Hot Stamp Molds

What Are They? What To Look For?

What questions do customers often have about hot stamp molds?

Hot stamp molds are often misunderstood by users. Building a mold is part of the process of manufacturing Silicone Dies used for Hot Stamping and Heat Transfer applications.  Hot stamp molds tend to be something customers are not familiar with because they are part of the production process behind the scenes rather than a physical product delivered to ur customers.

Common questions we hear are:
1. What is a hot stamp mold?
2. Why are molds needed?
3. What types of molds are available?
4. How does United Silicone store mold? 

What is a mold?

A good place to start in answering these questions is at the beginning… what is a mold?

A mold is actually the “box” or tool that holds and forms the silicone compound or raw material into a graphic design ultimately resulting in a finished, Silicone Die.


Another way to think about this is to consider the Mold similar to that of a cake pan!  Just as a cake pan or muffin tin forms batter into the desired shape, a Mold does the same – enabling silicone to flow into the various design features resulting in a Hot Stamp Die replicating your artwork or graphic image.

Instead of a cake, the result of this molding process is a Silicone Die!


Why are molds needed?

In addition to serving as the “box” or “cake pan” the die is created from, the mold plays an important role in artwork orientation.

In order for a die to stamp your desired artwork the way you wish it to appear on your part, the artwork on the face of a silicone die will appear “read wrong” or backward. This enables the final stamped image to read correctly or ‘read right’!  The Mold is part of this process. A Read RIGHT mold creates a Read WRONG die which in turn creates a Read RIGHT image termed as ‘First Surface’ decoration.


What types of molds are available?

There are two types of hot stamp molds or tools used to manufacture Silicone Rubber Dies – Photo-etched and Machine Engraved.   Photo-etched molds are called “soft molds” or “make-readies” while machine engraved molds are referred to as “hard molds” or “CNC-engraved tools”. Let´s take a look at the benefits provided by each.

Make Readies (Soft Molds)

Photo-etched or ‘Soft’ Molds are made utilizing a chemical bath process. The main benefits of Photo-etched Molds or Make-readies are that they can be manufactured and shipped quickly while being cost-effective.  Also, textured surfaces can be incorporated into this Mold style assisting with the elimination of air entrapment during hot stamp and heat transfer applications.

Machine Engraved (Hard Molds)

Machine Engraved or “Hard” molds are made with the CNC engraving process. While these Molds are more costly than Photo-etched Molds, there are 3 instances where Machine Engraved Molds should be considered to deliver superior quality decoration.

First – unlike Photo-etched or “PE” Molds and Dies, Machine Engraved or “ME” Molds and Dies can be manufactured with multiple reliefs.

When should machine engraved (hard) molds be considered?

Case 1: When Multiple Reliefs are Required

First – unlike Photo-etched or “PE” Molds and Dies, Machine Engraved or “ME” Molds and Dies can be manufactured with multiple reliefs.

Relief is the height the graphics are elevated from the background of the Die itself.  The most vulnerable graphic elements or finest details can be placed at a lower relief for enhanced support and protection.

Photo-etched Molds produce Dies with only 1 relief or stamp height. Machine Engraved Molds enable the creation of Dies with multiple reliefs.

Case 1: Advantages of multiple reliefs

This gives strength to fine graphics and helps eliminate overstamping of large, bold designs. What’s more, the ability to stamp graphics at multiple heights with a single Die avoids the need for additional setups. This simplifies the overall production process.

Finally, Crowns and Contours can be designed into Machine Engraved Molds and Dies to assist with complete die-to-part contact over curved or non-flat parts or product formats.

Case 2: When Vertical Side Walls are Required

A second instance where Machine Engraved or “ME” Molds may provide superior results is when vertical sidewalls are required for part clearance and/or for precision foil transfer of lines or characters. Hard or CNC machine engraved molds provide this ‘control’.  Near vertical side walls facilitate crisp, sharp edges of your decoration as well as precision alignment to the shape of a part.

Case 3: When High Precision Repeatability is Required

Finally, Silicone Dies from Machine Engraved or “Hard” Molds are highly accurate and repeatable from Die-to-Die. For example – a Die used to stamp the lines of a  measuring device (like the cup shown here) must create a finished part accurate to that scale of measurement.  In other words, a hot stamped ruler must actually measure 12 inches NOT 11 and 7/8!  As Dies wear out and require replacement- a Machine Engraved, Hard Mold will ensure measurements remain precise and highly repeatable die-after-die and stamp-after-stamp.

Will I receive a mold with my order?

The process used to manufacture Molds is confidential/proprietary. Molds are the ‘Tooling Set-up’ required as part of the Silicone Die production process (and not a finished product). For these reasons, Molds are NOT shipped to our customers but rather are maintained as inventory at United Silicone.

How long will United Silicone store my mold? What keeps competitors from being able to access my molds?

We are commonly asked two questions about United Silicone mold storage protocols:

First  – How long will United Silicone keep my Molds?

The answer is up to 5 years without purchase activity. That is to say, we will store a mold for 5 years with no Dies being ordered throughout that time period. United Silicone will hold that mold indefinately if a new die is made at least once every 5 years.

Second  – What prevents my competitors from being able to order Dies from my Molds?

The answer is simple! United Silicone issues a unique identifier or part number to each Mold and Die produced. This Die Number tracks ownership back to the original buyer. No one can order Dies from that Mold without written permission on company letterhead from the original owner. We do receive requests – particularly from users who have outsourced their decoration processes allowing their suppliers to order Dies from their Molds. As long as this request comes in writing on official company letterhead, United Silicone will make Dies happen!


Would you like to know more?

Please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.