cradles have been traditionally machined from metal. While materials like aluminum provides all the necessary qualities of strength, heat, and chemical resistance, it makes the jigs and fixtures heavy, expensive, and subject to long lead times to design and produce.

Material Selection for Jigs and Fixtures
Today, additive manufacturing (AM) has evolved to the point where 3D printing is a viable substitute for many jigs and fixtures used on assembly lines. There are now many materials that can match desired properties while offering benefits over metals including lighter weight, lower cost, and faster speed of production. 3D printed jigs and fixtures can increase worker safety and help eliminate repetitive motion injuries through the ability to design ergonomic, lightweight tools with an equal or better strength-to-weight ratio than machined parts.
The expanded choice in AM materials increases application opportunities. There are filaments with varying levels of flexibility and rigidity, those with ESD-safe, impact, and heat- or chemical-resistant properties, and others that are available in different colors, diameters, and spool sizes. With so many options, the material selection process is an important step in designing 3D printed jigs and fixtures. Manufacturers much first identify the application, necessary mechanical properties for the end-use part, and any aesthetic properties desired like surface finish or color.
Best Materials for 3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures
Essentium offers a wide range of industrial-grade, open ecosystem materials that stand up to the rigors of the toughest manufacturing environments. To make materials selection easier, Essentium breaks materials into five categories that each feature some of the best materials for 3D printed jigs and fixtures.
Standard filaments including PCTG and PLA are general-purpose materials that offer a good blend of stiffness and impact resistance to provide durability with affordability. Strong enough for lightly loaded fixtures, their low melting points support fast production for things like handheld tools, guides, and gauges.
Fiber-reinforced filaments such as HTN-CF25 and PA-CF are impact, chemical, and abrasion-resistant. With superior tensile strength and stiffness, they are excellent for low friction gears and bearings, automotive parts, as well as check sockets for prosthetics.
ESD-safe filaments such at PCTG-Z and TPU 58D-AS consist of non-marring, electrostatically dissipative (ESD) materials specifically formulated for electronic manufacturing applications. ESD-safe filaments are used to prevent damage to electrical components or circuit boards during assembly, for example, as well as to print fixtures used in environments with a high risk of combustion.
Flexible filaments including TPU 95A and TPU 80A balance superior elasticity with strength and tear resistance. These materials are excellent for applications requiring a snug yet gentle fit such as soft robotic grips, gaskets, and flexible hosing.
High-temperature filaments such as PEEK and high-temperature nylon (HTN) are meant for the most demanding applications. These high-temperature materials allow 3D printed jigs and fixtures to be used in harsh environments where parts are baked in ovens, bathed in chemical processes like electroplating, or exposed to solvents, fuels, and hydrocarbons as part of everyday use.
Whether your application requires 3D printed parts to withstand high temperatures or high impact, Essentium has the materials expertise to help you select filaments with the right properties to meet your application.