In the world of manufacturing, tooling is an essential, key factor in developing quality parts within spec. Still, many companies are unsure of the critical role tooling plays in producing the parts and components they require. Let’s discuss what tooling in manufacturing is, why it’s important, and the stages of tooling.
What is Tooling?
Tooling in manufacturing, also known as machine tooling, is the process of designing, cutting, shaping, and forming materials that will be used to produce parts and components. It’s an essential and critical part of the manufacturing process providing a wide range of industries—from automotive, to medical, to aerospace, and so on—with the necessary equipment for a particular project. Without it, products simply would not exist. Tooling types vary, depending on the component being manufactured, but the most common types of tooling are:
- Cutting Tools and Screwdrivers
- Jigs, Fixtures, and Workholding
- Gauges for Measurements
Why is Tooling Important?
Tooling can impact the quality of the product. If the tooling isn’t produced and used correctly, then it will produce suboptimal, useless parts. Properly designed and engineered tooling leads to a product that functions as needed. Tooling also influences the manufacturing process: every mass-produced part is created using tooling, and well-made tooling can make manufacturing processes faster and more economical.
Stages of Tooling in Manufacturing
There are three classification stages of tooling: prototyping tooling, bridge tooling, and production tooling.
Prototype tooling, also known as soft tooling or rapid tooling, is when tools are designed, produced, and tested for fit, form, and function in preparation for the production process. During the prototyping process, manufacturers can adjust the design several times to achieve optimal performance and finish. Some materials that are often used in prototyping are silicone rubber, aluminum alloy, and soft steel due to their lower cost; they are typically faster and easier to shape. The benefits of prototype tooling include:
- Creates prototypes fast, often taking just hours or days rather than several weeks.
- Smaller Investment, allowing test runs to check for design flaws, tolerances, and more.
- Accurate parts can be produced
Bridge tooling is the bridge used between the end of prototyping tooling development and the beginning of production tooling. Bridge tooling is not as robust as production tooling, because it can be built more quickly and doesn’t require as much of an investment. Many manufacturers use bridge tooling to support ramp-up volumes while production tooling is being built. Bridge tooling provides a fast and cost-effective alternative to production tooling, while still providing manufacturers with the ability to test the production process and get a sense for ultimate viability of the product design.
Once a product has been tested for its quality and function, it’s ready for production. Production tooling is designed for efficiency and long-term success. It is the most precise because it focuses on large-scale use, meaning that it is more expensive than prototyping and bridge tooling, requiring the most investment of both time and money.
Breiner Innovative delivers high-quality and well-made tooling specific to your required design. We understand that your tooling requirements don’t always start in full production. With our expertise, we ensure that project costs and timelines remain within reach from prototyping to all the way to production. We work to promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness so that we can provide your tooling needs that is designed and engineered to the highest quality. If you want to learn more, contact us today.