Rapid tooling is basically a process which combines rapid prototyping techniques and conventional tooling procedures to manufacture a mold in considerably lesser time or to manufacture pieces of a functional model from the fed CAD data in very less time and at relatively lesser prices as against the traditional machining methods.
The biggest constraints in manufacturing small quantity of tooling were long production time and high price. Thus, rapid tooling was introduced to make it possible to produce small quantities of prototypes for marketing, product process designing, or evaluation purpose.
The main benefits of rapid tooling services are that they considerably reduce the tooling time and also the tool cost in comparison to conventional tooling processes. Mentioned below are few of the most significant rapid tooling techniques.
CNC Machining - This is the most used out of all the rapid tooling techniques out there. CNC machining has made the machining process much more flexible and has substantially reduced the lead time. There is no requirement for specialized fixtures since the exact dimensions and position of the blank are known. The best part is that using CNC machining for rapid tooling services enables the ordering of a small batch without the need to invest huge amounts for equipment.
3D Printing - Additive processes have only recently begun to be used for rendering rapid tooling services. The best benefit of 3D printing is the unmatched flexibility that it offers. Furthermore, there is no requirement for any fixtures or blanks. You can even create cooling channels and sharp corners that cannot be made through other processes.
Soft Silicone Tooling - When there is a requirement to produce low-volume batches or plastic prototypes, producing conventional injection molds can be a lengthy and expensive process. This is what paved the way for soft tooling. Under this technique, a master model is manufactured using 3D printing, CNC machining, or even manually. This master part is then suspended above the tank to pour liquid silicone all over it. As soon as the silicone hardens, it is divided in half and the master part is ejected. Finally, you will have a silicone injection mold that can easily withstand up to 15 uses.
EDM Tooling - Electric Discharge Machining is the most indispensable of all rapid tooling techniques. This technique is best used when you need to produce tooling using some very hard material. For instance, some of the dyes that are used to produce titanium alloy parts can withstand a lot of pressure even while the prototype is manufactured. So, rather than cutting smalls chips making use of milling center, it is better to make a reversed cavity form on a considerably soft material such as copper or aluminum and then install it onto the EDM machine.
These are some of the most commonly used techniques for rapid tooling services. Make sure you find a reliable provider of rapid tooling services who is reputed of providing the best quality of output based on individual requirements.