In the manufacturing process, tooling is one of the imperative steps to be considered for the production of high-quality products or components of machines. Tooling means developing different tools or components of the machinery that is to be used in the production of high-quality parts.
There are different things to be considered before the selection of the tooling like the purpose of tooling, cost, and time required to complete the manufacturing of the parts. Knowing all these factors, one may contact the tooling partner to choose the tooling method and then start the machining process.
The different tooling methods are Rapid Prototyping Tooling, Rapid Bridge Tooling, and Rapid Production Tooling. Each of the tooling methods has its pros and cons depending upon the requirement of the products. A good selection of tooling methods for the machining process can save the cost as well as the time required for the manufacturing of the parts.
Rapid Prototype Tooling
Traditionally, Rapid Prototyping is a fast fabrication process in which different manufacturing technologies are used to produce a scale model of different parts with the help of Computer-Aided Design (CAD). An additive type of manufacturing is used to create the part of any machine or assemble the different parts. Rapid Prototyping also includes casting, molding, extruding, and high-speed machining to produce the prototypes. Rapid Prototyping is used to rapidly create the parts for automotive, biomedical, and aerospace industries. Prototype tooling also helps to customize the mold. Rapid Prototype Tooling is used to create the parts that are used as a tool in other manufacturing processes.
In rapid prototype manufacturing, these tools are manufactured by rapid prototyping methods such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), 3D printing, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Electron Beam Melting (EBM), Keltool, ACES, Sprayed Metal Tooling, and Stereolithography (SL). Different factors affect the price of the prototype like material, process, design, quantity, and type of finish. By knowing the exact requirement and conditions of the part, the manufacturer can use best rapid prototyping tools. The cost of rapid prototyping can be saved by keeping in mind the following steps:
- With the use of the right machinery and materials, one can save money during the rapid prototyping process. The selection of the right material and machinery is made on the specific requirements of the customer for the final product.
- The proper scheduling of the fabrication process is one of the imperative ways to reduce rapid prototyping costs. For instance, making small parts during the day when staff is available and fabricating larger parts at night can also save time as well as the cost of the fabrication.
- By automating the post-processing, the cost of the parts can also be saved.
- The larger parts take more time and cost to be fabricated. In order to reduce cost, the larger parts can be fabricated in multiple smaller parts. these smaller parts can be assembled to complete the fabrication process.
- Making hollow parts with rapid prototype tooling also reduces the cost of the product with lesser material.
Prototype tools are made from soft materials like aluminum which results in fast fabrication of the small-scaled model of any complex actual product. So, in the case of manufacturing parts of soft materials, these kinds of tools are economical and per part, the cost will also be reduced.
Rapid Bridge Tooling
Rapid Bridge Tooling, also known as development tooling, is the intermediate stage between prototyping and production. In the development process, bridge tooling defines the stage where the molds are required but the production tooling is not available. The name tells that it acts as a bridge between prototyping and production. There are several issues where Rapid Bridge Tooling is preferred to save time and cost such as:
- The Rapid Bridge Tooling is preferred when the required number of parts is less which saves a lot of money. Before going into the final production of any part, rapid bridge tooling is preferred to make the tools for parts production which are first evaluated and then start the manufacturing of parts in larger numbers. The more the number of required parts; the more prototyping will be uneconomic.
- When the initial design of the required part is not stable for the start of production, then the Rapid Bridge Tooling helps to make initial tools and evaluated for the fulfillment of the requirements. It will avoid the failure of the tool or part in the production phase and results in the reduction of this cost.
Rapid Production Tooling
In order to produce a higher number of parts in the most economical way, Rapid Production Tooling is preferred. The tools made by rapid production tooling are more reliable and work for a longer time as compared to others. In production tooling, multiple-cavity molds are preferred to produce the parts in larger numbers which also reduces the lead time and overall cost of the product. The production tools are made of hard materials like H13, P20, or other steel which is suitable for long tool life and repeated use.
Difference Between Rapid Tooling and Rapid Prototyping
One may think that rapid prototyping and tooling are exactly the same concepts but it’s not the case. Rapid Tooling means producing the tools (or molds) to expedite the manufacturing processes. Through Rapid Tooling, the parts are made in less time and then these tools are used in another machining process for larger production of the parts. While rapid prototyping is a set of different processes used to make a small-scale model of a product with the help of computed aided designing for the final functioning. Rapid tooling uses additive manufacturing processes to fabricate the tools that are used to make the final product.
There are numerous methods of tooling in manufacturing processes like conventional and rapid tooling. The cost and quality of the product is the main concern of the customer as well as the manufacturer. Rapid tooling is far more economical as compared to conventional tooling because it is controlled by a computer and requires less human work. It reduces the time as well as the cost of production.
The rapid prototype tooling is preferred in case of lower production volumes in which tools made by this method are used in fabricating a prototype of any complex model. For higher production volumes, the rapid production tooling is preferred which produces a higher number of parts with less lead time and lower cost. The rapid bridge tooling fills the gap between the prototype and production tooling. In most cases, testing is performed to check the functionality of the final product. In these cases, bridge tooling is preferred to make the tools for the fabrication of parts in less time. These parts are then evaluated before going into the final production process.