Fixture (tool)

Last updated
A common type of fixture, used in materials tensile testing TH11-50kN-pincer-grip.jpg
A common type of fixture, used in materials tensile testing

A fixture is a work-holding or support device used in the manufacturing industry. [1] [2] Fixtures are used to securely locate (position in a specific location or orientation) and support the work, ensuring that all parts produced using the fixture will maintain conformity and interchangeability. Using a fixture improves the economy of production by allowing smooth operation and quick transition from part to part, reducing the requirement for skilled labor by simplifying how workpieces are mounted, and increasing conformity across a production run. [2]


A fixture differs from a jig in that when a fixture is used, the tool must move relative to the workpiece; a jig moves the piece while the tool remains stationary. [3]


A fixture's primary purpose is to create a secure mounting point for a workpiece, allowing for support during operation and increased accuracy, precision, reliability, and interchangeability in the finished parts. It also serves to reduce working time by allowing quick set-up, and by smoothing the transition from part to part. [3] It frequently reduces the complexity of a process, allowing for unskilled workers to perform it and effectively transferring the skill of the tool maker to the unskilled worker. [2] Fixtures also allow for a higher degree of operator safety by reducing the concentration and effort required to hold a piece steady. [3]

Economically speaking the most valuable function of a fixture is to reduce labor costs. Without a fixture, operating a machine or process may require two or more operators; using a fixture can eliminate one of the operators by securing the workpiece. [4]


These modular fixture components may be built into various arrangements to accommodate different workpieces Tooling fixtures.jpg
These modular fixture components may be built into various arrangements to accommodate different workpieces

Fixtures should be designed with economics in mind; the purpose of these devices is often to reduce costs, and so they should be designed in such a way that the cost reduction outweighs the cost of implementing the fixture. It is usually better, from an economic standpoint, for a fixture to result in a small cost reduction for a process in constant use, than for a large cost reduction for a process used only occasionally. [4]

Most fixtures have a solid component, affixed to the floor or to the body of the machine and considered immovable relative to the motion of the machining bit, and one or more movable components known as clamps. These clamps (which may be operated by many different mechanical means) allow workpieces to be easily placed in the machine or removed, and yet stay secure during operation. Many are also adjustable, allowing for workpieces of different sizes to be used for different operations. Fixtures must be designed such that the pressure or motion of the machining operation (usually known as the feed) is directed primarily against the solid component of the fixture. This reduces the likelihood that the fixture will fail, interrupting the operation and potentially causing damage to infrastructure, components, or operators. [5]

Fixtures may also be designed for very general or simple uses. These multi-use fixtures tend to be very simple themselves, often relying on the precision and ingenuity of the operator, as well as surfaces and components already present in the workshop, to provide the same benefits of a specially-designed fixture. Examples include workshop vises, adjustable clamps, and improvised devices such as weights and furniture.

Each component of a fixture is designed for one of two purposes: location or support.


Locating components ensure the geometrical stability of the workpiece. They make sure that the workpiece rests in the correct position and orientation for the operation by addressing and impeding all the degrees of freedom the workpiece possesses. [6]

For locating workpieces, fixtures employ pins (or buttons), clamps, and surfaces. These components ensure that the workpiece is positioned correctly, and remains in the same position throughout the operation. Surfaces provide support for the piece, pins allow for precise location at low surface area expense, and clamps allow for the workpiece to be removed or its position adjusted. Locating pieces tend to be designed and built to very tight specifications. [7]


In designing the locating parts of a fixture, only the direction of forces applied by the operation are considered, and not their magnitude. Locating parts technically support the workpiece, but do not take into account the strength of forces applied by the process and so are usually inadequate to actually secure the workpiece during operation. For this purpose, support components are used. [8]

To secure workpieces and prevent motion during operation, support components primarily use two techniques: positive stops and friction. A positive stop is any immovable component (such as a solid surface or pin) that, by its placement, physically impedes the motion of the workpiece. Support components are more likely to be adjustable than locating components, and normally do not press tightly on the workpiece or provide absolute location. [9]

Support components usually bear the brunt of the forces delivered during the operation. To reduce the chances of failure, support components are usually not also designed as clamps.

Types of fixtures

Fixtures are usually classified according to the machine for which they were designed. The most common two are milling fixtures and drill fixtures. [10]

Milling fixtures

Milling operations tend to involve large, straight cuts that produce many chips and involve varying force. Locating and supporting areas must usually be large and very sturdy in order to accommodate milling operations; strong clamps are also a requirement. Due to the vibration of the machine, positive stops are preferred over friction for securing the workpiece. For high-volume automated processes, milling fixtures usually involve hydraulic or pneumatic clamps. [11] [12]

Drilling fixtures

Drilling fixtures cover a wider range of different designs and procedures than milling fixtures. Though workholding for drills is more often provided by jigs, fixtures are also used for drilling operations.

Two common elements of drilling fixtures are the hole and bushing. Holes are often designed into drilling fixtures, to allow space for the drill bit itself to continue through the workpiece without damaging the fixture or drill, or to guide the drill bit to the appropriate point on the workpiece. Bushings are simple bearing sleeves inserted into these holes to protect them and guide the drill bit. [13]

Because drills tend to apply force in only one direction, support components for drilling fixtures may be simpler. If the drill is aligned pointing down, the same support components may compensate for the forces of both the drill and gravity at once. However, though monodirectional, the force applied by drills tends to be concentrated on a very small area. Drilling fixtures must be designed carefully to prevent the workpiece from bending under the force of the drill. [14]

See also


Related Research Articles

Lathe Machine tool which rotates the work piece on its axis

A lathe is a machine tool that rotates a workpiece about an axis of rotation to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, deformation, facing, and turning, with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object with symmetry about that axis.

