How To Choose The CNC Fixture: The Complete Guide

The world of CNC machining is rich and complex, brimming with possibilities for industries such as aerospace, electronics, military, medical, agriculture, lighting, and automation. One crucial aspect of this process is the use of CNC fixtures. But, what is a CNC fixture, and why is it so vital in the production process?

Fixtures machining is an integral part of CNC machining, and choosing the right CNC fixture can significantly impact the final product’s quality. A machining fixture holds the workpiece in place while it is being worked on, ensuring stability and precision during the manufacturing process. Choosing the correct fixture isn’t just about compatibility with your CNC machine but also about ensuring efficiency, safety, and the best possible output.

This guide will delve into the importance of CNC fixtures, understand their role in different CNC machining processes, explore various types of fixtures, and guide you on how to choose the best CNC fixture for your specific needs.

Understanding the Basics of CNC Fixtures


What are CNC Fixtures?

CNC fixtures, also known as machining fixtures or machine fixtures, are a form of workholding fixtures that hold the workpiece in a secure position during machining operations. These fixtures help maintain the orientation and location of the workpiece, ensuring accuracy and repeatability in CNC machining.

With the use of fixtures, the productivity and efficiency of CNC machining processes are greatly improved, making them an indispensable part of any CNC machining setup, be it CNC milling or CNC turning.


Role of CNC Fixtures in the Machining Process

In any CNC machining process, whether it’s CNC machining of aluminum material or CNC machining of wood, the role of CNC fixtures cannot be underestimated. These devices ensure that the workpiece stays in place throughout the machining process, enabling high precision and repeatability. This results in improved productivity, efficiency, and quality of the final products.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a CNC Fixture


Material of the Workpiece

The material of your workpiece is a significant determinant of the kind of fixture you should use. For example, a vacuum fixture design is ideal for non-magnetic and non-ferrous materials.


The Complexity of the Workpiece

The complexity of the workpiece – its shape, size, and the number of sides to be machined – also impacts the choice of fixture. Some CNC fixtures are better suited to complex, multi-sided parts, while others are ideal for simpler, prismatic parts.


Production Volume

The volume of production – whether you’re creating a single prototype or mass-producing a part – also impacts your fixture choice. For instance, fixtures for CNC machines like modular fixtures can be easily adjusted for different workpieces, making them an excellent choice for low-volume or prototype production. 

In contrast, dedicated fixtures, though more costly and time-consuming to set up, can provide efficiency benefits in high-volume production scenarios.


Safety Considerations

Safety should always be paramount in any CNC machining process. The right fixture not only ensures the safety of the operator but also the integrity of the CNC machine and the workpiece. A poorly chosen fixture can lead to accidents, damage to the machine, or destruction of the workpiece.

Deep Dive into Different Types of CNC Fixtures


Vise Fixtures

Vise fixtures are among the most common fixtures for CNC machines due to their versatility and simplicity. These fixtures use mechanical force to hold the workpiece securely during the machining process

However, they are less suitable for complex or delicate parts that can be damaged by the clamping force.


Modular Fixtures

Modular fixtures are the backbone of flexible CNC fixture design. They offer the convenience of adjustability to handle a wide variety of workpiece sizes and shapes. 

The main advantage of modular fixtures is their versatility and ease of reconfiguration, making them ideal for low-volume or custom CNC machining jobs. 

The downside, however, is that the initial setup can be time-consuming and complex.


Tombstone Fixtures

Tombstone fixtures, or column fixtures, are typically used in horizontal CNC milling operations. These fixtures allow for the simultaneous machining of multiple workpiece sides, enhancing efficiency. 

The downside is the requirement for extensive planning and setup, making them less suitable for one-off jobs.


Collet Fixtures

Collet fixtures use a collar or sleeve to hold the workpiece, providing an even grip around the piece’s circumference. This makes them perfect for cylindrical or round workpieces, offering excellent precision without damaging the piece. 

However, they are not versatile enough for irregularly shaped workpieces.


Magnetic Fixtures

Magnetic fixtures use a magnetic field to hold ferrous workpieces. They are fast, secure, and do not damage the workpiece, making them ideal for quick setups and delicate parts. However, they are not suitable for non-ferrous materials


Vacuum Fixtures

Vacuum fixtures use suction to hold the workpiece, making them ideal for non-ferrous and non-magnetic materials. They are also gentle on the workpiece, preventing damage. However, their holding force is not as strong as other types of fixtures, limiting their application to lighter machining tasks.


Hydraulic Fixtures

Hydraulic fixtures use fluid power to hold the workpiece, offering a high level of force without manual adjustment. They are ideal for high-volume production, providing quick loading and unloading of workpieces. However, they can be expensive and complex to set up.


