Precision Tool and Die Making
Tool and die making is a term that most people have heard, yet actually know
almost nothing about. Yet we all benefit from the expertise of these highly skilled craftsmen each and every
What is tool and die making?
One thing it is not: these guys don't make wrenches and stuff. That is the typical
response from laymen, which is truthfully rather annoying. Here you have individuals who have worked maybe 4 years
as an apprentice, and had two years of technical school and they are so unappreciated!
A tool and die maker makes the things that make other things. Just imagine a cookie
cutter at home. You roll out the dough and push the cookie cutter into the dough to create a cookie. The cookie
cutter is the tool, or die. The person who made the cookie cutter is the tool and die maker, or toolmaker. You are
the machine operator, and I, the consumer, get to eat the cookie!
Now, ramp this example up to the level of all those metal parts around you right now.
Your chair, the lamp, your belt or handbag buckle, the window frame, the metal bookshelf, the sink,the toilet paper
holder, and on and on and on.
A toolmaker used highly sophisticated machines to make the machine that makes the
cookie cutter, or sink or whatever. A CNC machine shop is full of 5 axis milling machines, vertical machining
centers, CNC lathes, EDMs', WEDM's and all kinds of inspection equipment.
The tool that he makes can produce maybe a million parts before it wears out. This is
why things don't cost more than they do-mass production.
The tool and die maker is capable of using these machines, plus he has the ability to
finish the tools by hand. No matter how capable these machines are, there is always the remaining percentage that
must be done manually.
Old School and New School tool and die making
Not so many years ago toolmaking was done in small, garage type shops all across the
country. All you needed to get set up was a Bridgeport milling machine, surface grinder, a lathe and a lot of
ambition. Then came Wire electrical discharge machining, or WEDM, and globalization.
WEDM took a huge amount of work from the hands of a toolmaker and did it faster and
better. At first this was good for the boss, but bad for the toolmakers. But it soon became apparent that the work
was only going to become more complex, with much shorter delivery dates.
Now the skill focus changed and the tool and die maker had even more work than
before, just of a different kind.
With the increase in quality levels and the demands for closer tolerance work came
the need for faster and better precision measurement. The new school is all about faster, better, more complex.
Typical measuring tools
The need for precision has never been greater. Companies compete to be the first one
in the marketplace, and need fast results. With companies working together from across the country and around the
globe, the need for highly accurate work demands near perfection.