Soft tools are made of pre-harden steel and are economic solutions for small volume production. Pre-harden steel is a lower grade material that can only guarantee 500,000 shots. Additionally, it’s difficult to maintain tight tolerances using soft tools. The main advantages of soft tools are the low costs and quick turnaround time to cut the tool.
Hard tools are made of high quality steel and intended for larger mass production programs. Hard tools are usually rated for 1,000,000 shots and are very precise. However, the lead-time to cut steel for a hard tool is longer than a soft tool due to the heat treatment process and the tight tolerances expected from hard tools. The cost for hard tools is much higher than soft tools as well.