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Dies and Tools: The Beginning of a Custom Badge

Image of die

With the rise of popularity in custom designed badges the term “Die” and “Tool” get’s used a lot, usually in terms of the initial setup costs. Frequently customers question these costs and are curious to know more about what these “dies and tools” are and how they are used in the manufacturing process.

The “die” is the block of steel that is used to form a badge.  The intricate three dimensional design of the badge is cut into the surface of a block of steel. The process is done partially by machine, but on high-end badges the majority is done by the hands of skilled artisans.  Below are a few pictures of badges dies from the Smith and Warren factory

At Smith and Warren there are many thousands of these dies. One exists for every custom badge, seal and insignia that is available to order online.

When it is time to manufacture a badge the die is mounted into a machine called a press. The press then squeezes the die against a piece of brass under pressure that frequently exceeds 400 tons per square inch, causing the brass material to flow into the die and form. With the impression of the design from the die now impressed into the brass, it is now referred to as an “untrimmed badge blank”

Now the excess material around the edges needs to be trimmed off. This is where the “tools” become important. “Tools” do not get the recognition that dies enjoy but they are equally important. The tools consist of a “Plate” and a “Punch” that are designed to exactly follow the outline of the badge.

The tools are mounted into a power press and are then used to cut the excess material away from the badge. The process is called “Trimming” which produces a “Badge Blank”

As you can see the dies and tools are critical to the manufacture of metal badges. Many of the dies and tools are publically available and are used to produce the many custom badges we offer, but many are exclusively owned by our customers as well. We work with departments around the world to develop unique custom badges. As part of this process custom dies and tools are produced to manufacture these exclusive badges. Attention to detail, skill, experience and a lot of patience are needed to cut these die and tools.

If you are interested in learning more about the custom design process or interested in creating a custom die for your department contact us at 1-877-404-8413.

To see dies and tools in action, and to see how a finished badge is made, view Smith and Warren's  appearance on Science Channel’s How It’s Made below.


Originally published by Smith & Warren