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production tooling

Production Tooling in Manufacturing: Balancing Cost, Quality, and Performance

Production tooling contributes significantly to high-scale manufacturing and molding processes as it helps guarantee the superior quality of finished products.

Machine tooling includes building various equipment and gear, such as molds, jigs, and fixtures used in manufacturing different products. Effective tooling facilitates the production of high-quality items, ensuring extended product life cycles and proper functioning of manufactured items.

This guide explores production tooling and its importance. Read on to the end to discover the types of tooling solutions and strategies for balancing cost and quality in production tooling.

What Is Production Tooling?

what is production tooling

Production tooling encompasses the specialized machinery, equipment, and tools used in high-volume manufacturing. It is a more specific subset of tooling. Production tooling is designed and manufactured to facilitate efficient and precise manufacturing of products on high volume. Production tooling is integral to automotive, electronics, aerospace, and consumer goods.

Production tooling includes plastic injection molding tools and dies explicitly fabricated to meet the stringent demands of high-volume production. These tools can maintain tight dimensional tolerances on every finished product.

Why Is Tooling Important?

Tooling is important in product manufacturing because it impacts the production processes and the quality of a produced part. Manufacturers use tooling to produce parts. Meanwhile, factors such as quality, price, and lead time of the tooling process help to achieve effective production chains. Well-designed and well-manufactured tooling can accelerate manufacturing processes and ensure cost-effectiveness. Moreover, adequate tooling reduces downtime caused by repairs and maintenance, optimizing consistency and reproducibility.

Generally, improper tooling influences the quality of the end product due to the flaws and ineffectiveness of the finished products. Hence, final products and other parts may have flaws that cause rapid degradation if they fail to stick to a specific tolerance.

The failure of a tool to consistently attain the desired tolerances or its ability to add flaws to the final product can affect the manufacturing cycles significantly. As such, tooling failure can lead to downtime, production snags, and product recall.

Types of Tooling Solutions

plastic injection or blowing metal mold for bottle manufacturing
Prototype Tooling

Tooling solutions in manufacturing is in three is of three major types, namely:

Prototype Tooling

Prototype tooling, also called rapid tooling or soft tooling, involves designing, producing, and testing tools for fit, form, and function in preparation for manufacturing tasks. It is well-suited for urethane molding because manufacturers and product designers can make low to medium-part volumes, especially during product development.

Manufacturers can modify the design multiple times to achieve peak performance and the desired finish during the prototyping process. This technique is ideal for making intricate mold patterns that would otherwise be time-consuming.

Aluminum alloy, silicone rubber, and soft steel are typical materials manufacturers use in prototyping because of their low cost and formability ease. Typical benefits of prototype tooling include:

  • It produces prototypes faster, taking between a few hours or days instead of several weeks.
  • Prototype tooling is suitable for smaller investments since it allows test runs to examine for tolerance, design flaws, etc.
  • Ensure the production of accurate parts.

Bridge Tooling

Bridge tooling or rapid tooling connects the gap between the end of prototype tooling development and the start of production tooling. Bridge tooling is faster and doesn’t need high investment. Most manufacturers employ bridge tooling to support ramp-up volumes while making production tooling.

Moreover, bridge tooling offers a cost-effective and fast approach to production tooling while offering manufacturers the ability to test the production process for optimal viability of the product design.

Production Tooling

press tooling

A product is ready for production once its quality and function are tested. Production tooling provides long-term success and efficiency. It is more costly than prototype and bridge tooling because it requires the most cost and time. Hard tooling or production tooling is ideal for complying with strict tolerance requirements, function standards, and specifications.

Hard tools can handle mass production of parts because they are made with sturdy metals like steel or nickel alloys capable of withstanding several production cycles. However, production tooling takes longer to create because it requires additional machining, post-processing, and heat treatment to achieve the desired finish.

Here are typical examples of hard tooling used in manufacturing:

  • Injection Molds

Injection molds are typical tooling types often made of steel or alloy steel blocks. It is a two-part core and cavity closed tightly by hydraulic pressure. You must melt plastic pellets and pump them into the cavity under high pressure to create items inside the mold.

Then, you would have to separate the two sides of the mold to extract the plastic molded component after cooling. At this stage, the part is ready for post-processing or assembly. This post-processing helps to remove leftover plastic bits from the injection point. Moreover, compatible surface finishing includes chrome plating, printing, or painting.

  • Blow Molds

This type of tooling is more straightforward to manufacture than an injection mold since it only requires a cavity and doesn’t need a core. When making blow molds, the two halves of the blow mold compress against a curtain of melted, flexible plastic, trapping it within the mold.

