Since manufacturers first made the transition from on-demand to mass production, the role of those engaged in tool, jig and die making has become an increasingly important one. Both then and today, these specialised artisans have been required to provide a growing range of equipment needed to perform such machining tasks as pressing, turning and drilling for companies that, in turn, needed them in order to produce various parts and products in quantities sufficient to satisfy the constantly rising demands. In addition to the three types of item referred to in the title, these specialists also supply gauges and other measuring devices that are equally necessary for the production of precision components.
The need to fashion a piece of raw material into a finished item according to some prescribed design and dimensions gives rise to three main requirements that vary according to the actual manufacturing process that must be applied. In the case of stamping a component to shape under pressure, the need is for a solid surface that bears all of the indentations and contours necessary to shape the workpiece so as to conform to the required impression. This is known as a die and may be used in conjunction with a punch to perform fine blanking operations.
Likewise, a variety of sharp tools may be required as the means to create the desired profiles by means of a turning operation on an automated lathe. Finally, the typical tool, jig and die making company will often be called upon to provide suitable assemblies that are designed to hold a workpiece firmly in position and perhaps to act as a guide for the various cutters or drill bits that will be used during turning and other types of machining. These structures are collectively known as jigs.
With the demand for a much higher degree of precision than in past times now commonplace among the manufacturers of components for industries such as aviation and medicine, these specialised toolmakers face a greater challenge. Often the items they must supply have to be engineered to tolerances of less than a thousandth of an inch as well as to being required perform effectively with a range of modern materials that, at one time, did not even exist.
Just as the task of producing consumer products is now largely a fully automated one, the once manual activities of those providing the fundamental but vital components has also undergone a technological revolution. Tool, jig and die making now uses computer aided design and manufacturing software with computer numerical control to satisfy the much increased demands by industries using the very same technology to serve its consumers.