Sheet Metal Manufacturing: A Complete Guide to the Capabilities of Sheet Metal

Sheet Metal Manufacuring Guide

Table of Contents

If you have spent some time in manufacturing, you likely have come across sheet metal manufacturing. Sheet metal manufacturing is a very common process that involves the fabrication of metal parts or components from flat sheets of various metals, such as steel, aluminum, or copper. It is a widely used method in various industries, including automotive, aerospace, construction, electronics, and many others. 

Thankfully, SendCutSend offers many services that enable the manufacturing of sheet metal components through cutting and forming. 

Advantages of Outsourced Sheet Metal Manufacturing

Outsourcing sheet metal manufacturing, such as partnering with us at SendCutSend, 

can offer several advantages for businesses looking to manufacture parts out of sheet metal. Here are some of the key benefits of outsourcing sheet metal manufacturing:

Cost Savings 

Outsourcing sheet metal manufacturing can often lead to significant cost savings. External suppliers may have access to economies of scale, specialized equipment, and skilled labor, which can result in lower production costs compared to in-house manufacturing. Additionally, outsourcing eliminates the need for investments in machinery, tooling, and infrastructure, reducing capital costs for an individual. 

Expertise and Specialized Knowledge 

Outsourcing allows businesses to tap into the expertise and specialized knowledge of sheet metal manufacturing professionals. External suppliers can have extensive experience in the field and possess in-depth knowledge of the latest manufacturing techniques, materials, and technologies. This can result in higher-quality products.

Increased Focus on Core Competencies 

By outsourcing sheet metal manufacturing, businesses can free up internal resources and focus on their core competencies or other activities. They can concentrate on things that directly contribute to their strategic goals such as product design, marketing, and customer service.

Flexibility and Scalability

Outsourcing provides flexibility and scalability in production. External suppliers can quickly adjust production volumes to meet changing demand without requiring businesses to invest in additional equipment or labor. 

Reduced Lead Times 

Working with experienced sheet metal manufacturers who have efficient production processes can lead to shorter lead times. Suppliers often have streamlined workflows, optimized scheduling, and access to a wide range of resources, enabling faster turnaround times for sheet metal parts.

Risk Mitigation

Outsourcing sheet metal manufacturing can help mitigate certain risks associated with production. External suppliers typically bear the responsibility for maintaining equipment, ensuring compliance with industry regulations, and managing potential manufacturing risks. This can help businesses minimize the risks and liabilities associated with manufacturing.

Access to Advanced Technology and Equipment

Sheet metal manufacturing is a technically demanding process that often requires specialized equipment and technology. Outsourcing to external suppliers can grant businesses access to state-of-the-art machinery, advanced software, and innovative manufacturing techniques that may not be feasible to acquire in-house. This access to advanced technology can result in higher capacity without having to take up any space in your own shop.

What Does the Sheet Metal Fabrication Process Look Like?

Sheet metal manufacturing involves a series of processes that transform flat sheets of metal into finished parts. Here is a general overview of how sheet metal manufacturing works:

Design and Engineering

The process begins with the design of the desired part or component. Product designers create detailed drawings or 3D models that specify dimensions and tolerances. Design software such as CAD (Computer-Aided Design) is commonly used in this stage and 3D images can be converted and exported to 2D formats for manufacturing

Material Selection

Based on the design requirements, the appropriate type and thickness of sheet metal are selected. Common materials used in sheet metal manufacturing include steel, aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and brass. Factors such as strength, durability, weight, and cost are taken into consideration during material selection.

Sheet Metal Cutting 

The selected sheet metal is cut into the desired shape and size. Several cutting methods can be employed, including shearing, laser cutting, and waterjet cutting.

Hole Operations

Hardware insertion, tapping and countersinking are all options during production. Following spacing specifications and taking into account additional operations (bending) can make or break a design that includes hole operations. 

Forming and Bending 

The cut sheet metal is then shaped and bent into the desired form. This is typically achieved using specialized machines such as press brakes or rollers. The sheet metal is clamped between a punch and a die, and pressure is applied to deform it into the desired shape. This process creates features like curves, angles, flanges, or bends.

Joining 

Depending on the design and requirements of the part, various joining methods are used to connect different sheet metal parts. Common joining techniques include welding, riveting, or adhesive bonding. 

Finishing OperationsAfter forming and joining, the fabricated sheet metal part may undergo additional finishing operations to improve its appearance and surface quality. These operations can include grinding, sanding, polishing, deburring (removing sharp edges), plating, anodizing, or applying paint or powder coating.

