Tooling Manufacturing: Best Tooling Used For Production
Driven by innovation and technological advancements, Sungplastic continually strive to develop cutting-edge tooling manufacturing solutions that can handle complex geometries, improve production efficiency, and meet ever-increasing demands for precision and customization.
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What is Tooling Manufacturing?
Tooling manufacturing refers to the production of specialized tools, devices, and equipment used in various manufacturing processes. These tools, commonly known as “tooling,” play a vital role in shaping, forming, cutting, and assembling raw materials into finished products. Tooling encompasses a wide range of components, including molds, dies, jigs, fixtures, and cutting tools.
Tooling is of paramount importance in manufacturing industries as it enables the efficient and precise production of complex and standardized parts. It provides the means to transform raw materials into desired shapes and dimensions, ensuring consistency, accuracy, and repeatability. Tooling brings together engineering concepts, design principles, and advanced manufacturing techniques to optimize production processes and achieve high-quality output.
Why is Tooling Important?
Precision and efficiency are two key objectives in tooling manufacturing processes, and tooling plays a crucial role in achieving them. Well-made tooling can make manufacturing processes faster and more economical.
Precision: Tooling enables manufacturers to maintain tight tolerances and produce intricate components with consistent accuracy. Precision tooling manufacturing ensures that each part is manufactured according to exact specifications, minimizing variations and ensuring proper fit, functionality, and quality.
Efficiency: Tooling enhances manufacturing efficiency by optimizing the production process. Well-designed tools and equipment facilitate rapid and seamless production, reducing cycle times, minimizing downtime, and maximizing productivity. Efficient tooling enables manufacturers to meet production targets, reduce costs, and improve overall operational performance.
Tooling manufacturing supports a wide range of manufacturing processes across various industries. It encompasses specialized manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers involved in the design, production, and maintenance of tooling equipment.
Tooling manufacturing serves diverse sectors such as automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer goods, medical devices, and more. Each industry has specific tooling manufacturing requirements tailored to their unique manufacturing processes and product designs.
Stages of Tooling in Manufacturing
The stages of tooling in manufacturing can be further expanded to include prototyping tooling, bridge tooling, and production tooling. The stages of tooling manufacturing may not always be strictly sequential. Depending on the product and manufacturing process, it is possible to have overlapping or iterative stages. Additionally, the transition from one stage to another may require adjustments, modifications, or refinements to the tooling design and tooling manufacturing processes.
Let’s explore each stage of tooling manufacturing in detail.
Prototyping tooling is used in the initial stages of product development to create prototypes or sample parts. This stage involves manufacturing tooling that allows for the creation of functional prototypes to test the design, fit, and functionality of the product. Prototyping tooling is typically less expensive and faster to produce than production tooling since it is primarily focused on validating the product’s design and functionality.
Bridge tooling, also known as pre-production tooling or pilot tooling, bridges the gap between prototyping and full-scale production. It involves the creation of tooling that is more robust and closer to the final production tooling but with a lower initial investment. Bridge tooling enables manufacturers to produce a limited quantity of parts to conduct further testing, market validation, or early product launches before committing to full-scale production.
Production tooling represents the final stage of tooling manufacturing. It involves the creation of tooling that is optimized for high-volume production. Production tooling is designed to be durable, efficient, and capable of consistently producing parts within the required specifications. This type of tooling is typically more complex and expensive than prototyping or bridge tooling due to the higher demands of large-scale manufacturing.
Types of Tooling
Injection molding is a manufacturing process in which molten material, typically a thermoplastic or thermosetting polymer, is injected into a mold cavity under high pressure. The material solidifies within the mold, taking its shape and forming the desired product. Injection molding offers high production rates, precision, and the ability to produce complex shapes with consistency.
Plastic Injection molds consist of several components, including the mold base, cavity, core, and various inserts. The mold design must consider factors such as part geometry, draft angles, gate location, cooling channels, ejection system, and venting to ensure proper filling, cooling, and ejection of the molded parts. Material selection for the mold is crucial to withstand the high pressures, temperatures, and wear associated with the injection molding process.
