Sheet Metal Parts: Which Process is Best for Manufacturability?
Rather than a single process that is best for manufacturability of sheet metal parts, there are several steps that should be taken in order to streamline production and help keep costs down while producing quality parts. The concept behind DFM, or design for manufacturability, is to create a design that requires minimum custom fabrication of parts. In turn, this allows the part in question to be mass manufactured with minimal adjustments to the machinery and maximum output of quality products.
Step by Step
When it comes to the best process in sheet parts manufacturing, it all starts with choosing the right sheet metal for the application. The function of the parts in question plays the largest role in the choice of metals and in the design of said parts. In order to do this, you need to choose a metal and gauge that takes into account its weight, strength, and cost. While this is not always easy, using CAD models and FEA (finite element analysis) can help streamline the process.
This being said, the most important part of the process is creating a successful prototype. The CAD drawings on the computer can only show you so much. Whether we are talking about the custom fabrication of parts for a single run or going from prototype to mass production, having a prototype in your hands will make all the difference.
Consider how the prototype looks, is balanced, and how it will mesh with the other components in the final product. In most instances, this is not something that happens with the first model. In most cases, custom fabrication of parts must take place several times before they are ready for the production floor.
Not So Tight
One of the most important things to keep in mind during the design phase is limiting the use of tight tolerances. The more you can avoid them by sticking to standard tolerances, the less expensive it will be to manufacture the parts. Your design should use tight tolerances only when they are considered to be mission critical.
While thicker, more robust parts may best be manufactured using hot casting when it comes to sheet metal, the most common process is cold-forming. Along with reducing production costs, it makes bending the sheet metal into tight corners easier than trying to pour them using casting or hot-forming.
Stamp It Out
The most popular form of creating sheet metal parts is stamping. This process involves using a die and extreme pressure, which literally “crushes” the part into its finished shape. Among the many parts manufactured using this method are car fenders, doors, and hoods. While it may not allow for the custom fabrication of parts, it does allow the operator to set up the machine once and run large numbers of parts to ensure that the finished product will match the prototype.
In some instances, the die will also include cutters to create holes and specific cuts which are required in the final product. When it comes to design for manufacturability, creating a design that can be mass produced using the stamp forming process will help keep the costs down, while at the same time allowing maximum production, both of which are critical to the company ordering the parts.
When you are ready to convert your designs into finished sheet metal parts, contact Additive Manufacturing and let us work with you to turn your ideas into a product for small or massive runs.