Quality Control 

Throughout the manufacturing process, quality control measures are used to ensure that the produced parts meet the required specifications. This can involve inspections, dimensional checks, and testing for strength or other performance characteristics. 

SendCutSend offers many of these processes and with the online parts builder, you can select a design from a library of CAD examples. Material selection advice is also available for any SendCutSend customer. Laser cutting, waterjet cutting, CNC routing, bending services, and hole operations are also available to bring your ideas to life. Finally, we offer finishing operations such as powder coating, anodizing and plating. 

Sheet Metal Manufacturing Materials

There are a variety of materials that can be used as sheet metal. Here are some common materials used in sheet metal manufacturing:

Stainless Steel 

Stainless steel is a type of steel alloy that contains chromium, which provides corrosion resistance and makes it suitable for applications where hygiene and durability are important. It is commonly used in industries such as food processing, medical equipment, and architectural components. Different grades of stainless steel, such as 304, 316, and 430, offer varying levels of corrosion resistance and mechanical properties.

A36 Steel

A36 steel is a commonly used structural steel grade that exhibits good strength and ductility. It is a low-carbon steel with a carbon content of up to 0.29%, making it relatively easy to weld, form, and machine. A36 steel is often used in construction, bridges, and general structural applications due to its excellent mechanical properties and affordability.

Aluminum

Aluminum is valued for its lightweight nature, high strength-to-weight ratio, and resistance to corrosion. It is commonly used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and electronics where weight reduction is a critical factor.

Copper

Copper possesses good electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and malleability. It is often used in electrical and electronic applications.

Brass

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, combining the properties of both metals. It offers good corrosion resistance, high machinability, and an attractive appearance. Brass is commonly used in decorative applications, musical instruments, plumbing fittings, and electrical connectors.

Titanium

Titanium is a lightweight and strong material with excellent corrosion resistance. It is commonly used in industries such as aerospace, medical devices, and chemical processing, where a combination of strength, low weight, and resistance to harsh environments is required.

These are just a few examples of the materials commonly used in sheet metal manufacturing. The selection of the material depends on factors like mechanical properties, corrosion resistance, cost, aesthetics, and the specific requirements of the application. 

Sheet Metal Cutting: How is Sheet Metal Cut? 6 Techniques 

Sheet metal cutting techniques are divided into two categories: cutting with shear, and cutting without shear. Cutting with shear includes processes where the material is cut by a shearing force that overcomes the material’s ultimate shear strength. The material is held while a punch presses down and shears the material. 

On the other hand, cutting without shear includes processes that create the cut by the use of extreme heat, or abrasive blasting, thus, avoiding cutting with a shear force pressing onto the material. Below are some examples of each type of cutting.Metal Cutting Without Shear

Laser Cutting

Laser cutting uses a focused laser beam to cut through various materials. It works by directing a high-energy laser beam onto the material, causing rapid localized heating and melting, resulting in a clean and precise cut.

Waterjet Cutting

Waterjet cutting uses a high-pressure jet of water mixed with abrasive particles to cut through various materials. The waterjet is directed through a small nozzle at extremely high velocity, resulting in erosion and separation of the material.

Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting uses a high-velocity jet of ionized gas (plasma) to cut through electrically conductive materials. The plasma is created by passing an electric current through a gas, which elevates its temperature and ionizes the gas particles. The energized plasma is directed through a nozzle, creating a focused cutting stream that melts and blows away the metal, resulting in precise and fast cuts.

Metal cutting with shear

Shearing 

Shearing involves cutting a straight line through the material with the use of a press or die. It separates the work part into two separate pieces by the application of a shearing force. 

Blanking and Punching

Blanking involves cutting out a flat shape or profile from a larger sheet, typically using a die and a punch, leaving behind the desired part. Punching, on the other hand, involves creating holes or perforations in the material using a punch and die combination, allowing for the creation of openings, slots, or patterns in the sheet.

Sawing

Sawing is a cutting process that utilizes a saw or a similar cutting tool to divide materials into desired shapes or sizes. It involves the use of a serrated blade or a rotating abrasive wheel that removes material by creating a cutting action.

SendCutSend uses cutting techniques that are without shear. Therefore, we offer laser cutting, waterjet cutting, and plasma cutting for your sheet metal cutting needs. These techniques are very precise and fast, thus creating high-quality sheet metal parts with fast turnaround times. 