Injection molds find extensive use in industries such as automotive, consumer goods, packaging, medical devices, and electronics. They are employed to manufacture a wide range of products, including plastic parts, enclosures, containers, automotive components, and electronic housings.
Blow molding is a manufacturing process used to produce hollow plastic or glass objects, such as bottles, containers, and automotive components. The blow mold is a critical tool used in this process.
Blow molds are typically made from metals, such as aluminum or steel, due to their durability and heat resistance. Steel molds are commonly used for high-volume production, while aluminum molds are preferred for lower volume runs or prototyping due to their lighter weight and easier machining.
The blow molding process involves melting a thermoplastic material and then shaping it into a hollow form using air pressure. The blow mold plays a crucial role in forming the molten material into the desired shape. The process typically consists of the following steps:
- Material preparation
The thermoplastic material, usually in the form of pellets, is melted and formed into a parison (a hollow tube) using an extrusion process.
- Mold closure
The mold halves are closed, and the parison is placed between them.
- Blow molding
Compressed air is introduced into the parison, expanding it to conform to the mold cavity.
- Cooling and ejection
The molded part is cooled to solidify the material, and the mold opens to eject the finished product.
Design considerations for blow molds:
Blow molds must be designed to accommodate the specific shape and size requirements of the desired product. Key design considerations include:
- Mold cavity and core
The mold cavity defines the exterior shape of the product, while the core creates the hollow interior. Both components must be precisely machined to achieve the desired dimensions and surface finish.
- Parting line and parting surfaces
The parting line is the area where the mold splits into two halves for part ejection. Parting surfaces ensure proper alignment and sealing between the mold halves.
- Cooling system
Efficient cooling channels are incorporated into the mold design to control the cooling rate and ensure consistent part quality.
Proper venting is necessary to allow the escape of air and gases during the molding process, preventing defects like blowouts or trapped air pockets.
- Ejection mechanism
The mold design includes mechanisms, such as ejector pins or air blasts, to facilitate the ejection of the finished part.
Rotational Molds (Roto Molds)
Rotational molding, also known as rotomolding or rotocasting, is a manufacturing process used to produce hollow plastic parts with complex shapes and seamless construction. The rotational mold, or rotomold, is a key tool used in this process.
The choice of material for rotational molds depends on factors such as the desired part quality, complexity, durability, and production volume. Common materials for rotational molds include aluminum, steel, and composite materials. Aluminum molds are lightweight, have excellent thermal conductivity, and are suitable for small to medium-sized production runs. Steel molds offer increased durability and are preferred for larger production volumes or whenhigher mold longevity is required. Composite materials, such as epoxy or fiberglass, can be used for economical tooling manufacturing solutions or for creating complex shapes.
The rotational molding process involves heating and rotating a hollow mold while introducing powdered plastic resin into the mold cavity. The plastic resin melts, coats the internal surface of the mold, and forms the desired shape as the mold continues to rotate. The process typically consists of the following steps:
- Mold preparation
The mold is loaded with the powdered plastic resin, and any necessary inserts or reinforcements are added.
- Heating and rotation
The mold is heated and simultaneously rotated along two axes to evenly distribute the melted resin and create a uniform wall thickness.
- Cooling and demolding
After the desired part thickness is achieved, the mold is cooled to solidify the plastic. The mold is then opened, and the finished part is removed.
Design considerations for rotational molds:
Rotational molds need to account for the unique characteristics of the rotational molding process. Key design considerations include:
- Mold geometry
The mold shape must allow for uniform distribution of the melted plastic resin during rotation. It needs to consider factors such as draft angles, undercuts, and wall thickness variations.
- Mold construction
Rotational molds are typically fabricated from aluminum or steel. The mold needs to be strong enough to withstand the rotational forces and provide dimensional stability during the heating and cooling cycles.
- Mold surface finish
The internal surface of the mold needs to be smooth to ensure the proper release of the finished part. Polishing or applying surface treatments, such as coatings or textures, can help achieve the desired surface finish.
