TS Tech, the world’s sixth-largest interior component manufacturer, is ensuring that innovation takes a front seat at the factory floor by turning to advanced manufacturing solutions from Stratasys, where they achieved 31% in cost savings and 90% weight reduction with 3D printed check fixtures.
As the number one seat supplier for an international automotive company, with assembly plants in 13 countries and $3.6 billion sales, the company understands the importance of innovation to stay ahead of the competition.
Constant evolution and the perfection of tools is a continuous process. One such tool was a solid aluminum check fixture that was used to inspect a back-seat hinge and was designed to be used around 42,000 times.
Typically, they weigh at least 18kg and it was a hassle for employees to carry and operate them across different points in the facility. Iterations were also a costly affair due to the lengthy time to manufacture and the cost of materials.
With 3D printing, iterations of a 3D printed hybrid check fixture can be performed with much ease at a lower cost, while also able to add on refinements such as clamp-on assemblies. The smaller profile also ensured better alignment and greater accuracy. Most importantly, it only weighs 2kg, which was one-tenth the weight of the original aluminum fixture.
“A hybrid check fixture of roughly half metal and half ABS-M30 thermoplastic can be produced in just 2 weeks while the aluminum fixture takes 6 weeks or more. This rapid turnaround time means TS Tech can keep pace with the design changes of their seating systems. The fixture that validates a part can be developed in tandem with the part itself,” says Stephen Mollett, a tooling engineer at TS Tech.
“In the past, we had to build quick, cheap plastic prototype fixtures with CNC machining. Such fixtures would be used to check parts until the final fixture was ready, and then it would be thrown away at a cost loss. But we now no longer have to make a prototype fixture, as we actually have the true, production-finished fixture to inspect parts with,” added Mollett.
In total, a 3D printed check fixture is only 69% of the cost of the old aluminum check fixture, while there is a 31% direct cost savings along with a noteworthy cost avoidance with the elimination of the prototype fixture. The benefits of 3D printing have led to TS Tech to prioritize using the technology to address other tooling needs on the manufacturing floor.