The nature of bending sheet metal requires a high level of precision due to material stretch that is caused by bending and forming. This is unique to each material type, material thickness, and bend angle. Precise positioning of bend lines is very important in order to counteract the material stretch. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple to design for sheet metal bending in Solidworks because of its easy-to-use sheet metal design features.
This article will explain how to use SolidWorks to create a precise DXF file for a bent sheet metal part.
Please note that when bend lines extend across cut features, SolidWorks will export the bend line as separate segments instead of a continuous line. If you’d like to revise DXFs so bend lines are continuous before uploading your file for a quote, we recommend the free 2D program QCAD. We have a guide with QCAD setup and preflight tips here: How to Preflight Your Designs Using QCAD
*If you’re using SolidWorks 2022 or newer, please reference this article for bend export.
Calculating Sheet Metal Parameters
SolidWorks creates sheet metal parts based on parameters such as K-factor, bend radius, and sheet metal thickness. Before creating a part in SolidWorks, the easiest way to calculate the appropriate parameters is by using the bending calculator on our website. If you want guidance on utilizing the bending calculator, watch our video guide before finishing the rest of this tutorial.
This example will use the bending calculator to find the parameters associated with a sheet metal part consisting of the following dimensions:
Base Length: 8.125”
Outer Flange Length: 1” (2 flanges, 90 degrees upwards)
Material: 5052 Aluminum (0.063” thickness)
As seen, the calculator determines the appropriate placement of the bend lines and required total length of the flattened sheet metal part. This is unique to each material type, material thickness, and bend angle. The results for the K-factor, bend radius, and thickness are shown below:
Creating a 3D Sheet Metal Design in SolidWorks
Open SolidWorks and look at your available tabs. If you do not already have a “Sheet Metal” tab available, make sure to include it by right-clicking any tab, and toggling on the Sheet Metal tab.
Now that the Sheet Metal tab is available, create a sketch like you normally would that is appropriately dimensioned according to the “Top View” of the SendCutSend bending calculator. The bend lines are added at a later time. The length of this sketch is arbitrary. A length of 24” is selected for the purposes of this tutorial. This sketch represents the overall size of the “flattened” part. After dimensioning, click the green check mark, but do not exit the sketch.
Next, you need to specify the sheet metal properties. In the “Sheet Metal” tab, select the “Base Flange/Tab” button to specify the sheet metal properties that were calculated from the bending calculator. When complete, select the green checkmark. This creates a new sheet metal part.
With the sheet metal part created, it is time to start the process of bending in SolidWorks. To do this, create a new sketch with lines representing where each of the bends occur and appropriately position them according to the dimensions in the SendCutSend bending calculator results. Click the green check mark and Exit Sketch.
To create the bends, go back to the Sheet Metal Tab and select “Sketched Bend.” Then select the line sketches from the previous step. SolidWorks then gives a new dialogue box option to select the faces that will be “fixed” or act as the base flange. In this case, there is only one face that is fixed, which is the base. Once the base is selected, the sheet metal part is bent at the sketched lines, and two flanges are created. The bend angle, bend radius, and K-factor can be specified here according to the SendCutSend bending calculator results. The “Bend Position” setting is left as “Bend Centerline” which is consistent with SendCutSend bending methodology. Select the green checkmark. You can now see an accurate 3D representation of your bent sheet metal part.
Export to DXF
After you’ve completed the design and are finished bending in Solidworks, you’ll need to create a DXF to upload for quoting. To export to DXF, right click any face on the 3D model. Select “Export to DXF/DWG”. A save dialogue will pop up; name your part and select “DXF” as the suffix.
After saving the file, SolidWorks prompts a new menu to the left. Under “Export” select “Sheet Metal”. Under “Entities to Export” select “Geometry” and “Bend Lines”. Click the green check mark and a preview of your DXF will appear. It should be a flattened drawing with bend lines included. Confirm that everything looks the way it should, click save, and you’re just about ready to upload your part for quoting.
As a test, this exact DXF file was used to order through SendCutSend. Below are the results. The measurement of the base length matches exactly to 8.125″ thanks to the adjustments made according to the bending calculator.
Check the Bending Guidelines and Get a Quote
The sheet metal design feature in SolidWorks is very useful to create accurately designed DXF files. It is a wonderful tool to use in conjunction with the SendCutSend bending calculator. As with all bent sheet metal designs, be sure that your part fits within our bending guidelines to ensure a successful outcome.
Once you have your DXF file and have checked it against our guidelines, upload the file to our quote tool. Pick your material and quantity, define the bends and bend angles, and you’ll see a quote for your parts instantly.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com