What is Rapid Tooling? Overview, Advantages & Limitations

Marketization and leveling up product value are made more efficient by advanced practices in mass production.

If you are looking for ways to up-end product leverage, rapid tooling is one of the best ways to do such. Essentially, rapid tooling involves prototyping and product testing. Through this, functionality and aesthetics are ensured.

In this post, an objective view of rapid tooling is laid down. A definition of the process is laid down plus the advantages it provides to mass production along with its limitations. If you are all for rapid tooling, read on.

Rapid Tooling as a Modern Mold Technology

Rapid Tooling as a Modern Mold Technology

Before anything else, it is essential for us to define what rapid tooling is as a process. Basically, rapid tooling is considered as an advanced molding technology. Since it is an automated process, it offers a convenient and very fast way to develop products and to validate their functionality.

Compared to other molding technologies such as 3D printing, rapid tooling incorporates injection molding at a low-volume application.

As such, rapid tooling is considered as more cost-efficient and at a faster rate. Practically, rapid tooling as a technology offers greater testing and validation since it provides more accurate visual and tactile presentation of the trial product.

Note that rapid tooling can be used in both prototyping and in the actual manufacture of products. As a manufacturing process, it is also beneficial in mass production because it lessens cycle time, durability in products, greater accuracy, faster production, and lower production costs.

Rapid Tooling vs Rapid Prototyping: A Brief Overview

Rapid Tooling vs Rapid Prototyping- A Brief Overview

While rapid tooling and rapid prototyping are often used interchangeably, these two methods are distinct, according to Lead RP. In this section, an overview of the differences between rapid tooling and rapid prototyping is presented for your reference.

As methods, rapid tooling allows manufacturers to create functional parts at a very short time. It is often used as a method in inject molding process.

On the other hand, rapid prototyping is considered as a modern technology which assists manufacturers in creating specific parts to be used as prototype for thorough testing and validation.

As to purpose, rapid tooling is essentially done to aid mass production. This is through faster cycle time and higher turnaround rate. Rapid prototyping in contrast is done for faster testing and validating by prototyping a first version of the trial product.

As to the objects produced, rapid tooling creates molds or tools which will be assembled to create final products. As for rapid prototyping, several or specific working prototypes are created for testing.

As to cost and lead time, in rapid tooling, lead time is shorter but cost is more expensive since it involves more complex processes in between. In contrast, rapid prototyping has shorter lead time and cheaper cost compared to rapid tooling.

In summary, rapid tooling and rapid prototyping are two distinct methods used for different purposes. In essence, rapid tooling creates the finished products while rapid prototyping is used for testing the working parts of a potential finished product.

How Rapid Tooling Works and Approaches Used

As have been noted, rapid tooling can be used in both product design and development and in actual manufacture. Some of its most remarkable advantages are accuracy and cost-efficiency. As a method, rapid tooling works in two ways and these are the following:

Direct Approach:

As the term implies, direct approach works by directly producing the mold’s core and the inserts at once, through rapid tooling.

It is the best approach to use when you are working with molds with complex geometries. The main reason why it is a good choice is it has a faster cooling down rate.

ProsCons
Involves an easy process.More vulnerable to errors in production.
Cost efficient; does not use consumables and resources.Prototypes produced are not that durable.
Offers fast production and cooling time. 

Indirect Approach:

In contrast with the direct approach, the indirect approach adds another method before the actual rapid tooling. Before rapid tooling, mold patterns are printed through additive manufacturing. From there, the mold is created.

The most common tools used for the indirect approach are mainly soft tools or those made of silicone. The same soft tools are used in metal casting through the indirect approach.

ProsCons
Produces durable products.Not made for simple, uniform designs.
Produces both soft and metal products.Requires greater production time.
Perfect for product validation and testing. 

Rapid Tooling Benefits in Manufacturing

Rapid Tooling Benefits in Manufacturing

According to Pacific Research, the advantages of rapid tooling in manufacturing are vast and manifest. As such, its application in various industries is phenomenal. The following are some of the most significant benefits of rapid tooling in manufacturing.

Cost-Efficient Product Development:

Compared to the use of conventional molding process, rapid tooling offers a faster, more convenient process. This is so because rapid tooling does not require consumables.

Other than this, rapid tooling is automated, hence, less manual labor costs. It is also very flexible to use for a variety of materials as it is not only limited to plastics but also for steel, aluminum, and other metals.

Tesla Mechanical Designs report that the whole product development is has become six times faster compared to conventional processes.

More Efficient Marketization:

More Efficient Marketization

Since rapid tooling involves lesser cycle time, hence, faster production or prototyping, the turnaround from production to marketization is also faster.

As a method in prototyping, it lessens the testing and validation time. With lessened time in testing and validation, the production time is also dramatically lessened.

Pro Customization:

Pro Customization

If you are targeting custom mold production, rapid tooling is a perfect method to consider.

Since rapid tooling can accommodate various mold designs, including the most complex ones, as well as materials, you can easily use the benefit of automation to generate molds of different sizes, dimensions, and shapes.

Hence, if you are making trademark molds, or level up uniform consumer parts through minimal customization, rapid tooling is a production process to consider.

Better Visual and Tactile Testing:

Through rapid tooling, you can have a more thorough validating and testing of the product design and functionality of the products.

