If you design products, particularly consumer goods, you are likely familiar with sheet metal prototyping and its benefits to product development. However, you may be wondering how sheet metal prototypes are made, and the design practices applied for the task. Here, you’ll learn three crucial things about the process.
The significance of sheet metal prototypes in the industry
Sheet metal is standard and flexible for accurately and quickly building brackets, assemblies, cabinets, weldments, enclosures, housings, etc. Different types of sheet metals can be used for your project, and they vary in thickness ranging from 0.006 inches to 0.25 inches. Thicker metals beyond 0.25 inches are metal plates, and thinner ones less than 0.006 inches are leaf metals or foils.
Sheet metal prototyping offers many advantages, such as eliminating the guesswork in manufacturing. It creates mock-up models or tangible samples of your design, so you can verify its functionality and aesthetics and find flaws before it goes into end-production.
Sheet metal prototyping involves different processes to shape and manipulate the sheets to the desired geometry. Reputable manufacturers use proven methods, such as laser cutting, bending, welding, and punching to manufacture custom sheet metal prototypes. Cutting sheet metal may involve water jet cutters, CNC laser cutters, and plasma cutters. Assembly means joining different sheet metal components together via welding or with fasteners.
Best design practices
Work with a reputable provider of sheet metal prototyping services. Make sure they have a track record of providing high-quality services and results. They can give tips to help you design your product and prepare it for the process. For instance, they can recommend maintaining the same radii on the bends to reduce the setup. That can result in a cheaper and quicker process. And when designing holes, you may want to ensure that their diameter is at least equal to the thickness of the sheet metal to prevent breaking or damaging the tool.