What is modular fixturing? The answer is simple: it’s a versatile and efficient workholding system that uses standardized fixtures. These fixtures can be swapped out or adjusted based on your workholding needs.
The versatility of modular fixturing means that it can be used in every work environment, from large factories to small shops. Modular fixtures compare favorably to both permanent fixtures and general-purpose workholders, as they offer excellent detail and accuracy at a much lower cost than permanent fixtures.
Read on to learn more about the applications and benefits of modular workholding.
Modular Fixturing Explained
At Rayco Fixture, we specialize in modular options. This means that the fixture plate has rows of threaded holes to quickly attach or detach a number of features. Each of these features can hold, secure or support your workpiece. This allows your automated machine to easily perform the specialty production run required to meet your customers’ demands.
Modular fixturing is a relatively simple process. Instead of creating custom-made plates for each short run, or using generic clamps and jigs, a modular plate can easily create the precise fixture you need, then can be easily unassembled to be stored or used for your next application.
Fixture plates are a basic platform of aluminum or steel. Add any of these components to create a plate that is competitive with permanent solutions:
- Pivot joints
- Resting pins
- Suction cups
- Vacuum components
Purchase accessories that are compatible with your base to enjoy quick-change convenience and custom-made solutions for your test product. Once you arrive at a prototype that’s ready for full production, choose a permanent fixturing solution or continue to use your convenient modular fixture plate to avoid the cost and downtime of ordering a permanent plate.
Modular fixturing is commonly used in the aerospace, automotive, and industrial manufacturing industries. There are many good applications for modular workholding. These applications include repairing permanent fixtures, making custom replacement parts, building prototype parts, and intermittent or one-part production runs.
- Custom-made replacement parts
- One-time runs
- Infrequent orders
- Prototypes and trial runs
- Damaged permanent fixture replacement
While some industries may be able to use general-purpose fixture plates, your precision components in a cutting-edge industry can’t afford any errors in production. Choose a clamp, stand, suction cup or other feature that keeps your workpiece firm enough to bore, grind, cut or otherwise process.
These temporary or unusual fixture needs can make a permanent fixture inconvenient. Unfortunately, a general fixture doesn’t always have the specifications you need for a precision product. Compare these two common fixture alternatives with modular fixturing to see why these products are so valuable in a competitive production facility.
Benefits of Modular Fixtures in Workholding
Modular fixturing has become a popular choice for small-to medium-size professional machine shops over the last few decades, and for good reason. Modular fixturing offers important advantages over both of the alternatives: permanent fixtures and general-purpose workholders.
General-purpose workholders are fine for a hobbyist working out of their garage, but they are not suitable for most professional machine shops. General-purpose workholders do not allow machinists to achieve a high level of detail. This is fine when you are making relatively simple parts, but it will severely limit the number of jobs a professional shop can take on.
Modular fixturing does allow professional machinists to achieve a high level of detail. It is also nearly impossible to accurately reproduce parts using general-purpose workholders, while modular systems make reproducing parts easy.
By design, general-purpose workholders are extremely versatile. However, the adaptability of modular systems makes them every bit as versatile as general-purpose workholders.
Modular Versus Permanent Fixtures
Permanent fixtures are very common in factories that produce extremely large runs of the same parts, but they are not well-suited for any other application. This is because they are extremely expensive and cannot be adjusted or modified easily.
The vast majority of professional machine shops, especially small-job shops, would be better off going with a modular fixture system. Modular fixturing is much more affordable than creating permanent fixtures. Also, modular systems can be changed to suit almost any job.
General vs. Modular Fixturing
General fixturing is the most basic type of fixturing available. These vises, clamps, chucks and subplates may have a few adjustable features but only offer basic holding features. They are easy to set up and easy to use, but their general nature may reduce the stability of your fixturing and the precision of your finished product.
The modular fixturing process has a stunning range of applications while still retaining a precise platform. Compare round, adjustable and vertical fixture plates and a wide range of accessories. You’ll find magnetic, vacuum, vision and hold down clamps, in addition to tension springs and vises to create a precise fixturing solution for all your unique production situations.
Selecting a Modular Fixture
There are several things that you need to keep in mind when selecting a modular fixture. First, you need to make sure that you use a suction cup, stand, or clamp that holds the part secure. This will allow you to process the part accurately. It’s a good idea to try a couple of different modular setups when you are preparing to begin a run of parts.
Once you have found a setup that holds your part securely, you should check to see if you can tweak the fixtures to streamline the machining process. For example, you may be able to make production quicker and more accurate by using a subplate.
Still have questions? Contact Rayco Fixtures today. We’re a leading provider of custom-made fixtures, and can help walk you through the many options available to you.
Getting a Modular Fixturing System for Your Shop
While modular fixturing systems are more affordable than permanent fixtures, they are still a big investment for any shop. If you’re wondering about costs, or still have questions about what a modular fixturing system is, contact Rayco Fixture online today to request a consultation.
Rayco Fixtures is an industry-leading manufacturer of custom CMM, portable measuring, and vision fixtures. We’ve been serving clients in many sectors for over four decades, exclusively manufacture our parts in the United States, and provide a 30-day return policy on all standard fixture components. Read more about who we are, or call (800) 443-8827 to request a custom fixture quote.