Sheet metal fabrication is an ideal and cost-effective process for creating durable metal parts. This process is good for both prototypes and large production runs, which are a crucial part of the technology.

With many commercial applications, sheet metal is used to make cars, soda cans, air conditioners, and even space rockets. 

Because sheet metal parts are made from flat sheets of metal, different design considerations are necessary as opposed to CNC machining and additive manufacturing. Here are five tips to help you optimise your next sheet metal project to reduce costs and maximise efficiency.

1. Engage the manufacturer to help in your product’s design

You are experienced in designing; your fabricator is experienced in the manufacturing process. Experienced manufacturers can help you to look at your product’s design from the fabricator’s perspective. This perspective can help you to design the product in a fashion to simplify, and therefore, reduce the cost of manufacturing.

2. Design your product to be built by a common gauge of sheet metal

If you design your product to be made out of a non-common gauge of sheet metal, the sheet metal will have to be special ordered. Special ordered material will increase manufacturing costs. Confer with your fabricator to determine which common gauge will both serve your purpose and keep your costs to a minimum.

3. Can your product be produced with automated processes?

The more your parts can be made with automated processes, the cheaper the manufacturing costs will be. Labor costs can be expensive with special ordered material. 

The more processes involved in making your part will also add to the expense. Each time machines have to be stopped and started, pieces moved from one machine to another, and more labor-intensive processes involved, the cost of production goes up.

4. Simplify the bends in your product

Here again, the gauge of the material used comes into play. The thicker the sheets of metal, the harder it is to make bends. Also, the less accurate they will be. The radius of bends ideally should be the same as the thickness of the metal. To save on manual labor, the direction of the bends on the same plane should be designed in the same direction.

5. How many tight tolerances are needed?

Tolerances are necessary for a product to perform properly. The objective though, when considering costs, is how many tight tolerances are necessary? Limit the amount of necessary tight tolerances and you will reduce the cost of your part’s manufacturing.

Tolerances for sheet metal fabrication

The table below summarises the standard tolerances of the parts produced by certified 3D Hubs Manufacturing Partners.