Tooling refers to workings or specialist manufacturing aids which are usually limited in use to a specific production line or the performance of a specific contract or job. Fixtures are work holdings, used to securely position, hold and support the work to maintain conformity.
Any manufacturing process is only as good as the tooling and fixturing used within it. HVM Catapult activity in this area is to produce cheaper, more intelligent, reconfigurable tooling that enhances the capability of the process. Examples include the use of metrology to set and check modular tooling designs, use of sensors to monitor deformation of parts during the process and reprogrammable tooling to enable economic small batch production runs. This theme contributes to delivering “right first time” capability by developing reliable and repeatable tooling systems. It allows the introduction of new processes and levels of standardisation in the working environment by using the same tooling across multi-product flow lines and the utilisation of statistical process control (SPC). The HVM Catapult vision is to develop a collaborative environment where manufacturers, equipment suppliers and academia work together to advance and accelerate the introduction of tooling and fixturing technologies. Current activity includes research to: develop the next generation fixturing and handling technologies – methods and hardware – for all phases of the product life-cycle; develop/aid the development of a new generation of reconfigurable adaptive fixturing solutions that can adapt to changes in the process characteristics; innovative tooling to improve the productivity, traceability and repeatability of manual operations; and advance end effectors for deployment on automated systems.