Foundry Tooling Guide Cover

Want to buy foundry tooling better? This guide is for you.

We've created this guide to help make the often complicated process of buying foundry patterns easier. We'll cover...

  • How much a pattern costs (including hidden costs)
  • How to optimise your RFQs
  • Useful questions to ask your patternmaker
  • How to reduce the cost of your foundry tooling

...and more! So if you want to ensure the best quality, cost and value of your foundry tooling, get your free guide today!

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1. Balancing quality, cost and delivery
2. How much does a foundry pattern cost?
3. Foundry pattern price ranges
4. How can I reduce the cost of a foundry pattern?
5. How to get the best quote possible from your supplier
6. 5 common foundry pattern buying mistakes (& how to avoid them)
7. Great questions to ask your foundry tooling supplier 
8. The 4 hidden costs of foundry patterns

Balancing quality, cost and delivery

Patterns are (usually) a necessity for foundries, but they can be costly.

For buyers of patterns, there is a constant need to balance quality, cost and delivery to get the best value for money for your company. There are a multitude of factors to consider, including:

  • Pattern design, including moulding process and impression numbers
  • Specification, particularly pattern material
  • Intended tool life
  • Initial outlay vs budget
  • Required lead time

After reading this guide, you'll know how best to balance these considerations. That's buying foundry tooling better!

How Much does a Foundry Pattern Cost?

How much is your foundry pattern going to cost?

It all depends on your specification; just as every casting is unique, so is every pattern.

The five elements of your specification that affect pattern cost are: the process; the casting geometry; the pattern material; pattern impressions; and construction.

  • The Process

Usually determined by the required volume of castings. Simple patterns for handmoulding are the cheapest, whilst volume production tools are the most expensive.

  • The Casting Geometry

This will hugely influence the complexity (and cost) of the required pattern. Simple, shallow patterns with flat joints will be far cheaper than complex and banked tools.

  • The Pattern Material

Low density tooling board or wood, suitable for handmoulding or low volume patterns, are the cheapest materials. Cast iron or steel, usually for patterns needed for high volume production runs, are the most expensive. As a rule of thumb, material will account for approximately 10% of your pattern cost.

  • Pattern Impressions

The number of cavities (or impressions) per pattern will affect its cost. More impressions also means a single tool can produce more castings, but it also means a more expensive pattern.

  • Pattern Construction

Machined from a single billet is the cheapest. The more separate elements there are (running system, lifting inserts, steel wear strips, brass inserts for improved moulding, and so on), the more expensive the pattern will be.

Simplicity is key

Overall, the simpler the pattern, the lower the cost. There is no ‘one size fits all’ price – your pattern costs will vary according to your specifications. It’s crucial that you get this right – the right material, the right number of impressions, and so on – to suit both your production requirement and your budget.

Your patternmaker will be able to discuss your requirement with you. And if they’re a good supplier, they’ll work with you to come up with a specification that gives you the right tool at the right price.

How to find out your cost for sure

Obviously, to find out exactly how much your pattern is going to cost, you'll need to get a quote.

Send your data (CAD model, 2D drawing) and pattern specification (material, impression numbers, process etc), to your chosen supplier, and they can give you a budgetary indicator or a full quotation.

Foundry Pattern Price Ranges 

Here are some examples of a variety of patterns with an indication of how much they could cost:

Hand mould patternHand mould. A small pattern (170 x 120 x 95mm) produced from a medium density tooling board (in this case, OB0652). £650

Airset pattern produced from tooling board

Low volume. An airset manifold pattern produced from medium density tooling board, with an integral running system and fitted with single skin plywood frames. £2,000

Tooling board horizontal Disamatic pattern

Medium volume. A production-ready pattern, produced from a high density (high wear resistance) tooling board, with an integral running system, and steel corner inserts (for lifting). £3,000

Aluminium horizontal Disamatic pattern

High volume. A multi-impression cast iron pattern, machined from solid billet with an integral running system for optimum performance and used on a horizontal moulding line. £20,000

How Can I Reduce the Cost of a Foundry Pattern?

