The sheet metal forming industry is one of the most important suppliers in the automotive sector. However, the industry sector is struggling with a steadily increasing number of different parts, coupled with decreasing batch numbers. As a result, new flexible tool concepts must be developed. However, because of the high cost and consequently high risk of development of such tools,manufacturers have been careful. This paper presents a new design process based on hardware-in-the-loop simulation. This new process allows development of mechanical and controller design in parallel. In addition, programming of the controller can be tested against the mechanical design of the tool, before the machine is built. The method was applied to a new tool and proved to be effective in reducing development risks and optimizing the process sequence.