What is Rapid Tooling

What is Rapid Tooling, and What are Its Benefits?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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For the intensive requirements of manufacturing which can sometimes be limited by time, rapid tooling has overtime been the top choice of producing for most of the industries. It is able to shorten production while boosting production output substantially. By using rapid tooling, manufacturers can simultaneously generate various prototypes and final products.

What is Rapid Tooling?

One important step in the product development cycle is rapid tooling or prototype tooling. It entails putting a stocked mold base, hand-loading the inserts and the molding material. It is a cost effective simplified injection molding technique that is important in the validation and manufacturing of the project parts Nevertheless, the idea and its realization are dissimilar in various ways.

Before high volume/mass production tooling, anything which helps manufacturers to get their parts inexpensively quickly can be treated as rapid tooling services. Alternative processes like 3D printing, and CNC machining produce rapid prototype with lower costs, but the main benefit of rapid tooling is in the materials used and the process.

Image Credits: sciencedirect.com

Two Types of Rapid Tooling

Depending on the molding method, rapid tooling can be divided into two different types as follows:

1. Direct Rapid Tooling

Utilizing the direct rapid method, inserts for core and cavity mold making are being made. The most crucial part of 3D printing is its ability to create previously unavailable parts with complex geometries. On the contrary, in the short run production, direct rapid tooling allows you to design an instrument so fast to be able to produce products right away. Direct rapid tooling is imperative in short-run production because they don't have to be solid.

Image Credits: wintech-rt.com

Pros of Direct Rapid Tooling Services

  • A direct tooling enables you to manufacture molds more quickly as well has less lead times.
  • The manufacturers can build one tool to produce more than one prototype.
  • It doesn't have a lot of steps.
  • It also gives you the flexibility to make any desired modifications.
  • It requires fewer resources

Cons of Direct Rapid Tooling Services

  • The direct rapid tooling process does not deliver sturdy prototypes.
  • You cannot change the mold material without restarting the whole process.
  • Uniformity of mold dimensions can be achieved by using a master pattern when the materials are different grades.
  • Direct rapid tooling is not the correct approach for the creation of complex tooling systems.

2. Indirect Rapid Tooling

When a manufacturer wants to create a die, they tap into an indirect rapid tooling approach. This technique employs master models generated by additive manufacturing. Among indirect rapid tooling technologies, the soft tooling method is the most commonly used one. Soft tooling utilizes silicone molds to fabricate plastic parts as well as patterns that are used when creating castings for metal parts.

Indirect rapid tooling is generally suitable for testing and research. For example, when an engineer needs to test different materials for a specific product design. It gives you the freedom to create a number of prototypes using the same master pattern.

Image Credits: abismould.com

Pros of Indirect Rapid Tooling

  • The precision of the indirect rapid tooling master pattern is stable throughout the prototype manufacturing process.
  • Indirect rapid tooling provides the opportunity to change materials during the process of prototyping.
  • It is only one master pattern that makes a pattern.
  • Tools have fewer features because a master pattern is used during their manufacturing.
  • It can be used to develop low-cost soft prototypes for testing purposes or high-end hard designs.

Cons of Indirect Rapid Tooling

  • Indirect production time lasts longer than the machine tooling process.
  • Costlier due to an additional step of intermediary.
  • You might need a better quality material for the pattern maste

Here are the Benefits of Rapid Tooling in Manufacturing:

1. Prototyping is Becoming More Effortless to Do

You will be given a package of tools for performing the prototyping process and thanks to the computerization that you can apply, prototyping will be easier for you. It is sufficient to develop the prototype model and then execute the instant tooling program to obtain the desired rapid prototyping and start the building process.

In addition to prototyping, rapid tooling is also suitable for the creation of end products or molds that can be used with other manufacturing processes, such as injection molding and die casting. The best thing about this process is that you don’t need to follow any complicated steps just to get your molds or final products ready as it’s quite easy to do it.

2. Producing Multiple Prototypes in a Single Production Cycle

However, this is not just a usual rapid manufacturing tool. With quick tooling, you can get multiple prototypes in a single production day. It’s a perfect choice when you work with different prototypes at the same time. Moreover, it can be used to form different molds or components without repeating the production cycles.

Prototypes made with rapid tooling are precise and correct because of its mechanized programming system coupled with robotics; this makes prototyping easier. Moreover, it plays a role in testing and verifying the prototype.

Image Credits: rapiddirect.com

3. Applying the Iterative Design Strategy is a Breeze

Do you, by chance, have an iterative design strategy to implement? Now, it is like a walk in the park for you to do the iterative design with rapid tooling in your prototyping or common manufacturing process. You will be able to change the small details of your blueprint design and create different versions of your prototypes or product samples in just a few clicks.

Regardless of how many iterations you need to apply, rapid tooling could accommodate any type of production and make it simpler for you to come up with the ideal final products or prototypes. Your design can be quickly fixed within a few minutes and you can be ready with your new portfolio of prototypes for the next testing phase.

4. Rapid Production Time with Much Lower Costs Compared to Other Manufacturing Methods

Fast tooling is not only quick but also cheap. This economic production process does not require for all the complex steps which are usually needed by other manufacturing methods. You can get the cost of rapid tooling materials to be less than the cost of other production methods.

Fast and cheap are the two main pros of the rapid tooling, in comparison with the prototype production or even the production of the final products. It will not be so expensive as using other manufacturing methods, and they are the traditional ones.

5. Replicating the Design Blueprint with 99% Accuracy and Precision

With the aid of rapid tooling coupled with the design blueprint, you will be able to have prototypes or final products with the highest level of accuracy and precision. It gives you peace of mind knowing that 99% is on the accuracy and precision of design blueprint which gets processed into prototypes, and 1% is from potential defects or imperfections on your prototypes.

