Published 04/29/2016


By Gemma Downey

Despite the fact that delivering a quality product and remaining competitive is an enormous aspect in engineering, very few companies use additive manufacturing for quality control and assurance (until they bring one in for rapid prototyping). Fear not—read on to learn more about how you can integrate 3D printing into your QA/QC process

CMM Fixtures

Often times, customers require one-of-a-kind inspection fixtures. Think of all the times you needed to verify dimensions on a variety of parts. Users have elected to print repeatable fixtures that take the guess work out of the process. Bonus: Polyjet printing offers VeroClear material for optical CMM fixtures.



PPAP and Risk Identification

Part of the PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) is keeping track of design records, design changes, performance reviews, and dimensional analysis. Keeping digital and 3D printed records of each iteration ensures better communication between customer and supplier.

Gage Repeatability and Reproducibility (GR&R)

GR&R studies show which part of the measurement system is contributing most to variation: the measurement system itself, the operator, or the part. Using a quickly-printed fixture, you reduce the human error aspect of variation.

DFMA – Design for Manufacture and Assembly

DFMA is all about simplifying product structure for easy and efficient assembly. By printing a prototype, you potentially avoid making a mishap during assembly. For instance: one customer asked us to print two threaded parts that would screw together (supposedly). They printed the parts inexpensively and learned that the threads weren’t opposing, and therefore they couldn’t be assembled. Imagine if they had sent that to production? Realize design flaws sooner by printing them first.

Laser Marking

Many manufacturers label parts by laser marking them. How can you be sure you are engraving the exact location for each project if it is loose in the marking tray? Create custom fixtures for each part to set in while marking, in order to ensure it is accurately marked. Bonus: Create multiple cradles to mark numerous parts simultaneously.

Functional Repeatability Testing

Maybe you need to test the effectiveness of a push button or a snap-closure. Maybe you need to test it for the product’s entire lifecycle, say, 1,000 times. You wouldn’t hire someone to open and close a device 1,000 times when you could create a working fixture to test it, would you? Bonus: you can program a machine to stop when the product fails, and to tell you how many times it worked until it failed.

Transportation and Shipping

Afraid to ship valuable parts traditionally? Create your own custom packaging and transportation trays to protect those funky-shaped parts or precious cargo.


An organized work space reduces part loss and production downtime. It also ensures the proper tools are used. In our shop, we printed a fixture to hold each different print tip for the Fortus printer (which prints in nine different materials and four different resolutions), that way we can quickly access what we need. Bonus: you can use multiple materials and colors for labeling!


In Conclusion

To avoid production halts or product defects, new jigs and fixtures must be rapidly designed and produced. Jigs and fixtures are traditionally fabricated by machining, but this can tie up machine tools used for production work. When 3D printed instead of traditionally produced, customers see an average lead time savings of 40-90% and average cost savings of 70-95%. So what are you waiting for? Ensure you are offering a premium product to your customers with 3D printing for Quality Assurance.

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