- Mold venting
Venting is essential in rotational molds to allow the escape of air and gases during the molding process, preventing defects like bubbles or voids.
- Inserts and reinforcements
Rotational molds often incorporate inserts or reinforcements to add strength, threaded inserts for fastening, or other functional elements within the molded part.
Press Tools and Dies
Press tools and dies are used in various metal forming processes, such as blanking, bending, punching, and forming. Press tooling involves the use of mechanical or hydraulic presses to shape and transform sheet metal or other materials into desired components. Dies are specialized tools that contain cutting or forming elements and are mounted within the press.
Press tools include different types based on the manufacturing process they facilitate.
Blanking tools are used to cut out flat-shaped components from sheet metal.
Bending tools enable the precise bending of sheet metal into desired angles or shapes.
Forming tools are utilized for complex forming operations, such as deep drawing or coining.
Press tooling requires high precision to ensure accurate shaping and forming of parts. The tools must be designed and manufactured to withstand the forces and pressures exerted during the metal forming process. Durability is crucial to withstand the repetitive nature of press operations and maintain consistent performance over extended production runs.
Jigs and Fixtures
Jigs and fixtures are devices used to hold, support, and guide workpieces during manufacturing processes. Jigs are used to control the location or movement of a tool, while fixtures secure the workpiece in a fixed position during machining, assembly, or inspection.
Jigs and fixtures play a critical role in ensuring accuracy and repeatability in manufacturing operations. They provide precise positioning and alignment of workpieces, enabling consistent and efficient production. By securely holding workpieces, they reduce errors, increase productivity, and facilitate streamlined workflows.
Jigs and fixtures are designed according to the specific requirements of the manufacturing process and the workpiece being produced. Factors such as workpiece geometry, access to machining or assembly features, clamping mechanisms, and ease of use are considered during the design phase. Customization allows for adaptability and flexibility to accommodate different part sizes, shapes, and manufacturing operations.
Cutting tools are utilized in machining processes to remove material from a workpiece and shape it into the desired form. Cutting tool manufacturing involves the production of tools such as drills, end mills, lathe tools, milling cutters, and inserts. These tools are typically made from high-speed steel (HSS), carbide, or ceramic materials.
Cutting tools encompass a wide range of types, each suited for specific machining operations. Drills are used for creating holes, while end mills are employed for milling and contouring operations. Lathe tools are utilized in turning processes, where the workpiece rotates against a stationary cutting tool. Each tool type has various geometries and cutting edge designs optimized for specific applications.
Cutting tool performance is enhanced through the selection of appropriate materials, coatings, and geometries. High-speed steel (HSS) tools offer good versatility and toughness. Carbide tools are known for their hardness and wear resistance. Coatings such as titanium nitride (TiN) and titanium carbonitride (TiCN) improve tool life and reduce friction. Geometries such as rake angle, clearance angle, and cutting edge design are optimized for specific machining processes to enhance chip evacuation, cutting forces, and surface finish.
Soft Tooling and Hard Tooling
- Soft Tooling:
Soft tooling, also known as prototype tooling or rapid tooling, refers to the use of less durable and less expensive materials in the manufacturing of tooling. Soft tooling is typically used in the early stages of product development, such as prototyping or low-volume production runs. It is designed to be more flexible and cost-effective, allowing for faster iterations and modifications to the tooling design.
Soft tooling materials can include various options such as silicone, epoxy, or aluminum-filled composites. While soft tooling may have a shorter lifespan compared to hard tooling, it offers advantages such as quicker turnaround times, lower costs, and the ability to make design changes more easily. Soft tooling is suitable for situations where the production volume is relatively low, and the tooling manufacturing requirements may evolve during the development process.
- Hard Tooling:
Hard tooling, on the other hand, refers to the use of more durable and rigid materials for tooling manufacturing, typically made from metals like steel or hardened alloys. Hard tooling is designed for high-volume production and is capable of withstanding the demands of repeated use over an extended period. It is built to be robust, precise, and capable of maintaining tight tolerances throughout the production process.
