How Sheet Metal Prototyping Can Be Achieved Easily
Due to technological advancements in the manufacturing industry and rapid technologies’ efficiency, rapid prototyping has increased in popularity. The name today is mostly associated with 3D-printing. However, the term encompasses many other plastic and metal prototype fabrication techniques. In industries such as construction, automotive, furniture, medical, consumer products, electronics, etc., a widely used one is sheet metal prototyping.
With that in mind, this article will take a closer look at what sheet metal prototyping manufacturing is and how companies can achieve it easily.
Sheet Metal Prototyping: The Basics
Why Sheet Metal Prototypes?
Prototypes have become invaluable in many industries where product design changes are necessary during the manufacturing and assembly process. Simply put, prototyping saves companies both time and money. So in industries that use sheet metal (like, for example, making automobile and truck bodies, airplane fuselages and wings, roofs for buildings, medical tables, and so on), to achieve better-finished products, businesses use sheet metal prototyping to create prototypes and test a design concept, resolve flaws at an early stage or create a working model of what will eventually be an operative component of a product.
Now, not all companies that utilize sheet metal prototyping are into the sheet metal parts industry. Developers and designers who need to create a product and push it into the market fast without diving deep into all the metal fabrication processes often use metal prototyping services. That makes metal prototyping broadly available for businesses.
How is it Done?
The production of sheet metal prototype parts consists of shaping a sheet of metal (metals with good plasticity are processed into thin, flat pieces) to give it the desired shape and appearance. It encompasses a wide range of processes to manipulate and shape metal sheets into the required geometry.
The main segments of sheet metal forming include cutting, bending, assembly, and finishing.
Cutting: Shearing is used for cutting a large sheet into smaller rectangles, and for more complex shapes – laser cutting. Punching is another widely used way of producing complex shapes in sheet metal. The process consists of putting holes in a sheet. However, by nibbling on a turret punch, a complex form can be punched out.
Bending: The bending of sheet metal is done on a press brake machine. One of the enormous hurdles in bending is preventing the metal from returning to its original flat shape. So, the process involves overbending, which finishes precisely at the right angle.
Assembly: Putting the pieces together starts with a fit-up. Each part of the arrangement is held in position and with clamps or fixturing as appropriate then tack welds are made to hold everything together. However, not every product needs welding; riveting, screwing, or bonding might be more appropriate, depending on the final application.
Finishing: After assembly or joining, most products require some finishing. That ranges from cleaning up welds to polishing to a mirror finish. There is a range of painting and coating options between those extremes, which have two objectives: protect the fabrication against corrosion and provide whatever finished appearance is needed.
Advantages and Benefits of Sheet Metal Prototyping Fabrication
The main advantage of sheet metal prototyping is that it is a cost-effective way to get and test any product in its desired shape and size. Moreover, the thin metal sheets (from a wide material selection) can be bent while being cold, resulting in a fast economic and sustainable manufacturing process. Significantly, this process does not influence the product’s quality, meaning that the parts can be long-lasting and strong. Ultimately, its versatility allows for creating small to big pieces for any industry while meeting the precise needs and standards.
Besides all that, there are three essential benefits businesses get from sheet metal prototyping and fabrication:
A real-life test: In large-scale manufacturing, prototyping is necessary because it provides a real-life test of a theoretical product’s design and functions. The prototype can be realized as a single component or a small batch of parts. By putting the prototype through its paces, companies can identify its strengths and weaknesses, addressing any issue before full production commences.
Assurance: Bringing a product to market is complex, and if the product itself is fundamentally flawed, businesses are highly likely to fail in the long run. Committing to a product without first testing a prototype could mean that a company ends up with an entire bunch of faulty units.
The material: One of the biggest reasons sheet metal prototyping and fabrication help businesses is the metals’ malleability, durability, and lightness. The metal sheets used for producing the prototypes and final products can be easily fabricated and molded into any shape and size. Furthermore, with the ability to withstand high amounts of pressure, metal sheets are incredibly durable. They are also resistant to water, moisture, sun, and corrosion, making them perfect for a wide range of projects in numerous industries. Also, metal sheets are incredibly lightweight, which makes them highly portable as well. Lastly, they can be easily modified and adjusted according to needs.
Sheet Metal Prototyping – The Easy Way
Sheet metal prototype fabrication is by no means an easy job. And not just that – many companies need to create a product and launch it on the market without the fuss of learning and investing in the actual process. So the easiest way of using the many advantages and benefits of sheet metal prototypes is by using metal prototyping services from companies that offer comprehensive assistance and solutions.
Companies handling sheet metal prototyping fabrication have the experience, expertise, big assortment material selection, and scalability options. They have the latest equipment and can advise on how best to fix a prototype for manufacturing. Ultimately, using services from a “third expert party” is generally more cost-effective and time-saving.
Products that are manufactured with sheet metal fabrication can benefit tremendously from sheet metal prototyping. From evaluating the product’s size, angles, whether holes line up with the anchor points to assessing its intended purpose, prototyping helps companies test product design, help improve performances and remove defects before full-scale manufacturing.