For any firm that wants to bring their product to the market faster, creating a prototype is the way to go. Innovative technologies in the manufacturing industry allow parts to be quickly available for testing, thereby allowing a firm to save time and money.
One such method that’s emerged is rapid tooling, which assists the design team during product development. With this technique, parts are quickly manufactured, tested, and validated before moving onto production tooling.
Rapid tooling can work in two ways: it uses a rapid prototyping model as the pattern or employs the method to create a tool for a limited number of prototypes. This is especially handy because production cycles often require some form of intermediate tooling to create a limited number of functional tests during product development.
These resulting prototypes can then be used for various purposes, such as for evaluation, marketing samples, and production process design. This is why this innovation is becoming increasingly crucial for the manufacturing industry.
If you’re still unsure about what rapid tooling entails and what benefits it can result in for your business, then here’s what you need to know:
There are many rapid tooling techniques that manufacturing firms can employ. Each of these techniques offers its own benefits, and whichever one you choose depends on the consistency, technology, size, and accuracy you desire and the materials you use. These include:
The most conventional rapid tooling technique, CNC machining systems result in shorter lead times and more flexibility. It’s an excellent choice due to its precision and the wide range of material availability. CNC machining, however, is limited in its ability to create deep grooves and sharp edges.
Soft Silicone Tooling
Soft silicone tooling is an excellent technique to manufacture plastic prototypes or limited-volume batches. A master model is, first, produced by 3D printing, CNC machining, or manually. This model is then suspended over a tank, and liquified silicone is poured on top. When the silicone has hardened, it’s cut in half, and the model is ejected. The resulting silicone model can last up to fifteen uses.
When a tool needs to be created with hard material, Electrical Discharge Machining is the way to go. With an EDM machine, you can create a reversed cavity form with a soft material like copper or aluminum and install it on the device.
Amongst the newest processes, additive processing is commonly used for direct metal deposition and bed fusion. Both of these use a metal powder that’s sintered layer-by-layer to create a part. 3D printing is exceptionally flexible and requires no fixtures or blanks at all.
Additionally, the powder itself is universal and can be used to create cooling channels and sharp corners that would otherwise be impossible through other processes. Unfortunately, 3D printing has compromised surface quality, which means you’ll need to devote time to the prototype after it’s been processed.
Benefits of Rapid Tooling
Rapid tooling has gained traction due to the wide range of benefits it offers the manufacturing industry. Some of these are:
Makes Innovation Easier
Since rapid tooling eliminates the need to use conventional tooling, it has opened up many opportunities for improvements. Traditional prototyping methods typically took a long time because it involves making the prototype tools and their components to ensure the tolerances are accurate.
On the other hand, rapid tooling can help designers create prototypes with complicated geometries that would otherwise have been impossible to develop using conventional prototyping methods.
In the business world, time is of the essence. With any manufacturing process, more time means higher costs. Rapid tooling helps manufacturing firms save time because it eliminates the need to create patterns, special tools, and molds typically involved with conventional tooling. Due to this, rapid tooling reduces the time between developing the initial idea and the evaluation phase.
Additionally, the prototypes created using this technique are more accurate and easily accessible to test the features, usability, performance, and forms. Also, designers can modify the actual product using the feedback received on the prototype. This fast processing time can help a firm retain its competitive edge by bringing new products to the market quickly,
Rapid tooling helps manufacturing firms save costs in multiple areas. The technique produces parts that are on par with full-scale productions. These parts can then be used for stress and impact testing, which can help you determine any changes that need to be made before proceeding to the costly tooling process.
Applications of Rapid Tooling
Rapid tooling has a wide range of applications, which will continue to grow as the technology is developed further, and new procedures emerge. Its current uses include:
- Making metallic and non-metallic molds
- Making casting shapes and cores. This application has been recently developed to produce sand-cast shapes and cores.
- Producing splintering tools
- Producing hybrid patterns for casting purposes
- Creating marketing stamps
Rapid tooling is an evolving technology that will continue to provide benefits to manufacturing firms. There are a variety of reasons why manufacturing firms should consider employing it as part of their operations. It is a practical, low-cost, and quick technique that’ll allow you to reduce the time required to get products to market, making it ideal for low-volume productions.
Have you ever used rapid tooling for your manufacturing firm? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!
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