Hard tooling is generally more expensive to produce and takes longer to fabricate compared to soft tooling. However, it offers benefits such as high durability, improved efficiency, and the ability to consistently produce large quantities of parts with high accuracy and repeatability. Hard tooling is suitable for long-term production scenarios where the tooling needs to withstand the rigors of high-volume manufacturing.
Tooling Manufacturing Process
There are some steps of tooling manufacturing process as followed.
Design and Engineering
Tool design and engineering are critical stages in the tooling manufacturing process. Well-designed tools ensure optimal functionality, efficiency, and longevity. The design phase involves considering factors such as part geometry, manufacturing processes, material selection, and tooling manufacturing specifications to meet customer requirements and industry standards.
CAD/CAM software and simulations in tooling design:
Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software play a vital role in tooling design. CAD software enables precise 3D modeling of tool components, allowing for virtual visualization and evaluation. CAM software aids in generating tool path instructions for CNC machining. Simulations can be performed to analyze the tool’s behavior under different operating conditions, ensuring its effectiveness before physical production.
During the design phase, considerations are made to ensure manufacturability, functionality, and cost-effectiveness of the tool. Designers need to optimize the tool’s geometry and features for efficient tooling manufacturing processes. They also focus on functionality, ensuring that the tool meets the intended purpose and can withstand the demands of the manufacturing environment. Cost-effectiveness is achieved by balancing performance requirements with material and manufacturing costs.
Material Selection and Preparation
Tooling materials vary depending on the application and requirements. Common materials include various grades of steel, aluminum alloys, carbides, and tool steels. Each material has unique properties that determine its suitability for specific tooling applications.
Material properties such as hardness, strength, toughness, wear resistance, and thermal conductivity significantly impact tool performance. For example, high-speed steel (HSS) offers good toughness and wear resistance, while carbides provide excellent hardness and heat resistance. Material selection is crucial to ensure the tool’s ability to withstand the forces, temperatures, and wear associated with the tooling manufacturing process.
Material preparation techniques are employed to enhance the properties and performance of tooling materials. Heat treatment processes like quenching and tempering are used to optimize hardness and toughness. Surface coatings such as nitriding, plating, or physical vapor deposition (PVD) can improve wear resistance, reduce friction, and prevent corrosion.
Machining and Fabrication
Machining processes involve shaping and forming tooling components through various techniques such as milling, turning, grinding, drilling, and EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining). CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is widely used in tooling manufacturing, offering high precision, repeatability, and the ability to produce complex geometries.
CNC machining plays a significant role in tooling manufacturing, enabling the accurate and efficient production of tool components. CNC machines follow tool path instructions generated from CAD/CAM software, resulting in consistent and precise machining operations. Automation, including robotic systems and advanced tool changers, enhances productivity and reduces human error during machining processes.
Quality control measures during machining and fabrication:
Quality control is crucial throughout the machining and fabrication processes to ensure the dimensional accuracy and integrity of tooling components. Metrology tools such as CMMs (Coordinate Measuring Machines) are used to verify dimensional accuracy. Inspection techniques, including visual inspection, surface analysis, and non-destructive testing, are employed to identify any defects or deviations from specifications.
Assembly and Testing
Assembly techniques for tooling components:
Tooling components are assembled using various techniques such as bolting, welding, adhesive bonding, or interlocking mechanisms. Assembly precision is crucial to ensure proper alignment, fit, and functionality of the tool. Specialized tools and fixtures may be used during assembly to maintain accuracy and consistency.
Quality assurance and testing in tooling manufacturing:
Quality assurance and testing are essential steps in tooling manufacturing to ensure the performance and reliability of the finished tool. Quality checks may include dimensional inspections, functional testing, and validation against design specifications. These processes help identify any issues or improvements needed before the tool is put into production.
