How to Bridge the Gap with Aluminum Tooling

Whether you call it bridge tooling, soft tooling, pilot production, semi-production or aluminum production tooling, it still refers to producing pre-production quantities of plastic products with potential final part volumes in the millions.

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Imagine taking a doomed mold project made out of steel and turning it into a success using aluminum bridge tooling that can produce 800,000 parts, saving the customer more than $100,000. 

Whether you call it bridge tooling, soft tooling, pilot production, semi-production or aluminum production tooling, it still refers to producing pre-production quantities of plastic products with potential final part volumes in the millions.

Selecting the appropriate plastic prototyping method is essential to how successful a project will be in crossing into full production. Using aluminum bridge tooling for rapid injection molding can help save a project’s timeline.

Although all customer needs are different, aluminum materials for injection molding have the necessary properties to accommodate many applications. Aluminum has the strength, stability and high density to compete with many of today’s steel alloys, because its main ingredients are zinc, magnesium and copper, along with chromium and titanium.

Oftentimes, designers and engineers are forced to go with the most inexpensive plastic prototyping option. While this offers an initial cost savings, it is lost in the long run because no knowledge was gained beyond fit and function that may have helped troubleshoot possible processing issues once the job was in full production.  

An aluminum mold as a bridge tool can save a project by detecting any processing issues that arise from design and resin selection, such as warpage. These issues can then be solved quickly and efficiently due to aluminum’s superior thermal conductivity as compared to steel. Aluminum heats and cools more efficiently, therefore resins process more efficiently, yielding less warpage concerns in the molded part. If the design is being finalized for full production, the production tool will be better equipped to “plug and play” from the early learning process. 

Bridge tooling with aluminum and aluminum alloys allows you to create a plastic prototype that often does not cost much more than an additive or subtractive short-run technique. You can get the desired design and resin, and more than 1 million units of the needed product (bulk runs bring the piece cost down even further). Case-hardening can produce even higher quantities of parts and enhance the opportunities to mold glass-filled resins. Aluminum tooling also is a great low-cost alternative to steel tooling for lower production quantities. It also allows the grouping of similar components within a family tool, yielding greater cost savings. In addition, aluminum tooling allows for faster mold changes as it heats up and cools down much faster than steel molds.

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