Jig Fixtures

Jig fixtures guide the cutting tool during the machining operation, ensuring precision and repeatability. They are ideal for complex, multi-hole operations, but their design is usually customized to a specific workpiece, limiting their versatility.


Clamp Fixtures

Clamp fixtures use a clamping mechanism to hold the workpiece. They are straightforward, economical, and versatile, making them a popular choice for various CNC machining tasks. However, the clamping force can potentially damage delicate workpieces.


Mechanical Fixtures

Mechanical fixtures use physical clamps, screws, or pins to hold the workpiece. They are versatile and straightforward, suitable for a range of materials and tasks. But, the physical clamping force can be harmful to delicate workpieces.


Pneumatic Fixtures

Pneumatic fixtures use air pressure to hold the workpiece, providing rapid loading and unloading. They are ideal for high-volume production and delicate workpieces, but they require an air supply, which may not always be available or cost-effective.

Evaluating CNC Fixture Manufacturers

Choosing the right CNC fixture also involves choosing the right manufacturer. Here’s what to look for:


Reputation and Reviews

The first thing to consider is the manufacturer’s reputation in the industry. Check online reviews and consult with your peers in the industry to get an idea about the manufacturer’s credibility. Look for manufacturers that are known for their high-quality machine fixtures and excellent customer service.


Product Quality

In the world of CNC machining, quality is paramount. Check whether the manufacturer uses high-quality materials and state-of-the-art CNC fixtures design methods to produce their fixtures. Ask for samples or, better yet, a live demonstration to see the fixtures in action.


Customer Service

Good customer service is vital when it comes to CNC fixture manufacturers. Look for manufacturers who offer robust after-sales support, can answer your queries promptly, and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure you’re satisfied with their product.



While price should not be the sole determinant in choosing a manufacturer, it’s a factor worth considering. Compare the prices of different manufacturers and consider the cost in the context of the quality, service, and support you’re receiving.

Optimizing CNC Fixture Selection for Specific Use Cases

For High Precision Work

For precision work, where maintaining a high degree of accuracy is crucial, a CNC workholding fixture with superior stability is essential. Collet fixtures and hydraulic fixtures are well-suited for high precision tasks. 

They offer excellent clamping force and stability, reducing any chance of the workpiece moving during the machining process. 


For High Volume Production

In high volume production, fixture workholding must allow for rapid loading and unloading of workpieces to maximize productivity. Pneumatic fixtures and hydraulic fixtures are great choices here as they can be actuated quickly and easily, shortening cycle times.


For Complex Workpieces

For complex workpieces that need machining from various angles, a tombstone fixture or an indexing fixture is your go-to option. These fixtures for CNC machines enable you to hold the workpiece at various angles, allowing the machine to access different parts without needing to reposition the workpiece manually. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a CNC Fixture


Ignoring Compatibility with Your CNC Machine

Each CNC machine has specific fixturing design requirements. Ignoring these can lead to compatibility issues that can disrupt your production process. Always ensure the fixture you choose is compatible with your CNC machine.


Overlooking the Cost of Fixtures

High-quality fixtures increase the efficiency and accuracy of your machining process, which can lead to long-term cost savings. However, don’t let cost overshadow the importance of other factors such as fixture workholding efficiency and compatibility with your CNC machine.


Neglecting Fixture Maintenance Requirements

Like all parts of a CNC machine, fixtures require regular maintenance to ensure they function optimally. Whether it’s a simple vise fixture or a complex modular fixture, neglecting maintenance can lead to problems down the line. Ensure that your team is knowledgeable about fixture maintenance and that you have the necessary resources for it.


In this guide, we’ve discussed the significance of CNC fixtures, their types, and how to choose the right one for your specific needs. We’ve underscored the importance of considering factors like the material of the workpiece, production volume, and safety while choosing a fixture. We’ve also highlighted common mistakes to avoid when selecting fixtures.

The right CNC fixture can drastically enhance the efficiency and precision of your CNC machining process. Remember, the goal is not just to find a fixture, but to find the right fixture that aligns with your unique requirements and maximizes productivity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the difference between a jig and a fixture?

A jig is used to guide the cutting tool, ensuring precise machining operations, while a fixture holds the workpiece securely during machining. In essence, jigs guide the tool, and fixtures hold the workpiece.


Why do we need jigs and fixtures?

Jigs and fixtures are essential in CNC machining for several reasons:

  1. They ensure accurate and precise machining operations, resulting in high-quality products.
  2. Jigs and fixtures provide stability and repeatability, reducing errors and variations in production.
  3. They enhance productivity by streamlining workpiece positioning and reducing setup time.
  4. Jigs and fixtures contribute to the safety of the machining process by securely holding the workpiece and minimizing risks.