There are 5 simple ways to reduce foundry pattern costs.

Get your design & specification right from the start

At Central Patternmaking, we allow for some customer-required design changes to be made during pattern manufacture. However, making substantial modifications mid or post production can incur additional charges. And some suppliers will charge you extra anyway, no matter how miniscule the modification.

Simplify your tooling design

The fewer the elements, the lower the cost of the tooling. An aluminium pattern machined from a solid billet may well be cheaper than a tooling board equivalent fitted with steel reinforcing inserts (and will last longer in use).

Opt for technology

You might think you only need a 3-axis equipped patternmaker, but 5-axis CNC machining could be more cost-effective for your tooling. Using 5-axis can mean better quality machining, and less of a need for hand finishing - therefore less time charged to you, the customer.

Give the supplier enough manufacturing time

Try to send your RFQ with a reasonable lead time. Requesting compressed lead times can lead to your patternmaker charging for overtime hours.

Source from multiple suppliers

Fair value can only come from competitive tendering. Don't be afraid to negotiate with suppliers. Ultimately, it'll get you the best deal possible.

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How To Get the Best Quote Possible from your Supplier

Getting an accurate quote enables you to efficiently compare prices between suppliers, save time, and safeguard yourself against long lead times.

To that end, it's in your best interest to optimise your RFQ, and get it right first time.

Here's how...

Provide a detailed specification

Give your supplier the detail they need. Leaving it to them to determine your requirement for themselves isn't ideal, because their interpretation may be inaccurate. For example, you may want a two-part hand ram corebox, while they may assume that a single-part strickle corebox is what you're after.

Misunderstandings like this will make it difficult to compare between suppliers. That means you won't get the best deal possible. So, ensure you provide as much information as you can at RFQ stage.

Provide a layout for your tooling

Or a sketch at least. Show your supplier how many impressions are needed, and the extent of your running system requirement (if any). You'll help the supplier determine the scale of your tooling, improving quotation accuracy.

Specify the material needed

Your tooling can be produced from an array of materials, each with differing price points, durability, and suitability for casting processes. Softer materials, such as low density tooling board, will be cheaper to buy but may require the inclusion of metal features in the pattern, such as steel lifting eye inserts and brass feeder tops. However, this cost could outweigh the price premium to upgrade to an aluminium pattern - so it's important to discuss material with your supplier at the RFQ stage. Whether you have an idea of the material you'd like to use or not, the supplier can advise on the best option available based on durability, suitability, and cost.

Communicate your lead time requirement

If you're working to a deadline, make sure you tell your potential supplier. If it's unachievable, there's no need for them to quote. You'll save them the bother, and you'll avoid considering an option that won't actually tick all the boxes.

Provide feedback

This will guide your suppliers with future RFQs, so it's always good practice to do so. Providing feedback will better shape suppliers' understanding, helping them improve the quality of their future offerings and, ultimately, your buying choice.

5 Common Foundry Pattern Buying Mistakes (& How to Avoid Them)

Too Little Information

Invest time at the start of the RFQ process to produce a thorough specification. This will reduce the risk of any errors, or gap-filling guesses from the supplier, resulting in over or under specified quotes. Provide information on your tooling's geometry, material, impressions, construction, etc.

Too Much Information

Whilst a comprehensive specification ensures accuracy at both quotation and manufacturing stages, too much information can do the opposite. For example, sending over multiple CAD files risks your tooling being manufactured incorrectly. To avoid this, make sure you control the information you send to your patternmaker.

Over/Under Specifying

Balancing specification with budget is imperative. A conservative specification saves cash short term, but if your pattern won't last the duration of production you'll incur even more cost repairing or replacing it. Conversely, an overbaked specification - for example, specifying aluminium when only a medium density tooling board is needed - can also add unnecessary cost. Your supplier will be able to advise you on the best choice for your pattern.

