Direct tools/molds are a cost effective solution for projects requiring short run production of only a few parts. A direct tool is very similar in construction to a pattern/plug but additional steps are added to stabilize the final machined tooling surface. Direct tools can be great alternative to the two-step process of a plug/pattern and then a production tool. In this case the direct tool is a one-step process, with the mold face being machined with higher accuracy then a second generation production mold.
Advantages of Direct Tools
Great for one-offs or prototypes
Uncertainty of market demand
Disadvantages of Direct Tools
The disadvantage to a direct tool is that it is considered a “soft tool”. The tool will have limited life depending on the tool geometry, laminate process, and care/use of the tool but some of BVC’s customers have had as many as 50 cycles, with little or no repairs. Direct tools can be used in a variety of laminate processes including Open Mold/Hand-Lay-up, Wet bagging, and Vacuum Infusion. Even with some of our larger tools they were also used as an assembly fixture/jig.