Die Science: Losing the art of die making and metal stamping

If you have ever attended one of my conferences, no doubt you have heard me get on my soapbox and give my entire spiel about reclassifying the trade of die building and troubleshooting from an art form to a science. It’s my passion. As a professional consultant, I have absolutely no use for art in the building, designing, and troubleshooting of a stamping die or process.

The Diemaker’s Mindset
I love talking to diemakers, designers, and tooling engineers. On occasion I will walk into a die shop or stamping plant, approach a person working on a die, and—assuming he or she does not recognize me—ask what that person does for a living. The worker often responds, “I’m a diemaker.”

Pretending to know nothing about dies or metal stamping, I typically ask what a diemaker does. More often than not, somewhere in the lengthy explanation, I will hear these words: “Diemaking is an art form. One must be an artist to be a good diemaker.” That’s followed by a description of all the trial and error required for success. Then I thank the worker for spending the time to talk with me, and I walk away somewhat disappointed.

Art Versus Science
For those who firmly believe that diemaking is an art form, may I respectfully pose the following question? Have you ever shimmed, ground, or polished a tool steel section based on an inspiration you had earlier that morning? Have you ever made a press shut height adjustment based on the way it made you feel? After all, at least as I understand it, art is a craft intended to inspire emotion. Art can make you feel good, bad, depressed, and a plethora of emotions. It often is a thing of beauty. It often is a product of a combination of creativity and emotion.

So that being stated, would you rather build a die that is cosmetically beautiful and incapable of making a satisfactory part, or an ugly die that runs flawlessly? Keep in mind that the function of a die is to produce parts that can be sold for profit. A chrome-plated die that doesn’t work is nothing more than an expensive boat anchor.

Diemaker Versus Dieologist
More than 20 years ago I named my company Dieology for an important reason. I was retaught later in my career that to be a good diemaker, I would have to lose the notion that it is an art form and begin looking at the trade as a science. I had to stop finding solutions based on my experience and start making decisions based on data and facts that I learned during my experience.

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