Useful 3D printing -sewing machine jigs & fixtures

jig_or_fixture_smYes I have heard of the 3D printing technology but like many of you (c’mon, admit it) you rolled your eyes because in spite of repeated protests to the contrary, it wasn’t a short term or cogent solution for the apparel industry. However, I did stumble upon a cool use for it -that of making sewing machine jigs. I know you’re likely jumping up and down, clapping your hands with glee to hear the rest of this but quell your beating heart and listen up:

Oh wait, you’re not sure what a jig is? A jig is -courtesy of Wikipedia:

…a type of custom-made tool used to control the location and/or motion of another tool. A jig’s primary purpose is to provide repeatability, accuracy, and interchangeability in the manufacturing of products. A jig is often confused with a fixture; a fixture holds the work in a fixed location. A device that does both functions (holding the work and guiding a tool) is called a jig.


Okay. So today, after having written most of this entry, I learn that the device I’ve shown you (above, the green thingie) is technically a fixture. Sheesh. More directly within your frame of reference, I’ve shown you how to make a jig/fixture in the making of the welt pocket. If you’ve used that tutorial, you’ve learned that a jig/fixture is the critical difference in identical or near identical results which is why one goes through the bother of making one even if it is only out of paper.

Overly belabored introduction dispensed with, the sewing contractor I visited yesterday, creates 3D printed prototypical jigs to hold a workpiece at the machine (larger photo of the above). Once the jig/fixture has proven itself (iterations are color coded), a permanent jig is made in metal. I have never known a contractor who could make such pretty* jigs. It is truly impressive. Jig and fixture making (beyond the following paragraph) isn’t something one expects from a sewing contractor but this company has full bore machine shop. Usually if you need an attachment made, you have to send back east for it, pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars and then hope the thing is what you need. Before I forget, it is the customer who is expected to pay for this machining under typical circumstances unless you’re making thousands upon thousands of items. To the same ends, it likewise not unusual for a DE to own machines, jigs/fixtures or attachments that are loaned to a given contractor.

*Previously, most of the jigs I’ve seen (and made, let’s be honest) have largely amounted to crudely cut pieces of sheet metal with the edges ground down, and hinged with duct tape (for reals) for folding. I’m wondering if it would be cost effective to have some jigs/fixtures of my own invention, made for resale. It is yet another thing to think about.

Have a great weekend!

Oh, and if you’re interested in being put in contact with this contractor, do let me know because -in spite of their prodigious capacity and capability- they’re interested in exploring the world of small scale manufacturing.

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