Performance evaluation and adjustments before final delivery:
Before final delivery, the assembled tool undergoes performance evaluation and adjustments if necessary. The tool is tested under simulated operating conditions to verify its functionality, precision, and durability. Any required adjustments or fine-tuning are made to optimize the tool’s performance before it is delivered to the customer.
Production and Maintenance
With the tooling in place, the manufacturing process begins. The tooling equipment is used to produce the desired parts or products according to the specified production requirements. During the production phase, regular maintenance and inspection of the tooling are performed to ensure its optimal performance and longevity. This includes cleaning, lubrication, replacement of worn-out components, and periodic adjustments or repairs as needed.
Tooling Replacement or Upgrades
Over time, tooling manufacturing may require replacement or upgrades due to factors such as wear and tear, changing product designs, or advancements in tooling manufacturing technology. When the tooling becomes obsolete or inefficient, it may need to be replaced with new tooling or undergo upgrades and modifications to meet the evolving manufacturing needs.
What Should Tooling Manufacturing Usually Cost?
The cost of tooling manufacturing varies from project to project due to numerous factors. However, there is a common misconception that tooling manufacturing is always expensive and sometimes unaffordable. In reality, advancements in modern engineering techniques have made tooling manufacturing costs for CNC machining and precision cold forming comparatively lower in many instances.
What Factors Impact on the Cost of Tooling?
The cost of tooling manufacturing can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the part or product, the type of tooling required, the manufacturing process, the material used, the level of customization, and the production volume. It is a general overview of the cost considerations involved in manufacturing tooling:
- Design and Engineering Costs
The design and engineering phase of tooling involves conceptualizing the product, creating detailed designs, and determining the tooling manufacturing requirements. The cost for design and engineering services can vary depending on the complexity of the project, the expertise required, and the number of design iterations needed to finalize the tooling design.
- Tooling Fabrication Costs
The fabrication costs for tooling primarily depend on the size, complexity, and material of the tooling components. Tooling manufacturing involves machining, milling, turning, grinding, or additive manufacturing processes. The cost includes the labor, machining or manufacturing time, material costs, and any additional surface treatments or finishing required.
- Material Costs
The choice of material for tooling can significantly impact the overall cost. Common materials for tooling manufacturing include metals like aluminum or steel, which offer durability and heat resistance. The cost of these materials can vary based on their availability, quality, and market fluctuations. In some cases, specialized materials or coatings may be required, which can drive up the cost.
- Tooling Complexity and Customization
The complexity and customization requirements of the tooling manufacturing can affect the cost. Intricate part designs, tight tolerances, undercuts, or complex features may require more advanced tooling manufacturing techniques and increased machining or fabrication time, resulting in higher costs. Customized tooling designed for specific product requirements may also incur additional expenses.
- Production Volume
The production volume plays a significant role in determining the cost of tooling. Tooling costs are generally amortized over the production volume, meaning that the cost per part decreases as the production volume increases. Tooling costs for low-volume production or prototyping may be relatively higher compared to high-volume production where the cost per part is significantly lower.
- Tooling Maintenance and Replacement Costs
Tooling requires regular maintenance, repairs, and occasional replacements over its lifespan. The cost of maintenance and replacement will depend on factors such as the complexity of the tooling, the frequency of use, the wear and tear it experiences, and the availability of spare parts.
The cost of tooling manufacturing is a significant investment in the manufacturing process, and it is essential to balance the cost with the desired quality, functionality, and production requirements. Working closely with tooling experts, manufacturers, or tooling suppliers can provide a more accurate estimate of tooling costs based on specific project requirements.
Challenges and Innovations in Tooling Manufacturing
Addressing Complexity and Precision Requirements
Tooling manufacturing faces the challenge of designing and fabricating tools for increasingly complex part geometries and manufacturing processes. Advanced products often require intricate tool designs with tight tolerances, complex features, and multiple functions.
Precision is crucial in tooling manufacturing to ensure accurate and consistent production. Meeting tight tolerances and dimensional specifications requires advanced machining techniques, high-quality materials, and meticulous quality control measures.
