3D Printing Soft Jaws ? ?
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    Default 3D Printing Soft Jaws ? ?

    Anyone have first hand experience 3D Printing Soft jaws?

    Have been considering this lately for jobs that are 1-10 parts.
    The advantage is not tying up programming and machining time to make jaws that could print themselves offline, along with being able to make more intricate jaws for odd setups.

    My largest hesitation is that they cannot take the compression force of clamping in a vise, although doing some research there are some advanced materials that seem pretty tough.

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    Printed soft jaws for robots are not uncommon, but for machine tools?

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    We will encourage 3D printing of jaws for our up-and-coming benchtop assembly vise.

    But for machining, I don't think the accuracy's there unless you're clamping castings or extruded shapes for 1st ops.

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    Yeah I would be worried about the accuracy as well. Probably fairly difficult to get better than +-0.005" at best on any printer that isn't $10k or more. There are machines out there that will happily print Carbon Fiber reinforced Nylon which would likely have the structural strength for use as a soft jaw, but to get that strength you'd also need to print at 100% infill which means print times would be very long indeed... This is assuming you're talking about FDM printers.

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    I've done it but you have to plan accordingly for the part which can take up some 3d modeling time.

    It can be worth it if it is a weirdly shaped part and if you plan to not rely on the jaws for too much accuracy. So if the part is round you can take advantage of that geometry and basically do some v-block shaped jaws in the particular arc you require. Also, consider using an external stop(s) to locate instead of 100% relying on the jaw features.

    Also as far as infill is concerned there are ways to deal with that as well. Instead of printing the ENTIRE jaw, print just a limited section and put that section in your normal jaws like an insert. That saves a lot of time with the printer side of things. You can also use that concept and mill some pockets into your jaws then use that pocket as your basic 3d-printed insert section so you only need 4 corners or whatever in those main areas.

    Really it depends on your part geometry. I like the pocket method OK but it takes some time to get ready and standardize which can be a bit of a learning curve depending on your part library. Using 3d printed fixturing has saved my ass a few times but I have since moved on to using binary polyurethane since my current library is more about aestheic forms rather than bizarre geometry.

    Good luck.

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    I do it all the time for holding odd shaped and cosmetic parts that are easy to scratch. Using a high resolution polyjet printer into a nice Swiss DERO vise I can get +/-0.003" true position without much trouble.

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    We done it for some odd shape prototype small run stuff. Seems to handle coolant ok. Do to printed plastic kind of brittle easy to break.
    Very easy to over tighten and crush printed jaws. Good in right conditions and if you understand strength limits of them.

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    IDK, I like the fact that when I cut a pocket in soft jaws the registration for the part is nearly perfect. Makes for nice alignment and orientation of op2 features to op1 features. With printed jaws you would need some way to precisely locate them or some feature(s) you could dial in on.

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    Machining soft jaws is so quick, I struggle to see an application where 3d printed jaws would be worth it. Plus I would have to plan ahead a day

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    I havent done jaws yet but have done a few things like this to hold weird parts at weird angles for 2ndary op stuff in a vise. This literally took me 1 minute to draw over the model of the part and within maybe 5 minutes it was printing and I was off doing something else. Maybe 30 minutes to print the whole thing.
    Jeff P on Instagram: “Who needs custom machined angle fixtures when you have a 3d printer?”
    (i'm not sure how to post insta pics here yet)

    The biggest thing with making jaws is have to remember the plastic was melted to form it and if the part gets warm it will remelt the jaw so limited application also the holding power is limited unless mechanically locked to something like an undercut as the plastic can give so much. For a one of aluminum part with light milling, sure.

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    We have switched over to carve smart jaws. So change outs are extremely fast and pretty accurate to resetup. Being jaws are around 25.00 a set. Just seems cheaper to stick with softjaws and know it will work and be accurate. 3d printing is still exteremly slow, so you could have a jaw staged i guess. But how long does it take to pocket a few tool paths into a jaw and have near perfect location.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TKassoc View Post
    I do it all the time for holding odd shaped and cosmetic parts that are easy to scratch. Using a high resolution polyjet printer into a nice Swiss DERO vise I can get +/-0.003" true position without much trouble.
    Do you print the whole jaw ? It looks like the jaw is always backed by the vise itself on those vises - do you always stay below the support height ? Do you just use the normal Vero material or is it one of the engineering resins ?

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    I only print the jaws and I try to stay below the height of the master jaws on the vise like this.
    dero_soft-jaws.jpg
    Plain Vero material if I just need something in less than 2 hours. When I need better jaws they get run on a ProJet which can take 4h or more depending on the print settings. It works well on the DERO vise because they have built in locating keyway slots on the master jaws and it's a ground screw self-centering vise. That makes the location much less dependent on vise pressure than a normal fixed jaw vise...the plastic jaws are a bit squishy but the error gets averaged out.

