The emergence of rapid tooling services was a boost to manufacturing processes in many ways. Unlike the traditional manufacturing method, it boasts of speed, less cost, lower lead times, etc. As a result, rapid tooling services are now applicable in major industries favoring the method in rapid production parts.
Rapid tooling service come in many forms, categorized into two main groups: direct and indirect. This article will answer the question “what is rapid tooling?” and expatiate on its types and advantages. It will also include why you should incorporate it into your manufacturing process or use it in making any product. It is no lie that rapid tooling services are gaining momentum in manufacturing. Therefore, you should learn about it. Read on!!!
How Rapid Tooling Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing
What is Rapid Tooling?
Rapid tooling (RT), also known as prototype tooling, involves using rapid prototyping processes, such as 3D Printing, to speed up manufacturing processes. This is very important for prototyping or limited volume production. The Rapid Tooling approach consists of transforming CAD models into physical tools or molds using rapid production methods. Therefore, this drastically reduces development cycles for products.
The 3D printed or machined molds might not be well suited for large volume production. However, they allow manufacturers to test and evaluate a tool’s design and quality before ramping up into full-scale production.
Types of Rapid Tooling Services in Manufacturing
Answering the question “what is prototype tooling” comes with understanding the two categories of rapid tooling services used in the rapid production of parts. There are two categories: direct and indirect. Below is an explanation of both categories.
Direct Rapid Tooling
In direct rapid production tooling, manufacturers use rapid prototyping processes to manufacture the actual core and cavity mold inserts. This approach is particularly useful for creating geometrically complex tools. It consists of three important steps highlighted below.
Indirect Rapid Tooling
Indirect rapid production tooling involves using rapid prototyping processes to create a master pattern. Due to the durability of the master pattern, the manufacturer can then use it to produce a tool using soft tooling or a sacrificial model. Soft tooling is primarily for plastic production, while sacrificial models are for metal investment casting.
How 3D Printing and CNC Machining Is Enabling Rapid Tooling
One of the key processes important in rendering rapid tooling services is 3D printing (additive manufacturing). There are many 3D printing methods, such as fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and binder jetting. They are all applicable in rapid production parts and patterns for soft tooling or direct tools and molds.
In various industries, 3D printing is increasingly being used to produce jigs, fixtures, and tools to speed up the production process and reduce costs significantly. The technology, which builds parts layer by layer using a range of polymer or metal materials, can cost-effectively produce one-off pieces on demand. Additive manufacturing also creates unique opportunities for complex geometries, which are impossible to achieve using traditional manufacturing processes.
By leveraging 3D printing for Rapid Tooling applications, manufacturers can benefit from functional mold prototypes. 3D printed tools can also be used to fulfill small series production runs or customized, one-off parts. For instance, in the jewelry industry, 3D printed wax models can be cast with precious metals to create intricate and finely detailed pieces. In addition, 3D printed tools are increasingly being used in the automotive sector to streamline production and cut costs for prototyping.