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Prototype Vs Production Tooling

We often get asked the questions “how many parts can a prototype tool produce?” and “can we support production from a prototype tool?”

The most important factor depends on how many parts do you need to produce? 10, 100, 1000, 10000 parts? Component quantity determines how the tool is designed and built.  (Small low volume parts might be built into bolster tool where as complex high volume parts may have steel inserts and automated processes built in to the tooling.)

The second question we ask is what material do you require?  This a key aspect in the process as a tool producing simple parts in ABS will extend the tool life, but highly complex parts processed using  PEEK, PPS or PPA will expect a lower lifespan. That said it's not uncommon for us to supply well into the 10's of thousands of parts without issue with these types of materials from our tooling.

Prototype Vs Production Tooling

How do we determine the difference between a prototype and production tool?

Every tool is different and projects can change at the drop of a hat so here are a few examples of prototype and production tooling...

If you have a low volume, highly complex component where the tool requires moving cores & lose inserts removing and refitting to the tool by hand, the cost of the component is going to be much higher than if the tool had a level of automation built into it enabling it to cycle more efficiently. We’d class this as a prototype tool.

However if a customer has a requirement for  50 to 100 mouldings per year  for 5 years  then investing in a fully automated tool would not be a viable option, so we would deem this as production tool as it matches the customers process and requirements.

The same applies visa versa; if we produce a tool that we class as prototype but it unexpectedly produces 100,000 parts due to extended product testing, new product introduction or it’s used as bridge tooling for example then we'd have to measure components, produce quality documentation & support production with process controls to ensure the part quality. We’d class this as a production tool.

Nothing however is set in stone, we have automotive and medical customers that request high volumes from our aluminium tooling yet they still deem this process as prototype as it suits their process and volumes are low in comparison to their full production volumes.

With all this taken into account we don't think there is a black and white answer to the quandary. Our flexible, no limits approach means we’ll happily discuss any prototype or production tooling project with an open mind.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on where you draw the line between prototype and production tooling, and discuss how our high quality aluminium tooling and mouldings would fit in to your processes. Please get in touch via info@rptechnologies.co.uk or 0121 550 5868 where our team of experts are on hand to answer your questions.

Tooling, Prototyping, Production