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What is soft tool and hard tool?
Soft tool is the tool made of pre-harden steel, it is an economic solution for a small volume production. It has advantages of low cost and fast turn around, but pre-harden steel is a lower grades steel that process lower hardness and wear resistance, so the soft tool can only stand molding cycles no more than 500k shots, it's also difficult to maintain tight tolerances.
Hard tool is a high quality tooling for mass production, it's made of the best quality steel, like H13,420 etc. Hard tool requires more procedure and longer time to manufacture.
Difference between soft tool and hard tool
- The tool's inserts are made of P20 or 718, (pre-harden steel).
- Inserts can be drill, mill and grind using normal process of machining.
- The tool life is guarantee up to 500 K shot.
- The lead-time of manufacture is shorter than hard tool.
- For prototyping, medium or low volume production.
- The tool's inserts are made using H13 or Stavax (harden to 46 -54 HRC).
- Inserts can be drill & mill, but after hardening special process will be required.
- The tool life is up to 1 million shots.
- The lead-time of manufacture is longer than soft tool due to the heat treatment process and extra machining job.
- For high precision parts and high volume injection molding.
Usually price of hard tool could be many times of soft tool, it is could be a huge risk if you invest a big amount on tooling without a marketing test, plus, hard tool require much more time to get the parts, sometimes, there are just not possible for you to wait 2-3 month to get the samples. Soft tool is different, it can be flexible on both manufacturing time and price as long as you specify your requirement in details to tool makers