PurposeCustom-designed metal bellows require alternate ways to produce the die to shorten lead time. The purpose of this study is to explore the possibility of using Additive Manufactured (AM) polymer die as direct rapid tool (RT) for metal bellow hydroforming.Design/methodology/approachFinite element analysis (FEA) was used to simulate bellow forming and to evaluate the compatibility of AM die. Fused deposition modelling (FDM) technique is used to fabricate die with Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) material. To validate, the width of the metal bellow convolutions obtained from the FEA simulation is compared with convolution formed during the experiment.FindingsFDM-made die can be used for a short production run of bellow hydroforming. FEA simulation shows that stress developed in some regions of die is less and these regions have potential for material reduction. Use of RT for this particular application is limited by the die material, forming pressure, width, convolution span and material of bellow. This supports the importance of FEA validation of RT before fabrication to evaluate and redesign die for the successful outcome of the tool.Research limitations/implicationsThe given methodology may be followed to design a RT with minimum material consumption for bellow forming application. Whenever there is a change in bellow design or the die material, simulation has to be done to evaluate the capability of the die. As this study was focused on a short production run for manufacturing one or few bellows, the die life is not a significant factor.Originality/valueThis paper demonstrates about rapid tooling for metal bellow manufacturing using FDM technique for low volume production. Further, FEA is used to identify low stress regions and redesign the die for material reduction before die manufacturing. AM die can be used for developing customized metal bellow for applications such as defense, aerospace, automobiles, etc.