A reamer is a type of rotary cutting tool used in metalworking. Precision reamers are designed to enlarge the size of a previously formed hole by a small amount but with a high degree of accuracy to leave smooth sides. There are also non-precision reamers which are used for more basic enlargement of holes or for removing burrs. The process of enlarging the hole is called reaming. There are many different types of reamer and they may be designed for use as a hand tool or in a machine tool, such as a milling machine or drill press.

G-code is the most widely used computer numerical control (CNC) programming language. It is used mainly in computer-aided manufacturing to control automated machine tools, and has many variants.

Grinding machine

A grinding machine, often shortened to grinder, is one of power tools or machine tools used for grinding, it is a type of machining using an abrasive wheel as the cutting tool. Each grain of abrasive on the wheel's surface cuts a small chip from the workpiece via shear deformation.


A collet is a subtype of chuck that forms a collar around an object to be held and exerts a strong clamping force on the object when it is tightened, usually by means of a tapered outer collar. It may be used to hold a workpiece or a tool.


A countersink is a conical hole cut into a manufactured object, or the cutter used to cut such a hole. A common use is to allow the head of a countersunk bolt, screw or rivet, when placed in the hole, to sit flush with or below the surface of the surrounding material. A countersink may also be used to remove the burr left from a drilling or tapping operation thereby improving the finish of the product and removing any hazardous sharp edges.

Chuck (engineering) Clamp used to hold an object with radial symmetry, especially a cylinder

A chuck is a specialized type of clamp used to hold an object with radial symmetry, especially a cylinder. In a drill or a mill, a chuck holds the rotating tool; in a lathe, it holds the rotating workpiece.

Tool and cutter grinder

A tool and cutter grinder is used to sharpen milling cutters and tool bits along with a host of other cutting tools.


Turning is a machining process in which a cutting tool, typically a non-rotary tool bit, describes a helix toolpath by moving more or less linearly while the workpiece rotates.

Lathe center

A lathe center, often shortened to center, is a tool that has been ground to a point to accurately position a workpiece on an axis. They usually have an included angle of 60°, but in heavy machining situations an angle of 75° is used.

Metal lathe

A metal lathe or metalworking lathe is a large class of lathes designed for precisely machining relatively hard materials. They were originally designed to machine metals; however, with the advent of plastics and other materials, and with their inherent versatility, they are used in a wide range of applications, and a broad range of materials. In machining jargon, where the larger context is already understood, they are usually simply called lathes, or else referred to by more-specific subtype names. These rigid machine tools remove material from a rotating workpiece via the movements of various cutting tools, such as tool bits and drill bits.

Rotary table

A rotary table is a precision work positioning device used in metalworking. It enables the operator to drill or cut work at exact intervals around a fixed axis. Some rotary tables allow the use of index plates for indexing operations, and some can also be fitted with dividing plates that enable regular work positioning at divisions for which indexing plates are not available. A rotary fixture used in this fashion is more appropriately called a dividing head.

Angle plate

An angle plate is a work holding device used as a fixture in metalworking.

Boring (manufacturing)

In machining, boring is the process of enlarging a hole that has already been drilled by means of a single-point cutting tool, such as in boring a gun barrel or an engine cylinder. Boring is used to achieve greater accuracy of the diameter of a hole, and can be used to cut a tapered hole. Boring can be viewed as the internal-diameter counterpart to turning, which cuts external diameters.

Tool and die maker

Tool and die makers are a class of machinists in the manufacturing industries. Variations on the name include tool maker,toolmaker, die maker,diemaker, mold maker,moldmaker or tool jig and die-maker, or Fitter, depending on which area of concentration or industry an individual works in.

Centerless grinding

Centerless grinding is a machining process that uses abrasive cutting to remove material from a workpiece. Centerless grinding differs from centered grinding operations in that no spindle or fixture is used to locate and secure the workpiece; the workpiece is secured between two rotary grinding wheels, and the speed of their rotation relative to each other determines the rate at which material is removed from the workpiece.

Jig (tool)

A jig is a type of custom-made tool used to control the location and/or motion of parts or other tools.

Parallels are rectangular blocks of metal, commonly made from tool steel, stainless steel or cast iron, which have 2, 4 or 6 faces ground or lapped to a precise surface finish. They are used when machining with a mill, drill or any other machining operation that requires work to be held in a vise or with clamps - to keep work parallel or raised evenly such as in a milling vise to give adequate height for the cutting tool/spindle to pass over.

A drill bushing, also known as a jig bushing, is a tool used in metalworking jigs to guide cutting tools, most commonly drill bits. Other tools that are commonly used in a drill bushing include counterbores, countersinks, and reamers. They are designed to guide, position, and support the cutting tool.

Milling (machining) Removal of material from a workpiece using rotating tools

Milling is the process of machining using rotary cutters to remove material by advancing a cutter into a workpiece. This may be done varying direction on one or several axes, cutter head speed, and pressure. Milling covers a wide variety of different operations and machines, on scales from small individual parts to large, heavy-duty gang milling operations. It is one of the most commonly used processes for machining custom parts to precise tolerances.