rapid tooling service

Rapid Tooling & Prototype Molding Services

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Rapid Tooling Services

Rapid tooling, sometimes known as prototype tooling or bridge tooling, is a fast and cost-efficient way to carry out low-volume injection molding for a variety of types of plastic parts. Once the aluminum or steel mold has been created with the rapid tooling process, it can be utilized as part of a molding process to create multiple copies of a part. Rapid tooling is therefore used to create moldings for rapid prototyping needs in a shortened timeframe, or to bridge the gap before high-volume production.

At 3ERP, we combine our experience, engineering capabilities and advanced technology to produce high-quality rapid tooling solutions for prototypes and short production runs. Our team works directly with each customer to ensure that we create the perfect solution. Our experience speaks for itself. The team at 3ERP is well-equipped to handle your rapid tooling and mass production mold making requirements. If you are ready to start mass production, learn more out our injection molding services.

No MMQ Economy of Scale

Economy of Scale

In most cases, rapid tooling is the most cost-effective option for an order of 100–2,000 units: too many for 3D printing, CNC machining, or urethane casting, but not enough to justify mass production tooling.

Quality Guaranteed Top Quality

Top Quality

From prototype mold, we can produce high-quality moldings which are very close to mass production, or 100% matching the final production level.

material options icon Material Options

Material Options

Whatever material is available for injection molding can also be molded by rapid tooling. A wide range of material options is, therefore, one of the core benefits of the process.

 Customizable Finishing

Customizable Finishing

With rapid injection molding, we can tailor molds to produce different finishes including smooth, glossy, and textured. Further finishing procedures such as painting, chroming, and silk-screening can then be applied to the moldings.

See why our customers love us

Every quarter, we order approximately 20 sets of plastic enclosures for our device from 3ERP. The enclosures were initially made by urethane casting, but Ronan came back to me with the idea of using an aluminum mold, which allowed me to get a few hundred moldings. We decided to move to this process. The T1 samples weren’t good enough, as we got some shrink marks, but this was quickly sorted out when we received the T2 samples.

Although we had to invest more for the mold, we now save 70% compared with urethane casting, and we can use UV-resistant ABS to keep the color stable. Overall, I am very happy with the solution.

Christian - Design Engineer
Design Engineer

Two months ago, I was super stressed by an urgent plastic molding project. Our customer desperately wanted 100 sets at very short notice in order to run testing with real materials, even though normal production would have taken more than six months. None of our preferred moldmaking suppliers could help us, given the deadline. Luckily, one of my friends recommended 3ERP to us by chance.

3ERP has a fantastic mold design team. They managed to finish the mold design within 10 days and started to fabricate the molds right after that. I was surprised that more than 60 items, including some big parts, were completed to a decent standard within two months. Our customers eventually received the moldings to run their testing. 3ERP saved our business!

David Roberts - Design Engineer
David Roberts
Design Engineer

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Benefits of Rapid Tooling

Rapid production tooling gives a number of advantages over other mothods of prototype production:

  • Fast processing: Prototype tooling provides quick results, so the transition between development and production is very short.
  • Customization: The rapid tooling process still allows for advanced customization of the mold.
  • Proof of concept/testing: Rapid prototyping facilitates practical real-world design testing and troubleshooting solutions. It also enables quick and precise production of new tooling that implements design changes and improvements.
  • Speed to market: Fast production and accurate tooling contribute to efficiency in production, ultimately providing a faster introduction to the market than other methods.
  • Competitive pricing: The affordability of the rapid tooling process translates into a positive impact on the bottom line for our customers.

The Rapid Tooling Process

The rapid tooling process involves the creation of a mold using aluminum or soft steel, a stocked mold base, and hand-load inserts. Rapid tooling is one of the best methods for fulfilling small batch orders meant for use in marketing samples, product evaluations, and process design.

Traditional tooling is often prohibitively expensive for small projects. Our custom rapid tooling service is a cost-effective, low-volume alternative in situations where large volumes of the part won’t be needed in the future. The rapid production tooling process is commonly used in industrial settings for prototyping solutions or for diagnosing design issues, providing an easy introduction to mold making.

At 3ERP, we typically create rapid molds by CNC machining and EDM, though we also sometimes use additive methods such as 3D printing technologies.

Aluminum Mold or Steel Mold? Pros and Cons

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Aluminum Mold Tooling

An ideal choice for prototyping, aluminum mold tooling provides a cost-effective way to produce molded parts. Since they are easy to cut, aluminum molds can reduce tooling costs by 15–25% compared to other mold materials and reduce cycle times by up to 40%. This translates to a faster turnaround for our customers.

Aluminum evenly dissipates heat, which provides dimensional stability in tooling. This significantly reduces deformation and produces less waste during the production process. It is important to note that aluminum is not as strong as steel, so it has a shorter life cycle and is less useful in high-volume processes.

Rapid Tooling & Mold Making Projects

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Rapid Tooling for Tail Light Project

Can you imagine attempting to make prototype tools for over 30 components in just two months? Our customer desperately needed 200-300 sets of tail lights for testing, but mass production tools wouldn’t have been ready for eight months. They needed a solution to get good quality moldings by their deadline and at a much lower cost than production tools. 

For this tail light project, we needed to fabricate a housing, reflector, light guide, bezel, an outer lens, and other components in a short period of time. The overall assembly size was about 600 x 400 x 150 mm, which is relatively large and the customer wanted to test real materials. In this case, 3D printing, CNC machining, and vacuum casting were not suitable, so prototype molding was the only option. Click to view this case

Rapid Tooling FAQ

Why should I use rapid tooling?

Rapid tooling is a fast and cost-efficient way to create a few prototypes in a selected material for function and aspect testing, as well as for low-volume manufacturing to test out the market.

How fast can I get the moldings?

This depends on the size and geometry of the parts. For a common open and shut mold with regular size part such as 300 x 300 x 50 mm, fabrication of tools and moldings can be done within 10 days.

What materials can I choose from with rapid tooling?

There is no limit to material choice. Any plastics available for mass production, including common silicone and rubber materials, can also be used with the rapid tooling process.

What is the quality level of rapid tooling?

Moldings from rapid tooling are end-use-parts quality. They are very close to mass production parts.

How many moldings can I get from rapid tooling?

Normally, aluminum molds are good enough for +/- 1,000 shots, while Steel P20 molds can last for +/- 10,000 shots.

Rapid Tooling Services from 3ERP

At 3ERP, we are pleased to provide superior rapid tooling services at highly competitive prices. Our services include both rapid aluminum tooling and steel tooling to support short production runs or high-volume runs. For more information on our custom rapid tooling prototypes, please contact us today.