Innovations and solutions:
To address these challenges, tooling manufacturers are adopting advanced CAD/CAM software and simulation tools to optimize tool designs and validate performance before production. High-precision machining technologies, such as multi-axis CNC milling and EDM, enable the fabrication of complex tool geometries. Metrology equipment, such as optical and laser-based measurement systems, aid in verifying dimensional accuracy and ensuring precision.
Advancements in Materials and Coatings for Enhanced Tool Performance
Increasing performance demands:
Tooling materials need to withstand high pressures, temperatures, wear, and corrosion, while maintaining dimensional stability and longevity. As manufacturing processes become more demanding, there is a need for materials with improved properties.
Tooling manufacturers are exploring new materials and alloys to enhance tool performance. For example, the use of advanced high-speed steels (HSS) and powder metallurgy techniques allows for improved hardness, toughness, and wear resistance. Carbide and ceramic materials offer enhanced heat resistance and cutting performance.
Surface coatings play a crucial role in tooling performance by improving wear resistance, reducing friction, and preventing tool damage. Advancements in coating technologies, such as physical vapor deposition (PVD), chemical vapor deposition (CVD), and nano-coatings, offer superior hardness, adhesion, and thermal stability.
Integration of Automation and Digital Technologies in Tooling Manufacturing
Automation for efficiency and productivity:
Tooling manufacturers are increasingly implementing automation solutions to streamline processes, reduce labor costs, and improve productivity. Robotic systems, automated material handling, and CNC machining centers with integrated tool changers enable efficient production and reduce human error.
Digitalization and connectivity:
Digital technologies, such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing, and data analytics, are transforming tooling manufacturing. Connected machines and sensors provide real-time monitoring of tool performance, enabling predictive maintenance and optimizing production schedules. Digital twins and virtual simulations aid in design validation, process optimization, and performance prediction.
Additive manufacturing (3D printing):
Additive manufacturing is gaining traction in tooling manufacturing for rapid prototyping, complex geometries, and low-volume production. 3D printing allows for the creation of intricate tooling components with reduced lead times and material waste. However, challenges remain in achieving the required material properties, dimensional accuracy, and surface finish for high-volume production.
Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Practices in Manufacturing Tooling
Tooling manufacturing processes often involve the use of energy-intensive machinery, generation of waste, and the consumption of resources. There is a growing need for sustainable practices to minimize the environmental impact of tooling manufacturing.
Material recycling and waste reduction:
Tooling manufacturers are implementing recycling programs to reduce material waste and optimize material usage. Scrap materials are recycled or reprocessed, minimizing the consumption of raw materials. Additionally, optimizing tool designs and nesting techniques can reduce material waste during fabrication.
Manufacturers are exploring energy-efficient technologies and equipment, such as high-efficiency motors, LED lighting, and optimized cooling systems, to reduce energy consumption in tooling manufacturing facilities. Implementing energy management systems and renewable energy sources further contribute to sustainability goals.
Considering the lifecycle impact of tooling, including disposal and end-of-life management, is crucial. Manufacturers are exploring the use of environmentally friendly materials and coatings that can be recycled or disposed of safely. Designing tools for longevity and repairability also helps reduce waste.
By addressing the challenges in tooling manufacturing and embracing innovative solutions, manufacturers can enhance tool performance, improve efficiency, and contribute to sustainable and environmentally conscious practices. These advancements enable tooling manufacturers to meet the evolving demands of industries and support the advancement of toolingmanufacturing technologies.
Sungplastic is a plastic product manufacturer with rich experience in injection molding. According to the different product development requirements, we flexibly adjust the manufacturing process to achieve high quality, high efficiency and more economical.
We offer a variety of manufacturing services: Rapid Prototyping, Tool Making, Injection Molding, Product Design and Development, CNC Machining and Metal Stamping. You can choose from a variety of plastics, silicone rubber, or metal for your product. Regardless of mass production or small batch customization, Sungplastic has always been committed to providing assured, efficient and more economical one-stop processing services for your projects.
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