Precision Tool and Die Making

tool and dieTool 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 day.

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

  • Coordinate measuring machines

  • Dial indicators

  • Pin gage sets

  • Gage block sets

  • Optical comparators

  • Granite surface plates

  • Precision micrometers

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.






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