Forming dies are typically made by tool and die makers and put into production after mounting into a press. The die is a metal block that is used for forming materials like sheet metal and plastic. For the vacuum forming of plastic sheet only a single form is used, typically to form transparent plastic containers (called blister packs) for merchandise. Vacuum forming is considered a simple molding thermoforming process but uses the same principles as die forming. For the forming of sheet metal, such as automobile body parts, two parts may be used: one, called the punch, performs the stretching, bending, and/or blanking operation, while another part that is called the die block securely clamps the workpiece and provides similar stretching, bending, and/or blanking operation. The workpiece may pass through several stages using different tools or operations to obtain the final form. In the case of an automotive component there will usually be a shearing operation after the main forming is done and then additional crimping or rolling operations to ensure that all sharp edges are hidden and to add rigidity to the panel.
The main components for die tool sets are:
Steel-rule die, also known as cookie cutter dies, are used for cutting sheet metal and softer materials, such as plastics, wood, cork, felt, fabrics, and paperboard. The cutting surface of the die is the edge of hardened steel strips, known as steel rule. These steel rules are usually located using saw or laser-cut grooves in plywood. The mating die can be a flat piece of hardwood or steel, a male shape that matches the workpiece profile, or it can have a matching groove that allows the rule to nest into. Rubber strips are wedged in with the steel rule to act as the stripper plate; the rubber compresses on the down-stroke and on the up-stroke it pushes the workpiece out of the die. The main advantage of steel-rule dies is the low cost to make them, as compared to solid dies; however, they are not as robust as solid dies, so they are usually only used for short production runs.
A steel-rule die
A steel-rule die