Tool and die makers make, repair and test dies, cutting tools, jigs, fixtures, gauges, prototypes and specialty tools. In some jurisdictions, they may also build moulds. They lay out, set up, machine, fit and finish metal components. They design and make items to meet exacting standards in dimensions, strength and hardness.
Tool and die makers use many of the same machining tools as machinists such as lathes, milling machines, saws, grinding machines, drilling machines, computer numerical control (CNC) machines and electrical discharge machines (EDM). They also use precision metal-working tools, hand tools and measuring equipment to ensure accuracy and close tolerances. They work from drawings, computer-aided designs, specifications and their own concepts to calculate dimensions, tolerances and types of fit. They must be knowledgeable about the properties of metal, plastic, rubber and composite materials. Tool and die makers work in tool rooms or machine shops in industries where manufacturing and research is done. These may include industries that specialize in hardware and tooling, machinery equipment, motor vehicle parts, aerospace parts, research and development, high tech equipment or medical equipment. Tool and die makers may also work in mould shops, shipyards, rail yards, refineries, pulp and paper mills, mines, smelters and overhaul shops.
Some tool and die makers may specialize in design, prototyping, heat treating, testing, jig and fixture fabrication, die fabrication, assembly, inspection and programming.
Safety is important at all times. There are risks of injury working with moving machine parts, flying chips, sharp edges and extreme heat from ignited and heated materials. Precautions are required while working with manufacturing chemicals and airborne irritants.
Key attributes for people entering this trade are: communication skills, mechanical aptitude, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, an ability to work independently and in teams, logical reasoning ability, an understanding of mathematics and physics, above average spatial ability and the ability to plan and think sequentially as well as multi-dimensionally. The work often requires considerable physical activity. Tool and die makers may work with other professionals such as machinists, mould makers, industrial mechanics (millwrights) and engineers.
Experienced tool and die makers may become business owners, managers or instructors. With additional training, they may transfer their skills to design and engineering responsibilities. Their skills are also transferable to related occupations such as machinist, mould maker, industrial mechanic (millwright) and CNC programmer.
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