As the old proverb goes, “In the time of test, family is best.'' Unless that family consists of different thermoformed parts together on the same tool! Let’s explore family molds and why the use of family tooling is not something we suggest.
Family Tooling: The Good
We suppose if there is one benefit to family tooling, it may be the potential cost savings. Your customer pays for one tool and you produce multiple parts. What could go wrong?
Family Tooling: The Bad
What if that tool breaks? Now you can’t produce any of the parts the customer needs. If you had one tool, you could stay in production while the broken tool is repaired. What if the customer wants to make a change to the part but, because of the layout, it’s not possible? You may be looking at new tools for all of the parts. Try explaining that to the customer.
Family Tooling: The Ugly
Even if the tool lasts a lifetime and the customer never makes a change, there’s always a chance you’ll run into forming issues on one of these parts. Or maybe the customer only needs one of the parts for the next few months. Or worse, the customer obsoletes a part or two. So now what? It’s decision time. Do you:
- Keep producing parts with an increased scrap rate?
- Waste countless hours of production making tweaks and hoping something works?
- Cut the tool up to salvage what you can (good luck)?
- Tell the customer you can’t deliver?
None of these are decisions a thermoformer wants to make. To avoid the headache, we suggest using multiple cavity tools only when it’s of the same part. Even if you encounter one of the issues above, you’ll have a better chance of saving the project.