Rapid Tooling in Manufacturing

Reference work entry


Rapid tooling (RT) refers to the rapid production of parts that function as a tool (primarily mold tools such as mold inserts) as opposed to being a prototype or a functional part. These tools are produced by different additive manufacturing (AM), also previously known as rapid prototyping (RP) processes such as stereolithography (SL), fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser sintering/melting (SLS/SLM), 3D printing (3DP), and electron beam melting (EBM). These AM tools are then directly used as molds or used to produce molds for conventional manufacturing, such as vacuum and investment casting.

RT is generally categorized as soft or hard and direct or indirect tooling. The wide range of materials involved in tooling includes wax, wood, photopolymers, thermal polymers, metals (such as tool steels), ceramics (such as alumina and silica), and composites. In soft tooling, the molds produced directly or indirectly are destroyed after a single cast or are used for a small batch production. Single cast typically refers to investment casting where parts produced have properties identical to parts produced from conventional investment casting. Soft tooling for small batch production is typically used more for manufacturing of functional prototypes that meet the minimum properties required for application testing.

In hard tooling, molds produced are usually made of metals, ceramics, or composites that can be used for high volume production. For example, metal molds and silica sand molds can be produced directly with the SLM and SLS technique respectively. Parts manufactured from these molds exhibit high quality, fine finishing, and superior if not comparable to properties of parts manufactured from conventionally produced molds. Molds with high complexity are also possible. Hence, RP displays excellent tooling and manufacturing capabilities with the development of RT.

There are several benefits that are realized by RT with the most evident being cost savings. RT greatly reduces the time needed for mold-forming process and therefore increases the speed of production. This in turn reduces the time to market allowing companies to increase profits. RT also allows the ease of product customization due to its flexibility in tool design, ability to adapt to customers’ specifications, and most importantly, does not require high volume to breakeven. Conceptual designs can be further improved without incurring high costs compared to conventional manufacturing processes. These factors in RT attribute to high performance manufacturing and high quality products.


Injection Molding Additive Manufacturing Electron Beam Melting Investment Casting Fuse Deposition Modeling 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chee Kai Chua
    • 1
  • Kah Fai Leong
    • 1
  • Zhong Hong Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)Nanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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