Scaling Heights with Rapid Tooling and Rapid Prototyping

Table of Contents

Rapid tooling is gaining ground and making bridges for manufacturers. It is giving access to less turnaround time and most of all time-to-market

Today we will cover Rapid tooling and how it is revolutionizing manufacturing. Topics discussed include;

  1. Rapid prototyping
  2. Direct and Indirect rapid tooling
  3. Applications of rapid tooling
  4. Advantages and disadvantages

What is Rapid tooling?

Rapid tooling (RT) otherwise know as bridge tooling or soft tooling is a vital step in production. It uses rapid prototyping processes like 3D printing to speed up prototyping methods. Rapid tooling is also used in low-volume manufacturing.

Rapid tooling uses CAD models of tools and molds used in rapid production methods. Machined or 3D printed molds allow operators to test a tool before full-scale production. These tools and molds work best for low-volume manufacturing.

There are two rapid tooling techniques in place: indirect and direct tooling.

Direct Tooling

Under direct tooling, rapid prototyping processes are in use to manufacture the mold. It is ideal for tools with complex geometries. 

The process follows these steps;

  1. Creating a model of the tool by use of computer-aided design software
  2. Creating the mold or tool required. In most cases, we use additive manufacturing ie 3D printing. You can also go for subtractive manufacturing by utilizing a CNC machine.
  3. Tools and molds made can make a small number of prototypes.

What are the pros and cons of direct tooling?


  • Fast production and short lead time
  • One mold can produce many prototypes
  • The design is flexible


  • They are not robust and durable
  • Prone to errors and discrepancies
  • Lacks material flexibility

You should use direct tooling if you want t experiment with different geometries.

Indirect rapid tooling

This approach uses rapid prototyping processes to create a master pattern. We use the master pattern to create tools through soft tooling.

Indirect rapid tooling employs the following steps;

  1. Creating the master tool or mold by use of CAD software
  2. Machining or 3D printing the master pattern
  3. Making more molds and tools using the master pattern

The master pattern allows you to create tools and molds using different materials.

You will find that the master pattern is robust and durable and takes more time to make. It gives you a chance to experiment with different materials.


  • The master pattern is durable
  • You will need one master pattern unless the design changes
  • You can make hard or soft tools
  • Less variation in the final tools and molds
  • You can create tools and molds using different raw materials


  • More time consuming
  • You may incur higher costs than direct tooling
  • Not the best option if you expect changes in the design
  • You may need high-grade materials to make a master pattern

What is Rapid Prototyping?

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It employs an array of production methods for the fast fabrication of a scale model of a part. Additive manufacturing is vastly abused in this stage with 3D printing dominating. There are several 3D printing technologies each with distinct characteristics. This means you can work with a variety of materials.

Othe rapid prototyping techniques are;

  • CNC machining
  • Injection molding
  • Vacuum casting

 This is why you should be using Rapid prototyping services

  1. It is an ideal way of bringing design ideas to life.
  2. Rapid prototyping reduces the amount of time consumed in production. It can also save you costs.
  3. You can make changes to your design when needed.

Types of Rapid Prototyping

  1. Stereolithography (SLA). It is also called Vat Photopolymerization. It fast, affordable, and was the first successful commercial 3D printing method. It employs a photosensitive liquid and a computer-controlled UV light. The UV light solidifies the liquid layer by layer t make a custom scale of a part.
  2. Selective Laser Sintering(SLS). This method can work with both metal and plastic materials. It uses a laser to heat and sinter the powdered material one layer at a time. The process gives parts with rough surfaces. The parts are also not as strong as SLA.
  3. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). It is also called material jetting. You can find it in most desktop 3D printers. The process uses thermoplastic materials. The results are weak but it is a cheap method of prototyping.
  4. Selective Laser Melting (SLM). It is also called powder bed fusion. A powder bed is melted layer by layer to build a prototype. It employs a high-powered laser or electron beam. Materials used; Titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel.
  5. Sheet Lamination. It is also called Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM). Sheet lamination involves building up thin laminates cut by laser beams. This results in a CAD pattern design. The layers are pilled up until the prototype is complete.


Item planners use this cycle for the fast assembling of agent model parts. Hence you can get an idea of the assembling interaction in large-scale manufacturing.

Rapid prototyping was utilized to make parts and scale models for the car business. It a wide scope of utilizations, across many ventures like clinical and aviation. 

Rapid tooling is another use of RP. 

The Role Played by 3D printing in Rapid tooling

Additive manufacturing is a vital process in rapid tooling. Methods like FDM, SLS, SLA, and sheet lamination create a master pattern for tools. Additive manufacturing can make parts upon demand. It also allows you to work with complex geometries.

Leveraging 3D printing for rapid tooling benefits manufacturers with functional and vetted molds. The automotive sector is using 3D printing to optimize production and prototyping expenditures.

 Rapid Prototyping (RP) can make an instrument for a restricted volume of models. This interaction burns through less time and cost than a regular apparatus. If you need to advance your items in the market at the perfect time RP is your buddy.

Fast Tooling aids in fostering parts according to the plan and the infused material. Nonetheless, it is generally utilized in the creation of low-volume parts. It also produces precise shapes faster and with high-velocity processing capabilities.

At the end of the day, we can say that the Rapid Tooling strategy is about fast outcomes and achievement. The elite pieces of the model are delivered from CAD information inside a cutoff time. It is the most helpful and practical path when contrasted with other procedures. It assists with assembling infusion-formed parts.

Benefits of Rapid tooling



If you were to look at injection molding, the high cost of tooling is recovered via mass production. In simple words, you cover the cost of making molds by making a lot of parts from a single mold. But when it comes to prototyping and low volume production this technique may not work.

Rapid tooling gives a significant cost advantage to manufacturers. You can save up to 95% compared to using conventional tooling. The low cost of prototyping allows manufacturers to alter the design on demand.

More time to market

With the cost-benefit comes fast tool fabrication. Unlike convectional tooling which takes months, rapid tooling has a shorter lead time.

Fast turnaround times in the cycle give you more time to market your products.

Product optimization

This benefit involves product development. Conventional tooling makes it hard for manufacturers to alter the design. Rapid tooling offers easy design changes. This way you can tweak the design until you get the desired properties and functions.

You can test and check functional prototypes before ramping up full-scale production.

Promotes innovation

Rapid tooling has opened a door for a wide range of improvements. Designers can make complex geometries that convectional tooling can’t.

Always remember that there are different types of rapid tooling. The benefits are different based on factors like;

  • Materials
  • Accuracy
  • Technology 
  • Consistency

The following are limitations you should keep in mind when considering rapid tooling;

  1. Your mold must be strong. It should be capable of handling injection molding pressure and temperature.
  2. Your mold must be smooth enough for the plastic to eject cleanly.

The prototyping stage is key in the production cycle. Using conventional tooling for prototyping is not financially justified. There are many reasons you should use rapid prototyping services. With rapid tooling, you enjoy lower costs as compared to conventional tooling.

The plastic industry is fast-paced. To adapt and stay afloat, you need to shorten lead times for prototypes. Rapid tooling has a fast turnaround giving you more time to test and market your products.

This technique is also suitable for low-volume manufacturing.

You now know about rapid tooling and rapid prototyping. If you have questions or suggestions write to us in the comment section below.


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