The Benefits of Sheet Metal Prototyping

When most project designers and engineers start with a new product, it often starts as a simple pencil drawing before going into a CAD program. If things are being done in the right order, the next step is sheet metal prototyping. The process of prototyping sheet metal parts has a number of benefits, starting with being able to convince management that your project has enough merit to warrant manufacturing.   Ironing Out the Kinks   Unless you are extremely lucky, before you fabricate sheet metal parts there are likely to be a few small problems that have to be addressed. Just because the part you have designed looks great on the computer screen doesn’t mean it will work flawlessly when put into the finished product. Sheet metal prototyping is the best way to work out the kinks and save you from the expense of a production run of flawed parts. Sheet metal prototyping is sure to score you points with the accounting department.   Testing and Final Certification   No matter what type of sheet metal parts you have in mind, chances are good that they must undergo significant testing before they can finally be certified for use in your finished product. One of the most common ways used to evaluate the efficacy of new parts is through a stringent inspection and testing process. While you could use clay models of the part for certain aspects of testing, the reality is that when working with sheet metal, the parts you make may be subjected to extremes in temperature and stress. The only way to test a part’s viability is by using a prototype using the same metals the final parts will be manufactured from.   Depending on how the part is to be used, it may need to be certified by testing institutes like Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Engineering Testing Laboratories (ETL) before it can be placed into use. Providing these labs with a prototype is the best way to achieve this certification and can save you money in the long run by avoiding multiple iterations and parts submissions.   Adapting the Manufacturing Process   Once again, just because the parts look perfect in the CAD images, it doesn’t mean the parts you are considering manufacturing are going to work efficiently during the assembly phase of your project. Your design might lead to a design that is so challenging to install that it slows the production line down below acceptable levels.   Piquing the Interest of Your Clients   Your clients will be far more likely to show serious interest in your parts if they have a prototype to work with. This may, in fact, be one of the most important reasons for sheet metal prototyping. Instead of looking at a 3D CAD image, being able to touch and look closely at the part can make all the difference in the world and is likely to net more sales, especially if you are working with a new part or new client.   When you need sheet metal prototyping to satisfy your manufacturing needs or have a concept for sheet metal parts you need to be developed for manufacturing, contact Additive Manufacturing at (877) 238-7907. We are here to help you succeed in every sheet metal project you develop.