Rapid tooling plays an important role in several industries, especially in the production of light-usage or the short-run manufacturing of large parts for the automotive, space and aircraft, and shipbuilding industries.
What is rapid tooling?
Rapid Tooling is when Rapid Prototyping techniques and conventional tooling practices are used together to produce a mold quickly. This process is also used to prepare parts of a model from CAD data in less time and at a lower cost compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Rapid Tooling is used as a channel to produce injection molded parts.
Injection moulding is used for rapid prototyping and for low-high volume manufacturing. It is used for producing parts in the thousands. Well known examples of injection moulding are lego bricks, bottle caps, and medical syringes.
Hands up if you want to get your product to market faster than your competition?
If your hand is up, you’ve come to the right place. Using rapid prototyping to manufacture parts to test for component fit will help you do just that.
The good news is that today, many rapid prototyping processes are available to product design teams.
Rapid tooling is known by many names including prototype tooling, prototype mold and soft tooling. Essentially, it’s pared-back injection mold tooling that enables you to quickly and cheaply get parts.
Conceptually, it’s any type of injection mold tooling, manufactured quickly and inexpensively to enable testing and validation of parts before you invest in production tooling.
How does it work?
The injection moulding process has three major components; an injection moulding machine, raw plastic, and the machined mould. The raw plastic is melted in the injection moulding machine and then injected into the mould where it cools and solidifies into the final part. Once the part has cooled, it is removed and finished.
Rapid tooling makes use of actual production grade material. This, in turn, enables you a much clearer picture of how the parts will act in real-world applications. Along with this, it allows you to test and confirm that you’ve made the correct material choices.
We’ve compiled other advantages of rapid tooling techniques below.
Opportunities for Innovation
The exciting news is that rapid prototyping opens up a range of new opportunities for innovation. It does this by eliminating the restrictions of conventional prototyping. Traditional prototyping requires production of prototype tooling and physical components to exacting tolerances.
With rapid prototyping, designers can create models incorporating complex surfaces and shapes that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to reproduce by conventional prototyping.
Rapid prototyping eliminates the time needed to produce patterns, molds, and special tools required for conventional modeling. Due to this, rapid prototyping dramatically reduces the time between initial design and analysis.
The result is that an accurate model is quickly available for testing features, form, performance, and usability. Designers are enabled to quickly modify products in line with feedback because rapid prototyping is a highly automated process.
These time savings assist companies and ensure they gain a competitive advantage by bringing new products to market quickly. Competitors won’t be able to keep up the speed and efficiency offered by rapid prototyping.
Another advantage of rapid tooling systems is the money saving factor.
In rapid tooling, parts are also injection molded as they would be in production. What this means is you can also use them for stress and impact testing.
For example, you’re able to explore any weak areas due to weld lines or other imperfections from the injection molding process. These include warping and shrinking. Armed with this knowledge, you’re better able to determine if any changes are required before expensive production tooling occurs.