Need More than a Prototype but not Ready for a High Volume Production Mold?

July 14, 2016

Stuck in the middle?…not a bad place to be


Need more than a prototype but not ready for a high volume production mold? Take a look in the middle. Hybrid or bridge tooling may be your answer.

Over the past decade there has been significant advancements that greatly effect traditional prototype/low volume mold construction. It’s not a one key fits all solution anymore, so let’s clarify and give some direction to help you navigate through the mold maze.
First things first, you need to answer the basics:

1) What is your estimated yearly volume?
2) What is the lifespan of the program?
3) What resin will be used specifically?

With this information, along with 3D cad file and print identifying all critical dimensions, a reputable mold builder/molder can quote a best-fit tooling solution that will achieve quality requirements and provide a tool life that doesn’t fall short of the program lifespan. You don’t want to pay for a 1 million part tool life and occur a 12 week lead time when you only require 150k tool life with a much faster lead time.

Your prototype /low volume molder should have all the protocols and procedures of a production molder, as this will be your production molder so audit and select carefully. They should be offering in-house mold construction with experience on hybrid/ bridge tooling. In most cases this can fill your prototype requirements allowing engineering changes move on through validation and meet your production requirements.


Having the tooling built in house (mold builder and molder are same) is preferable as it eliminates finger pointing and helps hold tight timelines.

Mold design software has come a long way with draft analysis and parting line split tools allowing quick efficient DFM, (design for manufacture) while tools such as electrode and cam split save the designer time, to quickly and efficiently design a mold in 3d getting it on the shop floor for construction within days.

Shops with high speed machining centers have two major benefits, (1) they can cut hard steel eliminating many post heat treat procedures while maintaining a superior surface finish reducing benching/polishing time (2) With high Spindle RPM’s very small cutter diameters can be used in many cases omitting the need for EDM procedures, both decreasing deliveries and cost. Late model CNC EDM machines offer benefits for quick turn mold construction as well, there metal removal rate is much faster than older manual machines and leave a better surface finish reducing or eliminating the need for benching or polishing procedures. In most cases light texturing such as MT11020 can be achieved with an equivalent EDM finish eliminating the need for costly texturing procedure and reducing deliveries as well.


Preferably the molding equipment should have gone through an IQ/OQ (install qualification/operational qualification) process, and some type of standard validation procedure should be in place, as well as scientific molding practices should be followed. All basic production procedures should be in place as well as all employees following the cGMP guidelines.

Below is an image of a single cavity hybrid (class I unit mold) created in Solidworks, describing the options/benefits of this type of tooling.

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