The phrase "tool and die" is applied to describe much of the traditional work and products of the special tooling and machining industry. The various types of dies generally are made up of two halves, an upper and lower portion. Material is placed between these upper and lower halves and is cut, shaped or formed by the die and the two portions are closed upon the material. These dies, which are made by some of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the world, are used in machine tools such as stamping presses or forging presses. Automobile fenders, aspirin tablets, coins, and easy-open can tops are some familiar products that are processed by dies. Dies allow a great many identical, interchangeable parts to be made from the same set of tooling.
Very large stamping dies, such as those used to produce automobile components, begin with a computer designed model. They are then finished and ground by skilled craftsmen and sophisticated machine tools to exacting tolerances.
One set of these large dies may weigh up to one hundred tons or more and will produce many hundreds of thousands of identical, interchangeable parts.
Stamping dies can be used to make large quantities of dependable parts from sheet metal in an almost infinite variety of shapes and sizes. Since the costs of producing the tooling are spread out overlong production runs, unit part costs are kept to a minimum. In addition, each part produced by the same die is identical, quality of the finished parts is completely uniform, and replacement is simple.
Everyday items often taken for granted are triumphs of tool engineering. High production does often run continuously for three shifts per day, five or six days per week, and may produce over one million units before requiring maintenance or re-sharpening.