Since it offers lesser lead time in producing prototypes of trial designs, you are given more liberty to introduce modifications and tweaks to upgrade the functionality and aesthetics of the product.

Profit Gains:

Profit Gains

In summary of the advantages previously mentioned, one of the best benefits of rapid tooling is increased profits and return of investments.

Note that everything is made fast by rapid tooling. Because of this, the fast cycle time between product design and marketization leads to greater profit gains due to lesser production cost and higher lead time.

There might be other advantages that of rapid tooling that were not mentioned in the list.

Nevertheless, in so far as upfront benefits are concerned, and its immediate effect to you as producer should you endeavor for rapid tooling, the aforementioned are the benefits which you can get from rapid tooling.

Factors to Consider Before Engaging Into Rapid Tooling

Factors to Consider Before Engaging Into Rapid Tooling

You must understand that making product molds or final products through rapid tooling is not a perfect method. As such, you must be familiar with some considerations before engaging into rapid tooling for your products.

Mold Strength:

Mold Strength

Remember that mold prototyping goes through a lot of heat, and pressure. When the mold is not that strong or durable, it will break through the process. If it breaks, the production is derailed. Specifically, methods such as injection molding cannot happen.

Mold Surface:

Mold Surface

To make sure that there are no impurities in the molded product, the surface must be clean and smooth. A smooth mold surface also ensures that the loading and ejecting of the product from the mold is fast and clean as well.

For processes which require multiple layers to be molded, mold smoothness might be a challenge. Hence, an added process which is surface finishing is required so that the molded part comes out clean.

Complexity of Designs:

Note that you can only incorporate so much with rapid tooling. Depending on the materials to be combined and the complexity of designs, rapid tooling can become a challenge in many ways. For instance, Engineering Product Design, notes that more complex, multi-material designs are more prone to compromise and have more upfront costs.

Budget:

Budget

This might not be emphasized usually when it comes to rapid tooling, but the costs involved in the process is a vital factor to consider. Note that budget does not only involve the materials to be used but also the labor and maintenance costs.

If you are working with small units or simple designed molds and products, might as well forego rapid tooling and use CAD applications instead or go for more cost-efficient production.

As Tesla Mechanics would suggest, going for rapid tooling means that you shall spend 10-15% more in production due to labor and machines cost.

In summary, you must be familiar with the most important factors to consider in rapid tooling before engaging in it.

As perfect as it may seem as a method, it might not be applicable to all categories of manufacturers. More so, it might not be suitable to all types of production.

Limitations of Rapid Tooling in Injection Molding

As have been said, rapid tooling is not a perfect method. According to Rapid Direct, there are certain limitations to rapid tooling that every mass producer should bear in mind. The following are the challenges in rapid tooling when used in injection molding.

Issues on Durability:

The robustness or durability of the products and prototypes from rapid tooling have always been questioned.

As a matter of fact, shorter mold life cycle is often attributed to rapid tooling. According to Plastics Technology, the faster cycle time in rapid tooling and the incompatibility of materials often produce more impurities. As such, lesser durability in products may be expected.

Time Consuming:

Time Consuming

This is specifically true for rapid tooling under the indirect approach. Note that the master mold rendered via additive manufacturing takes time. This alone delays the production process.

If you think that you will modify the product design many times during the prototyping step, rapid tooling through the indirect approach might not be the best for you.

Error Prone:

Errors in dimensions, shapes, and sizes, are common in rapid tooling. This is especially true for molded parts which need different materials (such as in the case of plastic and metal combinations).

Using various stencils for such type of molded products could create variations in shapes, sizes, and dimensions.

Higher Injection and Labor Costs:

Higher Injection and Labor Costs

Note that rapid tooling involves a lot of repetitive steps. As such, the elevating the design and having greater complexity in the geometries require extra injection moldings. Consequently, more methods are required, thereby also increasing labor costs. 

These are only some of the most upfront limitations and challenges associated with rapid tooling. Knowing these beforehand can improve your approach to rapid tooling should you choose to incorporate it in your production system.

Choosing Your Rapid Tooling Services From Kemal

Choosing Your Rapid Tooling Services From Kemal

With all the benefits that rapid tooling could offer in mass production, it is no wonder that you might want to consider engaging into the process.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of rapid tooling services offered by reputable companies such as Kemal Manufacturing.

Whatever you need, from simple to complex designs, custom made parts or uniform parts for consumer industries, Kemal provides hands-on services especially for your needs. You may check Kemal’s main site for all things rapid tooling.

Conclusion

If you are looking for ways to improve or upend your products, rapid tooling is one of the best ways to do just that. Rapid tooling creates highly functional and aesthetic products at a faster lead time, lesser cycle time, and at a uniform fashion, no matter how complex the design.

There are two approaches to rapid tooling; both may be applied to injection molding. While it is versatile and cost-efficient among others, rapid tooling is not perfect and has its fair share of limitations.

Nevertheless, rapid tooling weighs more with its pros than its cons. As is the case, rapid tooling should be highly considered if you want a modern take in mass production.

References:

https://www.pacific-research.com/what-are-the-advantages-of-rapid-tooling-prl/
https://leadrp.net/blog/rapid-tooling-basics/#Disadvantages_of_Rapid_Tooling

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