It is fantastic for you, as you don’t have to store much molds and tools as you are afraid that you can’t replicate their production process. Instant tooling allows the production process of any blueprint to be repeated almost one hundred percent accurately and the same in the quality.

6. Computerized Programming and Robotics Go Hand in Hand

“Rapid tooling works on the same basis as CNC prototyping that involves computer numeric control and robotics in programming.” All the manufacturing processes of rapid tooling will get managed by certain computerized programs integrated with robotics; so you can always get prototypes or tools at the best quality and maximum accuracy for any of your projects.

These two production elements are inseparable to provide you with the speedy and fast-paced manufacturing. Automation is one of the main characteristics of this type of manufacturing because it does not require so manual work and it can run on full automation.

Image Credits: 3erp.com

7. Easier QC Assessment

Alongside that, you can simply enjoy a much easier QC assessment process to have the best quality of products in your manufacturing as well.

The quality control assessment will also be easier to perform using various rapid tooling equipment so that of the prototypes or product samples the manufacturing process will be smoother.

8. No Need to Hire Too Many Workers to Get the Job Done

You can produce prototypes and final products with utmost accuracy without recruiting a huge workforce by using rapid tooling. The technique is autonomous and can be easily integrated with robotics technology to achieve the fastest outcomes. The workforce will supervise the production process while not necessarily participating in every single product or prototype.

You can cut your production costs substantially by not hiring too many workers.

Disadvantages of Rapid Tooling 

1. Doesn’t Produce Durable Prototype

Rapid tooling does not allow for the production of tough and durable prototypes. Molds used in this method easily break, so the process becomes very expensive. Therefore it is not recommended for those products which require a very high level of attention and precision.

2. Time-consuming

Making a mold through rapid tooling is relatively more time consuming than making a mold directly. Moreover, the process parameter includes several stages that are accountable for the growth of production expenses.

3. Easily Cause Error

Mistakes are easily made during the rapid prototyping of multiple stencils. The chances of this mistake increase when various mold dimensions are applied. It is advisable to adopt other alternative means if your product design involves a number of iterations during the prototyping process.

Image Credits: immould.com

4. Not Suitable for Simple Designs

Rapid tooling is recommended for complicated designs that require attention to detail. It is not the best method for simple designs.

5. Shorter Mold Life Cycle

Due to the stress applied by the injection stage to such molds, the rapid tooling processes have shorter mold life span. In addition, low-quality materials are used in the molding process and as a result, the mold material wears out often.

6. Higher Injection Cost and Labor Cost

There are extra injection costs associated with rapid prototyping as it is an iterative process resulting in higher production costs.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using Rapid Tooling

As with other processes in the production sector, there are things to be taken into account before choosing rapid tooling.

1. Ensure The Mold is Strong and Durable

The injection molding process puts a lot of stress on molds. Consequently, it is imperative that mold is strong and tough enough to endure the injections.

2. The Mold Should be Smooth

It is also needed that mold is smooth to make sure perfectly injection.


I). What is meant by rapid tooling?

Rapid tooling and rapid prototyping is a general term used by manufacturers to describe any way in which tools or products are produced quickly. As a result, rapid tooling is the use of rapid tools with the intention to reduce the period of time to produce products. A prototype is a 3D model that is tested and evaluated in the initial stages, before the final market release of a product.

II). What is rapid tooling in the manufacturing process?

In the manufacturing industry, rapid tooling is a technique involving quick, precise, and cost-effective production of tooling allowing you to create tools earlier than normal.

III). What are the advantages of rapid tooling?

The main benefit of rapid tooling is that it allows you to create several prototypes within a short time. This means that there is greater freedom for manufacturers to make innovations and explore new ideas.

IV). What materials are used in rapid tooling?

There are a variety of materials including silicone rubber, metals, urethane, and plaster which are often used in rapid tooling to come up with temporary molds during the prototype stage. Manufacturers who prefer to use silicone molds often use Platinum-cured silicones and Room Temperature Vulcanizing(RTV).

V). What is the difference between rapid tooling and conventional tooling?

Rapid tooling is a modern technique used in the manufacturing process, which involves high speed production of multiple moulds. Contrary to this, conventional tooling is traditional manufacturing method that makes tools production possible.

VI). What are the tooling stages?

The three stages of tooling are bridge tooling, prototype stage, and production tooling. Here is an outline of every stage and what it involves.

1. Prototyping Tooling

This is the point where prototypes are designed, manufactured and tested for form and fit after which the final tool production can be done. Among the most popular materials are silicone rubber, soft steel, and aluminum alloy.

2. Bridge Tooling

The bridge tooling is placed in the gap between the stage of prototyping and actual production. with the help of the bridge tooling, manufacturers are able to evaluate adequacy of products at a low cost while avoiding full production.

3. Production Tooling

Production tooling is the next phase that follows after a new product has been successfully made through the prototyping and bridge stages. A product will be called ready for production if it has been tested for quality, form as well as function. The tooling stage is the most precise one in the manufacturing process and it requires a lot of time and money. For this reason, it is more costly than the prototype tooling and bridge tooling stages.


The rapid tooling process comes with a lot of advantages for both customers and manufacturers because they can get products within a limited period without the stress of still doing it manually. However, the latest rapid tooling machine enables the steps of the manufacturing process to be done with a higher speed.

It is an important one to manufacturers for it enables them to test and validate their product designs speedily and with high efficiency. You get to reduce the production time and the cost by using additive manufacturing techniques instead of the traditional tooling methods. Thus they can increase product quality, shorten the time products take between market and manufacturing and sustain customer satisfaction.

Make sure that you hire well-established manufacturers that offer quality rapid tooling services. Through the provision of the prototyping service, you can address various industrial needs.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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