Sheet Metal Forming Techniques 

Sheet metal forming techniques refer to a variety of processes used to shape and manipulate flat sheet metal into desired forms. Here are some common sheet metal forming techniques:

Bending

Bending involves deforming the sheet metal along a straight line to create angles, curves, or folds. This can be achieved using press brakes or other bending machines that apply force to the metal, causing it to bend.

Roll Forming

Roll forming is a continuous bending process used to create long, uniform profiles or shapes. The sheet metal is passed through a series of rollers, which gradually bend it into the desired form. Roll forming is often used for creating things like channels and tubes. 

Punching

Punching is a process that involves creating holes, slots, or other geometric shapes in a sheet of metal. It is achieved by using a punch and die set, where the punch applies force to the sheet metal, and the die provides support and guides the material.

SendCutSend’s forming capabilities are very capable of creating complex shapes and structures from flat metal sheets.

Sheet Metal Joining Techniques 

There are several common techniques for joining sheet metal components together.

Welding

Welding is a process that joins two or more pieces of metal by melting and fusing them together. In sheet metal, common welding methods include MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding, and spot welding. Welding provides strong and durable connections, particularly for structural applications.

Riveting

Riveting involves joining two or more sheets of metal using rivets. A rivet is inserted through pre-drilled holes in the sheets, and the protruding end is deformed to create a permanent connection. Riveting is often used when high strength and structural integrity are required.

Mechanical Fasteners

Mechanical fasteners such as screws, bolts, nuts, and self-clinching fasteners can be used to join sheet metal components together. They provide a secure connection and are often used in applications where disassembly or adjustable connections are required.

Soldering 

Soldering is a joining technique that uses a low-temperature metal alloy called solder to bond two or more metal surfaces together. It is commonly used for electronics where a low-heat method is needed.

The choice of joining technique depends on factors such as the strength requirements, material types, production volume, and specific application needs. Although SendCutSend is not currently offering services related specifically to joining parts, our hardware installation service has been designed to create parts that can be then easily joined together. 

Surface Finishes For Sheet Metal Products

Different sheet metal surface finishes are applied to provide various properties and aesthetics for the finished sheet metal product. Some of these include mill, painted, powder coated, galvanized, brushed and anodized finishes. 

Mill finish refers to the untreated surface of sheet metal with visible machining marks. Painted finishes involve applying a layer of paint or coating for custom colors, enhanced appearance, and corrosion resistance. Powder coating offers a durable, uniform finish with excellent protection against corrosion, scratches, and UV damage. Galvanized finishes use a protective zinc coating to resist corrosion in outdoor or corrosive environments. Anodized finishes create an oxide layer on aluminum for improved corrosion resistance and decorative options. Brushed finishes create a textured or satin-like appearance through abrasive brushing. 

Other finishes include polished, plated, or laminated surfaces, each offering unique properties and appearance for specific sheet metal applications. They can all improve the final product’s appearance and durability, but the choice of finish ultimately depends on factors such as material, functionality, durability requirements, aesthetic requirements, and environmental conditions.

SendCutSend: Your Go-To Source for Sheet Metal Manufacturing

In summary, sheet metal manufacturing involves the process of transforming flat sheets of metal into various products or components through cutting, bending, forming, and joining techniques. It is very versatile as it allows for the creation of complex shapes and designs. It can often be easily outsourced with very quick turnaround times thanks to laser cutting and waterjet cutting providing great precision and speed. Overall, sheet metal manufacturing provides a range of advantages that make it a preferred choice in various industries.

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We proudly use hardware by PEM

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

Aluminum: 5052, 6061, 7075 Steel: Mild, G30

SKUSO-440-8
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..345″
Recommended panel materialSteel/Aluminum
Coating typeZinc
Length.250″
Aluminum material ranges (5052, 6061, 7075)0.040″-0.125″
Steel material ranges (CRS, HRPO, HR)0.048″-0.119″

We proudly use hardware by PEM

Flush Standoff, 4-40, .250" Passivated

Stainless Steel: 304, 316

SKUSO4-440-8
Thread Size440
Hole size in sheet (+0.003/-.0.000).166″
Minimum sheet thickness0.04″
Maximum sheet thickness.125″
Fastener material400 Stainless Steel
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. Example shown with x2 of the same hardware..313″
Recommended panel materialStainless Steel
Coating typePassivated
Length.250″
304 Stainless Steel material ranges0.048″-0.125″
316 Stainless Steel material ranges0.060″-0.125″