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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With the expansive needs of manufacturing and the tighter deadlines, manufacturers need to meet for their production, rapid tooling has become the preferred method of manufacturing for most industries. It can help manufacturers minimize production time while increasing their production output significantly. With rapid tooling, manufacturers can create different prototypes and final products at the same time. 

What is Rapid Tooling?

Rapid tooling or prototype tooling, is one of the significant steps in the product development cycle. The process involves a stocked mold base, hand-load inserts, and mold material. It is a cost-effective pared-back injection molding process that is crucial in the validation and manufacturing of project parts. Nonetheless, the concept and the realization of such results differ in several ways.

Before mass production tooling, anything that enables manufacturers to quickly get parts inexpensively can be categorized as rapid tooling services. And while options such as 3D printing and CNC machining allow cheaper prototypes, the main advantage of rapid tooling lies 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

When creating core and cavity mold inserts, a direct rapid tooling method is applied. The most significant part of the process is its capacity to manufacture project tools with previously unobtainable geometries. On the other hand, in short-run production, direct rapid tooling allows you to construct a tool extremely fast and enable the creation of products almost immediately. Direct rapid tooling is especially essential in short-run production because you don't need the tools to be sturdy.

Image Credits: wintech-rt.com

Pros of Direct Rapid Tooling Services

  • Direct tooling enables you to manufacture molds faster and has shorter lead times
  • Manufacturers can use one tool to make more than one prototype
  • It doesn't involve a lot of steps
  • The method makes it easier for you to make design changes
  • It requires fewer resources

Cons of Direct Rapid Tooling Services

  • Direct rapid tooling process doesn't make sturdy prototypes
  • You cannot change mold material without starting the entire process
  • To prevent disparities in mold dimensions, a master pattern is required when constructing different material grades
  • Direct rapid tooling is not suitable for the development of complicated tool designs

2. Indirect Rapid Tooling

For a manufacturer to create a die, they apply an indirect rapid tooling method. This method utilizes master patterns produced by additive manufacturing. There are several technologies in indirect rapid tooling, but the most popular is soft tooling techniques. Soft tooling techniques use silicone molds to create plastic parts and also as sacrificial models when creating castings for metal parts.

Indirect rapid tooling is mainly useful for testing and experimenting. For example, when a manufacturer wants to test different materials for a particular design. It allows you to build several prototypes easily from the same master pattern.

Image Credits: abismould.com

Pros of Indirect Rapid Tooling

  • The master pattern in indirect rapid tooling is robust and sturdy throughout the prototyping process
  • Indirect rapid tooling allows room for experimenting with a variety of materials during the prototyping process
  • You require only one master pattern to create a design
  • Tools have fewer variations because only one master pattern is required in their development
  • It can be used to produce soft tools for cost-effective prototype testing, or hard tools for sophisticated designs

Cons of Indirect Rapid Tooling

  • Production time takes longer than the direct tooling process
  • More expensive because of the intermediary step required
  • You may require higher-quality materials for durable master patterns

Here are the Benefits of Rapid Tooling in Manufacturing:

1. Prototyping is Becoming More Effortless to Do

Rapid tooling provides you with all the tools you need to perform the prototyping process, and with all the computerization you can apply, it will make prototyping more effortless to do. You just need to prepare the design blueprint for your prototype and run the rapid tooling program to execute specific commands to start the prototype-building process.

Not only prototyping, but rapid tooling is also useful to create the final products or molds that you can use for other manufacturing processes, such as injection molding and die casting. No need to follow any complicated steps just to get your molds or final products ready, as the process is quite simple to do.

2. Producing Multiple Prototypes in a Single Production Cycle

Rapid tooling is not just a usual rapid manufacturing method. With rapid tooling, you can create multiple prototypes in a single production cycle. It’s perfect if you want to try different prototype versions at once, and it is also perfect for you to create different molds or components without having to do them in multiple production cycles.

Prototypes with rapid tooling are produced with accuracy and precision due to its computerized programming system, and coupled with robotics; you can make the prototyping creation even easier. It can also help you with testing and verifying the quality of different prototypes you have. 

Image Credits: rapiddirect.com

3. Applying the Iterative Design Strategy is a Breeze

Got any iterative design strategies to implement? With rapid tooling, it’s really easy for you to apply the iterative design strategy in your prototyping or general manufacturing process. You can change the little details about your blueprint design and create different versions of your prototypes or product samples in a breeze.

No matter how many iterations you need to apply, rapid tooling can always accommodate your production needs and make everything easier for you to come up with the best final products or prototypes. Any issues with your design can be fixed in as fast as a few minutes, and you can get your new version of prototypes ready for the next testing phase.

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

Rapid tooling is not just fast but is also very economical. This production process is very economical because you don’t need to prepare for all the complicated steps required in other manufacturing methods. You can buy the materials for rapid tooling cheaper than the materials for other manufacturing production methods.

Fast and cheap are the two biggest benefits of rapid tooling when it comes to prototype production or even the production of final products. It will fit your budget much better than when you use other manufacturing methods, especially traditional ones.

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

Rapid tooling is fully capable of replicating the design blueprint you have into prototypes or final products with the highest accuracy and precision. You can be confident to get 99% accuracy and precision for your design blueprint to get processed into prototypes while putting the 1% into the potential defects or imperfections on your prototypes.