    This isn't a solution for 2D or 2.5D parts where you can cut jaws much more easily. I only use it for silly stuff where I would be 3D surfacing the pockets.

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    I can't think of a part I've done that a printed jaw would work well for. I just have a ton of 4142 pre-hard jaw blanks ready to go, and it usually takes half an hour to design the jaw, half an hour to program it, and half an hour to cut it. Registration is perfect, parts won't pull out, and when I get an order for 50 more parts three months later I can just throw them back in.

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    I do it now and then on a proto or low-volume part that requires me to pick up a an angle (like JP Machining shows), or I want to somehow reference something that is not conveniently accessible via a normal/machined jaw or probe.

    I wouldn't say a printed (FDM) jaw is something I'd count on for great accuracy, but printed parts have bailed me out a few times on weird stuff.

    Just another tool in the shop that gets used now and then. :-)

    PM

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    I needed custom fixturing for almost every single part, I was cutting my own blanks for our Chick double vices because I was using so many. I don't see how I could program up and print and mount and true up 3d printed fixtures any faster than I could mill them. Either way, I would have to do all the work and programming, and I'm literally going to be running the mill anyways... yea, I don't see it being useful except for super complex shapes that would require multiple setups for 3d surfacing, and I've never needed fixturing that complex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TKassoc View Post
    I only print the jaws and I try to stay below the height of the master jaws on the vise like this.
    dero_soft-jaws.jpg
    Plain Vero material if I just need something in less than 2 hours. When I need better jaws they get run on a ProJet which can take 4h or more depending on the print settings. It works well on the DERO vise because they have built in locating keyway slots on the master jaws and it's a ground screw self-centering vise. That makes the location much less dependent on vise pressure than a normal fixed jaw vise...the plastic jaws are a bit squishy but the error gets averaged out.

    This isn't a solution for 2D or 2.5D parts where you can cut jaws much more easily. I only use it for silly stuff where I would be 3D surfacing the pockets.
    Thanks! Do you use the Project just for the accuracy or strength too ? That's a nice looking vise, but I may have to make something up with a keyway in some normal jaws for now !

    Quote Originally Posted by Winterfalke View Post
    I don't see how I could program up and print and mount and true up 3d printed fixtures any faster than I could mill them. Either way, I would have to do all the work and programming, and I'm literally going to be running the mill anyways... yea, I don't see it being useful except for super complex shapes that would require multiple setups for 3d surfacing, and I've never needed fixturing that complex.
    I seem to only do stuff that is supposed to be done in another process i.e. small runs that were designed to be die castings, injection molded parts in materials you can't print etc... so it would definitely help there but for parts that have at least nominally been designed for machining then it probably isn't going to be a huge help, except I could then machine stuff that would normally need a 5 axis for strange pockets and holes without needing to spend the money on the machine!

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    Quote Originally Posted by alexdobbie View Post
    Thanks! Do you use the Project just for the accuracy or strength too ? That's a nice looking vise, but I may have to make something up with a keyway in some normal jaws for now !
    The ProJet is just more accurate. All of the polyjet resins are in roughly the same range for mechanical properties.

    I seem to only do stuff that is supposed to be done in another process i.e. small runs that were designed to be die castings, injection molded parts in materials you can't print etc... so it would definitely help there but for parts that have at least nominally been designed for machining then it probably isn't going to be a huge help, except I could then machine stuff that would normally need a 5 axis for strange pockets and holes without needing to spend the money on the machine!
    One of the really useful ways to leverage a good printer is by making a two or more piece split housing with dowel pins to envelope the part. Then you can change an annoying non-prismatic part into something that's easy to put into a normal vise. Carefully placed dowel pin holes on the outside of the printed housing can consistently fixture at strange angles or orientations right onto the top of normal vise hard jaws. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that process which can be posted publicly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TKassoc View Post
    One of the really useful ways to leverage a good printer is by making a two or more piece split housing with dowel pins to envelope the part. Then you can change an annoying non-prismatic part into something that's easy to put into a normal vise. Carefully placed dowel pin holes on the outside of the printed housing can consistently fixture at strange angles or orientations right onto the top of normal vise hard jaws. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that process which can be posted publicly.
    That's pretty clever - I'll definitely try that out, thanks!

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    I have done this for myself.

    No matter what- its still plastic so if you overdo it the plastic will crack.
    Certainly, different materials have differnt characteristics. Im no expert in the terminology but i can tall you, for example, PLA is very liable to crack and ill-suited for soft jaws. Ther are more rigid materials like PETG and even PEEK which may get you there.

    im not sure your application but you may run into issues getting a perfectly flat surface and you will definitely get some compression.

    Have you consitered a flexible material softjaw?


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