Virtual Innovation Day

SCHOOLTOOL - Professional and further training taken to the next level!

The topic of young talent is at the core of the future viability of tool, pattern and mould making in Europe. SCHOOLTOOL, an integrated and conceptionally balanced teaching and training concept, points the way to the professional and further training in tool making of the future. It demonstrates how to combine the areas of craft training with academic and corporate training. A real eye-opener for everybody involved in professional and further training.


Cooperation without any pitfalls

New training methods for tool, pattern and mould making

Only a closer look at a mould reveals its fascination. Cavities, channels or ejectors must be made visible in order to reach a higher level during teaching and training. Experts dedicated themselves to this symbiosis of technology and didactics, and created the SCHOOLTOOL Project.

Good plastic parts are produced precisely whenever component developers, tool makers and plastic injection moulding companies cooperate with each other in their main disciplines in a coordinated manner." Although this statement by Professor Steffen Ritter from Reutlingen University may sound like a truism, it will become an even more important factor in worldwide competition between locations in future on account of increasing complexity in each of the stipulated disciplines and a pronounced shortage of specialists in Germany.

In order to make sure that fewer projects go wrong as a result of problems at the interfaces between the experts involved in the product development process, "designers, tool makers and injection moulding companies must interact as equals," demands Ritter. In his capacity as a scientist, he developed a new learning environment called SCHOOLTOOL for injection mould construction in collaboration with practical experts from the industry.

SCHOOLTOOL is a modular teaching and learning concept which combines both craft training and academic engineering training. Universities, vocational schools and in-company training departments will use SCHOOLTOOL in order to prepare future injection moulded part experts, mouldings developers and injection moulding companies for their tasks and give them an understanding of associated disciplines. The forerunner of the concept was the so-called "Polyman", a descriptive learning element for injection moulding-based component design in which Ritter was closely involved some years ago.

Full of functions and yet easy to handle

But what actually is the challenge in providing intensive and practice-oriented training? "Even relatively small injection moulds in my university technology centre are incredibly unwieldy. They quickly weigh 100 kilogrammes and more," says Ritter describing the reason why it is not so easy to explain correlations on the real component. "Not to mention confidentiality declarations and other restrictions on sharing knowledge."

The new concept now comprises a tool case which contains a very compact and fully functioning injection mould. According to Ritter, it is important here to emphasise that it's not just a question of easy demonstration, but also that this training tool involves an entire project landscape. "We cover nearly every topic that is relevant to industrial production," says Ritter in countering opinions that the mould measuring just 96 x 126 millimetres is merely a toy.

The utilised moulds will also become more varied over the course of time. Not all basic types or special topics are shown in reality in the learning module. However, some have already proved their worth in operation in the technology centre: from a hot-runner mould and a slanting ejector mould through to a collapsible core mould. And the share of real components is increasing continuously: apart from basic mould types, special topics are being added. One example is a sensor mould: the archetypically constructed mould contains sensors such as a direct and an indirectly measuring sensor along with a measuring probe. This small specialist was realised in cooperation with the companies Kistler and Stolz & Seng. This mould is used both for training and research and test purposes.

Active participation as a guarantee of success

On the whole, SCHOOLTOOL will create general learning-friendly conditions through active participation by the students. Thanks to projects which they actively handle, they will ultimately be able to implement complex connections. According to Ritter, this is the best learning effect. To date, more than 4,000 hours of work have gone into the SCHOOLTOOL ecosystem which, in addition to the case containing the real mould, contains many other elements: generic CAD data, technical documentation, a design checklist and other learning aids such as tasks, posters and instructions. Even the learning card game, i.e. "mouldmaker the game", was created in this respect.

Ritter also specially emphasises the benefits of the SCHOOLTOOL HC system. The abbreviation HC stands for "hand crafted". Basic processing steps without using a CNC machine form part of basic training in this approach. Traditional processing operations such as sawing, grinding, drilling or milling are learnt here. In the fully developed construction project the apprentices are offered four components that have to be produced. This leads to the creation of inexpensive and especially real projects that have to be realistically implemented in injection moulding and mould construction training.

"Of course, every trainer can also just use or change individual aspects from our module, thereby developing their individual training. There are no limits to creativity here," says Ritter explaining the flexibility of the SCHOOLTOOL system. "The methods we have combined support the triad of competence, inspiration and participation," adds Ritter. The mixture of methods therefore also accommodates different students. His slogan here is blended learning. "We stand out because we provide exciting visualisation," because "only a closer look at a mould reveals its fascination," enthuses Ritter.

You can find further information about the SCHOOLTOOL teaching and learning concept at:


  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Steffen Ritter, Reutlingen University

Host: Peter Gärtner, Federal Association of Pattern and Mould making (Bundesverband Modell-und Formenbau/BVMF)