Sheet metal fabrication is a precise art that requires attention to detail, experience, and a deep understanding of the materials and processes involved. At Estes, we’ve seen a myriad of designs come our way, and over the years, we’ve identified some common mistakes that can be avoided to ensure a smoother fabrication process.
Here’s a guide to help you navigate these pitfalls:
Avoid These 8 Common Errors in Sheet Metal Fabrication
- Lack of Clarity in Prints: One of the foundational steps in sheet metal fabrication is having clear and detailed prints. It’s essential to ensure that all necessary details and critical dimensions are called out in the prints to transmit that information to people on the floor and the engineers who are programming the parts. A lack of clarity can lead to misinterpretations and mistakes down the line, potentially delaying your project timeline.
- Using Solid Models: While SolidWorks and AutoCAD are invaluable tools, it’s crucial to ensure that models are drawn as sheet metal, not solids. Incorrectly drawn models can lead to fabrication challenges, especially when working with corners.
- Overcomplicating With Too Many Parts and Assemblies: Simplicity is often the key to efficiency. Overcomplicating designs with unnecessary parts and subassemblies can increase production time and costs. Engineers should evaluate the design to see if the number of parts can be reduced without compromising the product’s integrity.
- Overdesign: Using sheet metal that’s too heavy for the job can be overkill. Not only does it increase the weight, but it can also drive up costs. An option may be to switch to a lighter gauge sheet metal that takes the weight out of the product but still allows it to have the structure and rigidity of a thicker material. When it comes to choosing the right material for your project, trust the experts. Partner with a quality sheet metal fabricator early and get a second opinion.
- Forming Radius Too Tight: A tight forming radius can lead to cracking or other issues during the bending process. It’s essential to ensure that the radius is appropriate for the material and thickness being used.
- Hole Locations and Fasteners Too Close: Hole and fastener locations too close to the bend radius make it difficult to put the fastener in and can stretch the hole. Always ensure there’s adequate spacing to maintain the integrity of the part.
- Overcomplicated Hardware and Fastener Selection: While it might be tempting to stick to a specific type of hardware, like a weld nut or riv nut, sometimes more efficient or cost-effective options are available. Don’t get too fancy with hardware installation; sometimes, simplicity is best.
- Unrealistic Part/Component Tolerances: It’s essential to understand that different materials and fabrication types require different tolerances. Consider how the metal will behave and try to anticipate what various grades will do when bent, punched, stamped, cut, or welded. Designers should understand the fabrication process well to set appropriate tolerances.
At Estes, we encourage our customers to involve our engineers early in the process, ensuring we can collaboratively enhance the quality and efficiency of the part right from the outset. The sooner we’re brought into the process, the more beneficial it is for both parties and the final product.
“We often emphasize ‘design for manufacturability.’ This principle is paramount to us,” says Roger Brown, Estes Director of Business Development. “By understanding your specific parameters, we can tailor the design to align with our equipment capabilities, ensuring you receive the best value. It’s about optimizing the design from the start.”
“We want to get you the best value versus trying to shove a tight end into the quarterback position, so to speak,” adds Jay Engh, Product Development Manager.
If you have any questions or want to discuss your next project, reach out to Estes today.