Assuming ISO Accreditation Guarantees Quality

Choosing a supplier with an ISO accreditation will provide some peace of mind, but relying on this alone can be a mistake. If your supplier truly is dedicated to quality of supply and service, they should be offering you more. Other key considerations should include, for example, aftersales support to iron out any post-supply issues. 

Choosing the 'Cheapest' Supplier

Understandably, cost is key to sourcing foundry tooling. However, going for the cheapest supplier available can be a mistake. Whilst it can minimise your initial outlay, going 'cheap' can result in compromises and cut corners. You may end up needing rework done to your brand new pattern, or paying more for unforeseen extras.

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Great Questions To Ask Your Foundry Tooling Supplier 

Open communication is the key to getting the right tooling within the right budget. Knowing what to ask your supplier will enable you to get the best value possible from each stage of the manufacturing process. So if you’ve ever wondered what you can ask your supplier to get the most out of your tooling, this list is for you!

  1. What is your experience?
  2. Have you reduced a customer's tooling cost before?
  3. What lead times do you offer?
  4. What inspection/verification processes do you use?
  5. Are you ISO accredited?
  6. What are your aftersales procedures?
  7. Can I visit your facility?
  8. Do you need any further information to generate an accurate RFQ?
  9. Do you have any suggestions for our tooling specification?
  10. Can I send you another RFQ?

Weighing up new suppliers isn’t the most exciting task. But by asking the right questions, you can protect your project from unexpected costs and delays, and find the patternmaker that’s right for you.

The 4 Hidden Costs of Foundry Patterns

You've just ordered your pattern equipment, and you think you know how much it's going to cost. But the cost of your pattern isn't just the amount you'll pay to your supplier. There are 4 contributing factors when it comes to the hidden costs of foundry tooling: design, specification, incomplete/inadequate information, and supplier cost-cutting.

The design stage is critical. Get it wrong, and you're looking at a hefty hidden cost: the pattern equipment will never fully provide the return on investment required. So how do you avoid this? Balance the number of pattern impressions against casting volume, ensuring you don't opt for a twenty-impression tool when you only need a ten impression, half-size pattern. And simulation software (such as ProCAST) can provide sufficient confidence in your gating design to warrant going for integral running systems, limiting pattern construction costs. And what about venting? Ensure you include your venting requirements at the tooling design stage. This avoids adding vents afterwards, which will constitute an add-on cost.

Similarly, get your specification wrong and you'll soon be paying the price. You will need to carefully balance cost with suitability for the intended application. It's a fine line, so ask your patternmaker if you need advice. For example, there's probably little point in specifying a low-cost pattern for hand mould if you need to produce any more than twenty-or-so castings. Hand moulding is labour intensive and costly. And specifying tooling board to save money sometimes backfires once you add reinforcing features - a lot of the time, it's cheaper to go for aluminium in the first place. Conversely, in production tooling, playing it safe and going for cast iron when the volumes don't require it is a waste of money.

Another hidden cost is incomplete or inadequate information. If you don't provide your patternmaker with complete or accurate information, you run the risk of the pattern equipment you thought you were buying not being what you actually receive. And you'll spend a lot of valuable time sorting out queries and providing further guidance during the patternmaking process, when all you really want to do is place the order and then take receipt of your pattern equipment, exactly to specification, however many weeks later. So make sure you provide your patternmaker with all the information you think they need. Ask them if they need anything else and, if they do, provide it as fully and promptly as you can.

The final hidden cost when sourcing foundry tooling is supplier cost-cutting - or a "race to the bottom". UK patternmakers will all bear similar production costs: similar labour costs; similar CNC machine & tooling costs; similar material costs; and so on. If they're the cheapest, particularly by a large margin, then they're likely keeping their own costs at rock bottom too. And if they want to make any profit, they'll only be able to do this by minimising the time they take making your pattern equipment. The risk that your tooling won't be 'right' is increased. To avoid this, assess value for money rather than just lowest cost. That way, you can safeguard yourself against paying out to fix or replace an inadequate pattern.

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