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How Hard and Soft Tooling Work?

RAVI Kr. Jha
How Hard and Soft Tooling Work?

While you're trying to decide which method of tooling is best for your company, you'll need to understand the difference between hard tooling and soft tooling. Hard tooling requires more labor and takes longer to produce. Soft tooling, on the other hand, is much faster and cheaper to produce. It's also better for prototyping. This article will go over the pros and cons of both types of tooling.

Hard tooling is more expensive

Compared to soft tooling, hard tooling requires more time and effort to produce. This makes it unsuitable for parts that are mass produced in low volumes. Hard tooling also requires extra machining, heat treatment, and post-processing. In addition, the finished part must be smooth and without flaws.

Hard tooling can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Because of its high upfront cost, OEMs often shy away from investing in hard tooling. Moreover, it can increase price-per-part initially and slow production as demand rises. This is why OEMs should invest in hard tooling only when it is necessary. However, they should also explore hybrid tooling approaches and consider progressive dies to reduce the upfront costs.

It requires more labor

Soft tooling involves the production of prototypes and other prototype-like products. This approach is faster and can accommodate complex geometries and minute details. It is a more affordable alternative to hard tooling. However, it requires more labor. Soft tooling is also less expensive, but can't withstand repeated production cycles.

In general, soft tooling saves time, effort, and money, but it also requires more manual labor. This method is best for low-volume parts and projects that do not require high precision blueprints. However, it is more costly when volume is high.

It takes longer to manufacture

Both hard and soft tooling methods require significant investment, but soft tooling can be less expensive per pound. In a test comparing the cost of a tool made of aluminum, steel, and Invar to a tool made of polyurethane foam, the foam tool cost nearly 20% less, after factoring in the raw material, machining, design time, programming, shipping, and handling.

Soft tooling also has the advantage of allowing for a greater degree of design freedom. This allows for more complex internal cooling channels. However, the downside is that the materials used in soft tooling are less thermally efficient than aluminum tooling. This is especially true for parts with a high surface-to-volume ratio.

It is better for prototyping

When it comes to manufacturing, hard tooling and soft tooling are both viable options. However, soft tooling is often preferred for prototyping purposes. This method of manufacture is more affordable and allows for quick turnaround of samples. These advantages make it a popular option for prototyping.

Soft tooling is a cheaper and more flexible way of prototyping. It can also be more flexible for small-scale production runs. The main advantage of using soft tooling is speed. Soft tooling moulds can be made in a shorter period of time, which makes them an excellent choice for prototyping. However, the downside to this type of production is that they tend to wear out faster than hard tooling moulds.

It is cheaper

Soft tooling is more affordable than hard tooling and is ideal for prototyping, small batches of parts, and short-run production. This method allows rapid production of moulds and saves on time and money. Unlike hard tooling, soft tooling does not require expensive molds that are likely to wear out very quickly. In addition, compared to a hard tooling mould, multiple soft tooling moulds can be produced at a lower cost.

Soft tooling is cheaper than injection molding, and provides the same level of strength to parts without the tooling costs. It is often made from silicone or urethane and can cost between $500 and a few thousand dollars. However, the main drawback of soft tooling is its inflexibility, making it difficult to change once the tooling has been made.

It is better for low-volume production

Soft tooling is a more cost-efficient tooling option for low-volume production. It reduces the cost of tooling without requiring minimum orders. This allows companies to reduce overall production lead times and save time on product development. Furthermore, soft tooling can be used to create lower-fidelity test runs.

Hard tooling is usually more expensive than soft tooling. This is due to higher upfront costs and longer lead times. However, soft tooling is more affordable and faster for low-volume production. It is ideal for creating prototypes for stakeholders and conducting market testing. This type of tooling is also suitable for small-scale projects.

RAVI Kr. Jha
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