Rapid Tooling describes a process that is the result of combining Rapid Prototyping techniques with conventional tooling practices to produce a mold in less time and at a lower cost relative to traditional tooling methods. For example, Rapid Tooling will often act as a bridge to production injection molded tooling solutions to perfect a product design in the market before pursuing its full commercialization.
Rapid Tooling typically employs a Rapid Prototype master pattern or uses the Rapid Prototype process to directly fabricate a tool for limited volume of prototypes and or per-production units in end-use materials.
Additionally, in the product development cycle, often intermediate tooling can be used to produce small quantities of prototypes for functional test units, marketing samples, or compliance testing. Rapid Tooling has become a most important step and transition point into the manufacturing phase.
The main advantages to Rapid Tooling, tool lead times are dramatically shorter than conventional tools, dramatically less expensive and often more accurate in capturing geometry – the time needed to get a first article part, as an example, can be less than one-fifth that of conventional tooling where tooling can cost the customer less than 10 percent of conventional tooling cost. Typical Rapid Tooling applications include:
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