This is great news, as you don’t need to stock too many molds or tools in your inventory because you are worried that you can’t replicate their production process. With rapid tooling, the production process for any blueprint can be replicated with almost 100% accuracy and consistency in quality.

6. Computerized Programming and Robotics Go Hand in Hand

Rapid tooling uses the same principle as CNC prototyping in terms of computerized programming and robotics. All the manufacturing processes of rapid tooling will get controlled by certain computerized programs, which are integrated with robotics, allowing you to get the best quality and most accurate prototypes or tools for any of your projects.

These two production elements go hand in hand to provide you with rapid and fast-paced manufacturing processes. No manual work is needed for you to get involved in the manufacturing process, meaning that this manufacturing method can run on full automation.

Image Credits: 3erp.com

7. Easier QC Assessment

With rapid tooling, you can also perform an easier QC assessment process to ensure the best quality of products in your manufacturing production. 

The QC assessment process will also be easier to perform for various rapid tooling equipment you are using to ensure the smooth manufacturing process of the prototypes or product samples.

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

Rapid tooling allows you to produce prototypes and final products with the best accuracy without having to employ too many workers to get the job done. This process is autonomous, and it can be fully integrated with robotics technology to deliver the fastest results. The role of the workers would be to oversee the production process without having to manually work on each product or prototype.

By not hiring too many workers, you can cut down on the costs of production considerably.

Disadvantages of Rapid Tooling 

1. Doesn’t Produce Durable Prototype

Rapid tooling does not produce robust or durable prototypes. The molds created through this process easily break making it a costly process. Hence it is not suitable for products that require strict attention to detail and precision.

2. Time-consuming

The rapid tooling process is very time-consuming as compared to making a mold directly. Plus, the process parameter involves several steps that can lead to higher production costs.

3. Easily Cause Error

Rapid prototyping of multiple stencils easily results in mistakes. The errors become highly probable when different mold dimensions are used. It is best to avoid using this method if your product design requires several alterations throughout 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

The molds produced from rapid tooling processes have shorter mold life cycles because of the stress exerted on them at the injection stage. Additionally, the materials used in the process are of low quality, resulting in the need for frequent replacement of worn mold material.

6. Higher Injection Cost and Labor Cost

Rapid prototyping is an iterative process requiring extra injection costs leading to higher production costs.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using Rapid Tooling

Like other processes in the manufacturing industry, there are factors to consider before using rapid tooling.

1. Ensure The Mold is Strong and Durable

The injection molding process puts a lot of pressure on molds. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the mold is strong and durable enough to withstand the injections.

2. The Mold Should be Smooth

It is also essential for the mold to be smooth to guarantee precise injection.


I). What is meant by rapid tooling?

Rapid tooling and rapid prototyping is any method used by manufacturers to produce tools or products quickly. Therefore rapid tooling is the use of rapid tools to shorten the time required to produce products. A prototype is a 3D model used in the preliminary stages for testing and evaluation of a product.

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

In the manufacturing industry, rapid tooling refers to the use of techniques to fabricate tooling quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively enabling you to create tools on a shorter timeline.

III). What are the advantages of rapid tooling?

The main advantage of rapid tooling is that it allows you to make multiple prototypes within a short timeline. It translates to more freedom for manufacturers to make adjustments and experiment with new ideas.

IV). What materials are used in rapid tooling?

Materials such as silicone rubber, metals, urethane, and plaster are commonly used in rapid tooling to produce temporary molds in the prototype process. Manufacturers using silicone molds prefer using Platinum-cured silicones and Room Temperature Vulcanizing(RTV).

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

The modern manufacturing process used to produce multiple tools quickly is known as rapid tooling. On the other hand, conventional tooling is the traditional manufacturing method that enables you to create tools.

VI). What are the tooling stages?

The three classification stages of tooling include bridge tooling, prototyping stage, and production tooling. The following is a breakdown of every stage and what it entails.

1. Prototyping Tooling

It is the stage where prototypes are designed, produced, and tested for fit and form before the final tool production. Some commonly used materials are silicone rubber, soft steel, and aluminum alloy.

2. Bridge Tooling

Bridge tooling is used between the prototyping process and the production stage. manufacturers use bridge tooling to test the ultimate viability of products as a cost-effective alternative to the production process.

3. Production Tooling

Production tooling comes after a product has successfully passed through the prototyping and bridge stages. A product is said to be ready for production after it has been tested for quality, form, and function. Production tooling is the most precise stage in the manufacturing process, requiring the maximum time and money. Therefore, it is more expensive than prototype tooling and bridge tooling stages.


The rapid tooling process has numerous benefits for both clients and manufacturers to get products faster without having to do it manually. Rapid tooling technology ensures that the various steps in the manufacturing process are done quickly using a rapid tooling machine.

The technique is essential to manufacturers for testing and validating product designs faster and more efficiently. You get to reduce production time and cost which is usually common with traditional tooling methods. So in other words, manufacturers can improve product quality, hasten the time products take between production to the market, and guarantee customer satisfaction.

Ensure that you hire the services of reputable manufacturers with the right rapid tooling services. With effective prototyping services, you can meet a variety of industrial requirements.

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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