Sheet metal fabrication is one of the most common manufacturing methods in the world.
Engineers typically choose this process for large or hollow objects that would be difficult to produce with 3D printing or CNC machining.
The tools used to cut and shape sheet metal may vary greatly, but the same basic techniques are used by every manufacturer.
A variety of different tools are used to cut sheet metal. Plasma cutters, water cutters, and even handheld shears are all common. 3D Hubs uses a high-powered laser that can cut through metal sheets up to 10 millimeters thick.
Sheet metal can be cut into nearly any two-dimensional shape. Cuts can be used to remove parts of the metal, add perforations, or create tabs for later bending. As with CNC machining, a computer is used to define exactly where each cut needs to be placed. The sheet metal may be cut into shape either before or after other fabrication techniques have been implemented.
Bending is one of the most simple and effective sheet metal fabrication services. The metal is typically hammered across mold or a metal grate; the precision of the angle and the shape of the bend both depend on the technology used.
3D Hubs uses dies to create rounded or angled bends in the metal of choice. This process can bend metals up to 6 millimeters thick and with a 1-degree bend angle tolerance. Bending is often combined with other fabrication techniques; most sheets of metal are both cut and bent before the project is finished.
Shrinking is frequently used to tighten a piece of sheet metal and remove imperfections. This can be accomplished by applying heat to the overstretched piece of metal; as it cools, it will shrink down into shape.
Another popular method of shrinking involves “tucking” the metal with a hammer or a hand-held tool. Each tuck folds the metal and reduces the overall surface area. Tucking is often used to create round shapes or unique edges on an object.
Hammering or flattening sheet metal is a stretching process, as is any technique that makes the sheet thinner or increases the surface area. Stretchers are often used to add contours or to form the metal beyond the constraints of normal bending.
Like shrinking, stretching is often used to remove imperfections from a piece of metal. If the sheet has been dented or bunched, stretching may smooth out the affected area. Both shrinking and stretching impact the molecular structure of the finished object.
Use on-demand sheet metal fabrication with an online manufacturing shop
Nearly any shape or object can be created using a combination of these sheet metal fabrication techniques. Most projects only require cutting and bending; shrinking and stretching are used to create advanced textures and designs.
The quickest way to create a sheet metal object is with an online manufacturing shop. Simply upload a design and select a manufacturing method to generate an instant quote. Engineers can compare materials and methods to find the best possible price for their design. Estimated lead times are shown with the quote; most projects can be shipped within a week.
Use on-demand manufacturing services, including CNC machining, 3D printing, injection molding, and sheet metal fabrication. Custom injection molded parts for engineers for low volume runs and production, starting from 100 units. Upload your parts to get a free injection molding quote!
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