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Tool and die making

Understanding tool and die making

Many machinists refer to the field as “tool and die” regardless of their specific expertise because the terms are used interchangeably. While there is little functional difference between a tool and a die, and most machinists are capable of tool and die making, there are some nuances to the terms used in industry, so it’s worth breaking them down.

The most basic distinction between a tool and a die is that dies are a subset of tools – all dies are tools, but not all tools are dies. A tool in metal stamping can be almost any mechanical device used to cut, form, support, or mould metals. Jigs and fixtures, drills and cutting blades are tools by that definition. On the other hand, dies are only those tools that change the shape of the metal functionally. Die is the female component of a larger tool or press.

Types of die

In tool and die making, several terms are used to classify dies, some of which are more general than others.

At the most basic level, dies can be distinguished by their ability to cut or form the stock material. For example, a cutting die is any die that removes, cuts, or shears material, regardless of mechanism, whereas a forming die does not remove anything. Another helpful way to categorise dies is to consider what happens with each press stroke as part of the overall tooling process.

Simple dies

A simple die performs only one cutting or forming action per stroke. These specialised machines can be economical for simple designs, but they are inefficient when multiple forming actions are required.

Compound dies

Compound dies perform multiple cutting and forming actions with a single stroke. Although combining operations slows the stroke, compound dies are more efficient during the tool and die-making process and reduce the possibility of errors when transferring a workpiece between multiple stations. These dies are typically less expensive than progressive dies.

Progressive dies

Progressive dies are one of the most efficient ways to perform multiple operations on a single blank. Rather than performing operations simultaneously, the modifications take place at different stations as a feeding mechanism continuously pushes metal into the die. Each stroke initiates multiple cutting or forming actions applied to various segments of the workpiece, each of which will become its own finished component. The final station removes a completed component from the longer workpiece, implying that each stroke produces one or more parts while others are being processed.

Transfer dies

Transfer dies, like progressive dies, start with pre-cut blanks that must be mechanically transferred between stations rather than using a single continuously-fed metal strip. The transfer action is frequently provided by conveyor belts or transfer fingers. As a result, a transfer die allows for increased efficiency even when working with larger or more complex parts that aren’t compatible with progressive die-cutting.

Multiple dies

A gang press, also known as a multiple die press, is distinguished by the fact that it produces multiple components with each stroke of the press. Typically, this necessitates connecting several identical dies to the exact control mechanism so they can operate in sync with one another.

Die components

Though there are differences between categories, particularly between cutting and forming dies, most dies share the following components:

  • Die block: The die block is like a mould with holes and indentations corresponding to the component’s desired shape. The punch or press depresses the piece into the die block to achieve the desired shape during tool and die making. This is usually the female portion of the die.
  • Die holder: The die block is supported by a die holder, which is supported by a bolster plate. These components are attached to either the upper or lower die shoe.
  • Punch plate: The punch plate connects the punching component to the ram, propelling it forward.
  • Punch: The punch is the male portion of the die that forces a conformational change on the workpiece.
  • Stripper plate: After each stroke, the stripper plate aids in separating the workpiece from the punch.
  • Guide pin: To precisely align the upper and lower halves of a die, guide pins are required.
  • Back-up/pressure plates: Various pressure plates are installed in the die to distribute the punch’s extreme pressure.

Male vs female dies

It’s worth clarifying what male and female dies mean in the tool and die-making process.

The male component, like in electronics, is the protruding component, while the female component is the depression or indentation.

For example, the male punch is driven into the die block to cut or form the workpiece in the context of metal stamping. On the other hand, the corresponding female part defines the component’s shape and contains the die block indentations into which the workpiece is pressed. However, the female portion is not always made up of solid cavities, and holes can be useful for clearing sheared or drilled metal easily.

Unless the operation only uses a single die, the male portion will likely consist of multiple steel cutting or forming punches, with the female pieces matching the male pattern.

Contact Endres Dies & Moulds South Africa for details

Endres Dies & Moulds offers a turnkey tool and die-making service. We specialise in designing and manufacturing highly complex dies and tools using the most advanced CNC equipment available. If you need custom tool and die making that are precise and affordable, our capabilities and equipment allow us to handle high-volume production runs and complex technical challenges while maintaining short lead times and competitive pricing. In addition, we can produce single dies for internal use or serve as a full-service manufacturing partner. Please contact us today for more information.

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