Advanced Tooling & Fixturing
Putting science into the concept and design of tooling, fixtures and special purpose machine tools
Generally, most processes and operations require a fixture to locate the component in the process, and a tool to work on the component. The development of these tools and fixtures has traditionally been by rule of thumb, based on what works. The purpose of our Advanced Tooling and Fixturing research theme is to take a step forward in the design and logic of tools and fixtures.
Our areas of expertise include:
- Fast fixtures: Through the use of reconfigurable systems, lead times can be significantly reduced. However, limitations need to be understood in order that these technologies can be applied appropriately.
- Adaptive fixtures: These can be reconfigured automatically or manually for a component family, reducing the need for multiple fixtures, reducing lead time for NPI, negating issues around storage of fixtures, and facilitating single piece flow on multi product processes.
Adaptive fixtures can also incorporate sensing technology to overcome issues with component variation and can automatically reconfigure themselves to suit the component and/or product mix required.
- Lightweight fixtures and tooling: Making handling easier and safer, allowing single operator changeovers and reducing process power consumption and maintenance, as well as the cost of capital equipment purchase. Lightweight end effectors allow the automation and handling of large panels for automotive and aerospace applications where currently the weight of the handling device often exceeds the weight of the component, enabling small cheaper robots and drives to be used while at the same time improving accuracy (reduced inertia at end of arm) and equipment life (reduced load).
- Smart fixtures and tools: The use of embedded sensors and measuring devices allows adaptive processes that can use sensor technology to self-adjust the process. This produces the best component and/or process conditions, including the automation of in-process measurement and calculation of process offset, and adjustments to improve quality and process yield.
- Smart designs and concepts: Using design software to calculate stress and deflection, through both load and temperature as well as system natural vibration, and full size virtual reality to design and plan tools and fixtures, the design can be virtually proven and ergonomic factors assessed before manufacture. This reduces costs from upstream process issues and potential operator problems.
Advanced Tooling and Fixturing has a vital part to play in progressing process automation and achieving the demanding need for process quality and repeatability.