Posts Tagged ‘dies’

What is a DIe Maker?

So are these die makers?

Tool and die makers are machinists in manufacturing industries who make jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, machine tools, cutting tools, gauges, and other tools used in manufacturing processes. A machinist may be called by various names depending on which area of concentration a particular person works in, such as tool maker or die maker.

Tool and die makers work primarily in tool room environments but more often are in a workshop environment. They are skilled artisans who typically learn their trade through a combination of school and hands-on instruction, with a long period of on-the-job training. Science and art are mixed into their work as well as some engineering concepts. Mechanical engineers and tool and die makers often work closely to design parts and make sure all facets of the job can be completed properly. Both careers involve some level of talent in both creativity and math-and-science. Being a job-shop machinist can combine aspects of toolmaker and production machinist. Some will work solely as machine operators, while others may switch fluidly between tool room tasks and production tasks.

Working from engineering drawings, toolmakers begin by cutting out the design on the raw material, then cut/grind the material to the specified size and shape using manually controlled machine tools (lathes, mills, ID and OD grinding machines, and jig grinders), power tools (die grinders and rotary tools), and hand tools (diamond files, diamond powders and honing stones). Materials used in tool and dies range from steel to tungsten carbide.

Tool and die makers have increasingly had to add computer skills to their daily work, since the addition of computing in the manufacturing fields (CNC, CAD, CAM, and other computer-aided technologies). Today’s tool and die makers are often required to have mastered all of the traditional skills plus substantial digital skills. The combination of hands on skilled labor and digital knowledge make tool and die production a formidable task to master, and one that pays well if mastered!

Tool making
Tool making basically means making tooling used to produce products, or making parts that make parts. Frequently made tools include metal forming rolls, lathe bits, cutters, and fixtures. Due to the unique nature of a toolmaker’s work, it is often necessary to fabricate custom tools or modify standard tools.

Die making
Die making is a sub sect of tool making that focuses mostly on making and maintaining dies. This often includes making punches, dies, draw dies, extrusion dies and carbide dies. Precision is the key to die making. When making dies there will be extremely close tolerances that the machinist must keep the parts within, as dies are usually precise manufacturing tools. Punches and dies must maintain proper clearance to produce parts accurately, and it is often necessary to have die sets machined with tolerances of less than one thousandth of an inch!

Overlap
A veteran machinist may be called upon to perform all of the above jobs, and the skills and concepts involved often overlap, which is why “tool and die making” is commonly viewed as a single field.

Training
Many tool and die makers begin an apprenticeship with an employer, sometimes including a mix of classroom training and hands-on experience. Prior knowledge of mathematics, science, engineering or design and technology can be valuable to any new machinist. A lot of tool and die makers work a 4-5 year apprenticeship program to achieve the status of a journeyman tool and die maker. Today’s employment opportunities often differ in name and detail from the traditional arrangement of an apprenticeship. The terms “apprentice” and “journeyman” are not always used, but the idea of a period of years of on-the-job training to master the field still applies for new machinists.

In the United States, tool and die makers who graduate from NTMA (National Tooling and Machining Association) take 4 years of college courses as well as work 10,000 hours in order to complete their apprenticeship. They are also accredited through the U.S. Department of Labor.

Jig/fixture maker
A jig and fixture maker is a type of tool and die maker/toolmaker. The difference between jigs and fixtures is that a jig is what mounts onto a work piece, and a fixture has the work piece placed on it, into it, or next to it. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

An engineer often advises them. Knowledge of various materials is necessary beyond standard wood and metal, such as plastics. Jig/fixture makers also can create, design and build fixtures without engineering plans/blueprints.

Jig/fixture makers gain hands on practical experience while monitoring and making alterations as the engineer improves the manufacturing process. They also can be required to make these adjustments without the help of an engineer, depending on the size and resources of the company. Some Jigs and fixtures require electronic and pneumatic actuation, which will involve knowledge/training in these fields as well.

Properly built jigs and fixtures reduce waste by insuring perfectly fitting parts, reducing adjustments needed to fix the problem. Jigs and fixtures can be as big as a car or be held in hand. Production needs dictate form and function. Jigs, fixtures and gages are necessary to maintain quality standards for repeated low and high volume production demands.

The continued advancement of computerized design and control technologies, such as CAD/CAM, CNC, PLC, and others, has reduced the use of jigs in manufacturing. However, all the computer run machines need some sort of clamping fixture to hold parts for production runs. For example, a drill jig is not needed to guide drill bits to the hole centers if a CNC is used, since it is Computer Numerically Controlled. However, fixtures are still needed to hold the parts in place for the operation needed. Jigs are currently needed in many areas of manufacturing but mainly for low-volume production.

More Information About Tool & Die Makers:
How to become a Die Maker
Where are Carbide Die Companies Located?
Carbide Die Makers – What they make, there compensation and job outlook for die makers.

Carbide Dies

Carbide Dies

Tungsten demand is sensitive to the economic conditions of the world due to its heavy end use applications in machinery and steel. Over the past year, tungsten prices have reflected a Chinese economy that is slowing. In 2012, tungsten is estimated to have contracted. The rapid increase of price in 2011 cause many consumers to build inventories of tungsten. APT prices averaged $318/mtu in December 2012, according to Metal Pages, which is the lowest level since December 2010. CPM Group expects tungsten demand to continue to grow supported by China’s economic conditions, although at a slower pace than previous years.
Approximately eighty-five percent of tungsten produced globally is produced in China. As part of China’s long-term plans for economic development, mining policies have been introduced over the years. Although the Chinese government has attempted to make the market more transparent, the market remains obscure. A shift in Chinese tariff or export policies could restructure the market in the future.
Both Chinese and non-Chinese producers are expected to come on-stream in the next few years creating a healthy outlook to the tungsten market. Projects in Vietnam, South Korea and Britain will create additional supply and could keep a cap on the tungsten prices. Tungsten’s unique physical properties and lack of worthwhile substitutes should help support demand, as well as prices, despite the growth in supply.