You have to blast air into the plastic curtain’s center as it melts, pushing it against the walls of the mold to take the form of the finished parts while a small injector is fixed between the parts. The product has a hollow interior as you remove it from the mold. Manufacturers make different bottles using blow molds.

  • Rotational Molds

Rotational or Roto molds have similar characteristics as blow molds. When using roto molds, you must place a predetermined quantity of plastic pellets within the mold and close it. The plastic melts and spreads to fill the interior of the mold while it rotates.

Although this technique takes longer than the molding techniques mentioned earlier, it is ideal for making large components and sections with thicker wall requirements.

Strategies for Balancing Cost and Quality

product manufacturing by production tooling
Product Manufacturing by Production Tooling

Maintaining a balance between cost and quality in production tooling has been challenging for many manufacturers. Although cost-effectiveness is critical to competitiveness in the manufacturing world, you must maintain high-quality standards to meet customer demands and stringent quality standards. Below are some strategies that help to balance project costs with quality in production tooling:

Cost Benefit Analysis

Perform thorough cost analysis for various tooling options to ensure an equilibrium between production cost and quality. Examine the upfront investment, operational and maintenance costs, and possible effects on product quality. Consider the long-term benefits of superior-quality tooling relative to increased productivity, reduced downtime, and improved product consistency.

Consistent Improvement

You can also maintain continuous improvement in the production process by regularly assessing and identifying opportunities for optimizing efficiency, mitigating waste, and enhancing tool performance without sacrificing quality.

Partner With Suppliers

Establish productive partnerships with tooling suppliers to balance cost with quality. Collaborate with suppliers to explore cost-effective options, bargain favorable terms, and ensure a continuous supply of high-quality tooling and components.

Invest in Technology

Embrace revolution in technology to optimize efficiency and effectiveness in manufacturing. The Industry 4.0 solutions facilitate better cost reduction and decision-making. This technology encourages automation which boosts performance and production.

Predictive Maintenance

Establish predictive maintenance practices to identify potential complications with production tooling before the occurence of serious breakdowns. You can predict maintenance needs and avoid unwanted downtime through regular inspections, monitoring, and data analytics.

Quality Management Systems

Establish reliable quality management systems to monitor and control the quality of production tooling. As such, you must adhere to industry standards and implement quality checkpoints throughout production.

Choosing the Right Tooling Solutions

production by at machining
Production By AT-Machining

We will examine helpful tips for choosing the right tooling solutions in manufacturing below:

Material Compatibility

You must ensure the production tooling’s material is compatible with the workpiece material. Various materials may require specialized tools coated with specific coatings to achieve optimal tool life and peak performance.

Consider Tool Life and Longevity

It would help to evaluate the expected tool life and longevity of the chosen tooling solutions, as tools with extended lifespans may have higher initial costs. However, these tools can offer cost-saving benefits along the line by reducing the frequency of downtime or replacements.

Identify Production Requirement

Understanding production requirements, including machining material, required tolerances, preferred production volumes, and outcomes, will help choose the ideal tooling solutions in manufacturing. It helps to select the tooling solutions that match the specific needs of your project.

Precision and Tolerance Requirements

When choosing a tooling solution, ensure to examine the precision and tolerance requirements of the manufacturing process. It helps to achieve consistency in the specifications of the products and ensure overall quality.

Ease of Maintenance

The ease of maintenance for the chosen tooling solution is another important factor. You can avoid downtime and optimize overall operational efficiency when you use tools that are easy to maintain.

AT-Machining’s Approach to Tooling

at machining
at machining

AT-Machining is your one-stop CNC machine shop, fully committed to ensuring excellence in workmanship. As your trusted CNC manufacturer, we collaborate with each client to discuss the tooling cost calculation and identify the ideal solution. We are ISO certified: trust us to deliver superior-quality tooling that meets your design requirements. From prototyping to full production, we ensure the tooling costs and timelines remain within the desired margin.

We leverage our expertise to achieve the highest quality tooling while maintaining cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today to discuss the details of your project with an expert. Upload your CAD files today for an instant quote.


Proper tooling in manufacturing is vital for ensuring consistency of quality and minimal wastage in large-scale manufacturing. You must understand everything about production tooling to choose cost-effective tooling that offers the desired quality and performance for manufacturing projects. However, this guide has discussed everything you need to know about the topic.

Working with professionals will ensure you get the best results regardless of your project’s complexity. That’s why you should always trust AT Machining with your custom machining needs. Out experts are always ready to deliver the best results in custom tooling and other related capabilities. Contact us today, and let’s get your project on the road!

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