Mold Design & Maintenance

Tool and die makers are among the most highly skilled workers in manufacturing. These workers produce tools, dies, and special guiding and holding devices that enable machines to manufacture a variety of products we use daily—from clothing and furniture to heavy equipment and parts for aircraft. Toolmakers craft precision tools and machines that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They also produce jigs and fixtures (devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled) and gauges and other measuring devices. Die makers construct metal forms (dies) that are used to shape metal in stamping and forging operations. They also make metal molds for diecasting and for molding plastics, ceramics, and composite materials. Some tool and die makers craft prototypes of parts, and then determine how best to manufacture the part. In addition to developing, designing, and producing new tools and dies, these workers also may repair worn or damaged tools, dies, gauges, jigs, and fixtures.

Modern technology has changed the ways in which tool and die makers perform their jobs. Today, for example, these workers often use computer-aided design (CAD) to develop products and parts. Specifications entered into computer programs can be used to electronically develop drawings for the required tools and dies. Numerical tool and process control programmers use computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs to convert electronic drawings into computer programs that contain instructions for a sequence of cutting tool operations. (See the statement on computer-control programmers and operators elsewhere in the Handbook.) Once these programs are developed, computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines follow the set of instructions contained in the program to produce the part. Computer-controlled machine tool operators or machinists normally operate CNC machines; however, tool and die makers are trained in both operating CNC machines and writing CNC programs, and they may perform either task. CNC programs are stored electronically for future use, saving time and increasing worker productivity.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Applicants with the appropriate skills and background should enjoy excellent opportunities for tool and die maker jobs. The number of workers receiving training in this occupation is expected to continue to be fewer than the number of openings created each year by tool and die makers who retire or transfer to other occupations. As more of these highly skilled workers retire, employers in certain parts of the country report difficulty attracting well-trained applicants. A major factor limiting the number of people entering the occupation is that many young people who have the educational and personal qualifications necessary to learn tool and die making may prefer to attend college or may not wish to enter production-related occupations.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is becoming an important part of the Tool & Die industry. The need for workers trained in this technology is increasing due to sophisticated equipment the industry in now using to be competitive.

Wages and Earning Potential:

Median hourly earnings of tool and die makers were $20.54 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $16.33 and $25.64. The lowest 10 percent had earnings of less than $12.97, while the top 10 percent earned more than $30.74. Median hourly earnings in the manufacturing industries employing the largest numbers of tool and die makers in 2002 are shown below.

Motor vehicle parts manufacturing $25.64
Metalworking machinery manufacturing 20.02
Forging and stamping 19.97
Plastics product manufacturing 19.79

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.