Sheet Metal Fabrication: Prototyping to Product


custom sheet metal enclosure

A custom sheet metal enclosure

Sheet metal prototyping affords engineers and project managers the ability to test their product and design prior to any manufacturing. During prototyping, they can learn about potential manufacturing inefficiencies that can cost tens of thousands of dollars on short runs and many more times more during full-scale production. A&E Manufacturing has more than 45 years of experience working with companies to produce the first pieces of their product with a streamlined sheet metal fabrication processes.

Until It’s Built, No One Will Come

There are multiple steps that come between a client submitting a design and the first part even being sent into production. It is in this first step that we can identify key cost drivers that may not be necessary for a part to meet the overall requirements. The quoting department takes the initial design and decides on the most efficient way to make the part. Using our many years of experience, our quoting department and engineers are able to dissect the part submitted and give suggestions on how to better design the part for a more cost effective production run. From shearing the material, to cutting out the initial piece with our CNC laser cutting machines or CNC Turrett Presses, to any forming done on our CNC brakes, spot welding, and the finishing of the product. All processes are taken into account and our years of experience are used to help our customers have a successful prototyping run. Continue Reading Sheet Metal Fabrication: Prototyping to Product

Reducing Fabrication Costs For Better ROI: A Case Study

A&E MFG LogoThe skilled engineering team at A&E Manufacturing always exercise a lean approach to each new sheet metal design and fabrication project. This ensures that a sustainable and cost effective method of fabrication will be used to fabricate your sheet metal piece. Whenever you have a new design and are preparing to start fabrication, we highly recommend engaging A&E’s prototyping services. This step in production allows our engineers to uncover design and fabrication efficiencies before your sheet metal product goes into full production. The following case study will show the value of this process.

Step 1: The Original Sheet Metal Product

A customer came to us with an over-engineered oil tank reservoir design. The original specifications would require a multi-step build process, followed by a costly plating operation in order to complete the part.

A&E moved the piece into the prototyping process following the client’s specifications. During the process we made some discoveries regarding the product fabrication.   Continue Reading Reducing Fabrication Costs For Better ROI: A Case Study

Sheet Metal Enclosures and NEMA Standards

Sheet metal fabrication-prototypesUsing sheet metal enclosures, whether during the prototyping phase or during full-scale production, can play a critical role in maintaining safety both inside and outside the device. Many firms use the standards created by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), but engineers and designers may not know what protections each offers. Whether it has to do with liquids and rainfall, resistance to entrance of fibers or corrosive agents or other needs, one standard or another will likely meet the application you are looking to build out.

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Choosing the Right Finish for Sheet Metal Components

Once all of the CNC turret press operations or CNC sheet metal laser cutting operations are complete, most parts will still need multiple processes in order to come to completion. One which is often overlooked by customers is the coating or finishing of the sheet metal components to fit the needs of their applications. Whether it is powder coating, liquid paint, plating or even a specified grain finish, there are significant advantages and disadvantages between each type of finish.

Painting Sheet Metal Parts

PaintingIt is important not to forget that the standard painting of sheet metal enclosures and other workpieces is still a popular option. It is less expensive than powder coating, especially for small test runs or prototypes and also can offer a thinner coat than other coating options. In addition, the use of paint can keep a sheet metal component from looking too “industrial” which can be important for consumer applications such as gardening enclosures or domestic products. It also offers a wide variety of choices in terms of matte or glossy paints and a number of colors for customers.

Powder Coating Sheet Metal Components

For projects that require thicker coatings, powder coat finishes can provide a consistent, clean finish at a relatively cost-effective price point. Sheet metal manufacturers are able to recover nearly all of the coating from overspray which helps to save money. In addition, the even application of powder means that components have few signs of horizontal versus vertical lines compared to other finishing options for sheet metal solutions. In addition, buyers have the option of matte, satin and other looks that can complement other components or match up with the environment where the piece will be used.

Anodizing and Sealing

Anodizing a sheet metal part uses a chemical reaction to harden the surface of the end product. It offers more protection against sunlight as well as dings and scratches compared to aluminum without it. In addition, for certain enclosures it can also provide protection against solvents and water without oxidation or other potential damage. Outside of CNC milling, it is the only finish that can retain the metallic look but also offers alternative colors to better match the overall design of the application where the part will be used. While the finish is harder than aluminum, the fact that the core retains the properties of the metal ensures that designs incorporating chemical tolerances will not be affected by anodization.

Plating Parts

Adding a layer of another metal through plating can improve the exterior protection for a part made with a less expensive material such as aluminum without a massive price increase. Zinc coatings can protect against rust, while chrome works to limit friction and wear. Many industrial applications may also benefit from tin plating due to the ability for sheet metal to be plated prior to milling and punching because the piece will not become brittle as a result of the plating process. There are a number of other metals that can and are used, ranging from composites and alloys to cadmium and nickel. Be sure to explain the requirements of your project to a sheet metal manufacturing company so they can help choose the right fit for your needs, and just as important, your budget.

Get Help Choosing the Finish For Your Components

There are a number of reasons to choose one type of finishing over another. However, the best way to ensure that the application matches both your needs and your budget is to consult with a sheet metal manufacturing company. ISO 9001:2008 compliant firms like A&E Manufacturing will have the data and the results to show what options best fit your needs, as well as the experience to know which finish will protect components from other pieces you will include in your final project.

Why Use an ISO 9001:2008 Compliant Manufacturing Company

IsoCertificateSmallSheet metal manufacturing companies that comply with ISO 9001:2008 standards offer clients and customers a number of benefits that revolve around quality standards, isolating problems and coming up with solutions based on repeatable and proven techniques. While the ISO 9000 series standards can apply to every industry, from software to salmon processing, manufacturing firms that obtain certification can offer guarantees that when they take on a project, it will come out according to its specifications.

An Emphasis on Quality Control

The simplest definition of ISO 9001:2008 standards have a company specifying how it will do something, then testing to see how well it works. In the case of sheet metal fabrication, there can be different steps in terms of sourcing the right materials for specific types of designs to cleaning up and etching pieces.

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Sheet Metal Fabrication Prototyping Benefits Throughout The Project Lifecycle

When engineers and project designers get started, it comes from a few sketches of a potential product or a device onto the favored CAD program. After that, though, a good model using sheet metal fabrication prototyping can play a key role in moving from sketch to sales display or purchase order

The Internal Buy-In StageSheet metal fabrication-prototypes

Coming up with an idea is one thing, but convincing executives to sign off on further development is critical. Having a few prototypes made up, offers a tangible example of what a team is looking to accomplish and can often make it easier to explain differences and benefits compared to existing devices on the market or that a firm already produces.

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