Preparing a Rolled Sheet Metal Part in SolidWorks

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What if you have a complex round, oval, or conical part, but don’t know what the laser cut flat pattern should look like? One of the best ways to leverage the power of a 3D CAD software like SolidWorks for laser cut parts is to utilize a feature known as “flatten.” This trick works for bends, jogs, and rolled parts and allows you to design the geometry you need, then “unroll” the part. 

Let’s say you need to weld this cone transition onto a standard hopper: 

Screenshot showing a 3D model of a laser cut metal hopper in SolidWorks.

There are several ways to make this part: buy a cone with the correct taper, then modify as-needed to weld up to the hopper, and lay out and drill the holes by hand. 

Or just remove all the guesswork, reduce the fabrication time, and instead roll up a laser cut flat pattern yourself.

Ready, set, unbend!

Let’s walk through the steps necessary to flatten a rolled sheet metal part in SolidWorks to prepare it for laser cutting

Before we do that, a quick note: SendCutSend does not offer sheet metal rolling at this time, but we can laser cut flat parts for you to then roll after you receive them. 

Step 1: Use “Cut-Extrude” to make a parting line in your rolled part

First, open your transition part file and make a parting line which will be the seam when rolled up.

You can use the Cut-Extrude feature:

Screenshot showing how to use "cut-extrude" in the SolidWorks toolbar on a rolled sheet metal part.

For this example, a sketched line is being extruded through the part as a thin feature with a cut thickness of 0.01”. This ensures when the final part is rolled up, it won’t have a big gap at the seam.

Or, if it’s a revolved part, simply reduce the revolved degrees so it leaves a small gap:

Screenshot showing the rolled sheet metal part selected and highlighted in yellow in SolidWorks. The dimensions are a 12 degree arc and 10inches long.

Step 2: Insert your bends

Next, you’ll want to select the “Insert Bends” feature from the sheet metal toolbar.

Screenshot showing the sheet metal toolbar in SolidWorks, with the "Bends" feature highlighted. The 3D model of the aluminum rolled hopper is in the background.

Step 3: Highlight the seam

Under the “Bends” menu, select the inside edge from the seam to highlight it as shown in the image below.

Screenshot of the 3D model of the rolled hopper zoomed in on the seam where the two ends meet. It's highlighted in orange and blue.

Step 4: ”Unsuppress” the auto-generated flat pattern

The final step is to take the auto-generated flat pattern and unsuppress it. This brings the flat pattern into view on the model, resuming the feature and allowing you to export correctly.

Screenshot showing the 3D model of the rolled part zoomed in on the seam where the two edges meet. The "Unsuppress" action is highlighted under the Tools menu in SolidWorks.

The result is a flat pattern with a bounding box which you can save as a .dxf using the instructions here.

Screenshot of the 3D model of the rolled sheet metal hopper laid out flat in SolidWorks.

You’re ready to upload to SendCutSend’s instant quote tool!

Using this method means the rolled part features can include holes, edge profiles, or other complex shapes, allowing much faster fabrication, tight fitment without any modification, and no difficult hole drilling on concave surfaces. There are lots of other handy tricks that you can use to simplify your build process and optimize your laser cut parts, so be sure to check out our other tips and tutorials.

When you are ready, upload your file to our instant quote tool, select your preferred material and quantity, and we’ll ship your parts within 2-4 business days

Try our SolidWorks Plugin

If you are using SolidWorks 2021 or newer, check out our SolidWorks Plugin. You can upload to SendCutSend and get live quotes without ever leaving SolidWorks.

Preflight Checklist

Before you upload your design files, be sure to go through our pre-flight checklist:

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We proudly use hardware by PEM

Flush Standoff, 4-40, .250" Zinc plus Clear Chromate

Thread Size4-40 x .250″
Hole size in sheet (+0.003/-.0.000).168″
Minimum sheet thickness0.040″
Maximum sheet thickness.125″
Fastener materialSteel
Minimum distance hole C/L to edge0.230″
When determining the distance between two or more fasteners, you can calculate the distance by the formula, C/L to edge + 1/2 the diameter of the second mounting hole..314″
Recommended panel materialSteel/Aluminum
Coating typeZinc
Aluminum material ranges (5052, 6061, 7075)0.040″-0.125″
Steel material ranges (CRS, HRPO, HR)0.048″-0.119″