Prototype Sheet Metal Fabrication That Won’t Break the Bank: 5 Tips for Startups

Last updated on December 27th, 2023 at 09:07 am

PrototypeDoes the mere mention of prototype sheet metal fabrication make you break out in a cold sweat? It doesn't have to.

Sure, prototyping can come with anxiety-inducing costs, especially at quantity 1, when all the setup and run-time costs are rolled into the fabrication of a single part. But with the right prototyping partner and a commitment to collaboration, you can stretch your budget without compromising on quality.

At Approved Sheet Metal, we've been in the prototype fabrication trenches long enough to know that you can achieve the form, fit, and function you need without breaking the bank.

First, Let’s Debunk These Two Prototyping Myths

There are two major misconceptions associated with sheet metal prototype services, and we’ll tell you exactly why they’re untrue.

Myth #1: “Expensive prototypes are better prototypes.”

These are the facts: Folks frequently equate high cost with high quality, but an experienced shop like ASM has the nuanced knowledge and agility to help you mitigate costs while still delivering a prototype with impressive form, fit, and function—even at quantity 1! In fact, ASM provides price breaks at quantity 1 and includes options for quantities 3 and 5.

Myth #2: “Any design and material will do!”

Here’s the deal: When it comes to prototype fabrication, “off-the-shelf” options are often your best bet. Unnecessary design features, exotic materials, and specialty finishes can all cause costs and lead times to skyrocket. Consult your fabricator to determine which tooling, materials, and finishes are readily available. They may not match the options you’ll choose for the final production, but they’ll be perfect for the prototyping phase.

5 Tips for Building a Budget-Friendly Prototype

Now, let’s review the steps you can take to ensure your wallet withstands the prototyping phase. Each of these decisions contributes not only to keeping prototyping costs low but also to obtaining the highest quality prototype possible within your set budget and timeline.

1. Take the “sheet metal first” approach

Given sheet metal’s unique challenges, startups should focus on their product’s sheet metal design first. Here’s an example that demonstrates why the “sheet metal first” approach is so important:

Many years ago, a customer ordered sheet metal parts with bend tolerances that weren’t possible to achieve. A simple design modification would have fixed the problem. However, the sheet metal parts were destined for an assembly, and the assembly’s machined parts had already been completed.

In other words, the sheet metal design could not be altered. The only remaining solution was for ASM to perform extensive post-machining work, which increased the customer’s cost and lead time.

In short, to avoid a budget-draining situation, prioritize your sheet metal components before developing any mating parts.

2. Partner with prototype fabrication specialists

Recently, many shops have begun offering prototyping services. But a great deal of these shops will almost certainly cease prototyping work once their production levels return to normal.

ASM is different. We specialize in prototype sheet metal fabrication, with tools, talent, and expertise accrued from decades in the industry, and we understand the unique challenges prototyping presents. Not only are we equipped to guide you, but we’re also truly passionate about prototyping.

Prototype Sheet Metal Fabrication

We can’t say it enough: forge a long-term partnership with a shop like ASM—one that specializes in sheet metal prototype services and enjoys the work—and you’ll always have a partner on hand to assist with any and every prototyping challenge.

3. Choose standard materials and finishes

Your final product can be made of whatever cutting-edge, wildly rare, space-age miracle material you desire. But for the prototyping phase, stick to standard, readily available materials and finishes.

As your prototype sheet metal fabricator, ASM can help you identify the best options for your prototype’s purpose—just ask! By prototyping with lower-cost alternatives to your final selections, you can get your prototype faster and at a much lower price.

4. Opt for a prototyping partner, not a temporary transaction

Startups that purchase sheet metal prototype sheet metal fabrication services from a cheap, online marketplace deal with disappointing quality and lackluster service. Here at ASM, we’re invested in more than your one-off prototype order; we’re here to help your startup succeed for the long haul with a prototyping partnership that advances you toward your immediate and more ambitious goals.

You’ll benefit from our shop’s ongoing collaboration, focused understanding of your project, and favorable pricing. The ASM team finds genuine joy in supporting startups—market fluctuations be damned.

5. Plan beyond the prototype

What is the purpose of your prototype? Whether you're trying to validate a concept or create a high-quality model of a future product, a comprehensive awareness of your objective will influence your design, material, and fabrication choices, all of which impact your prototype’s cost.

If you’re struggling to visualize the big picture and prioritize your next steps, talk to our team. We’ll help you make those key decisions so you can steer your project effectively and efficiently.

Let ASM’s Prototyping Prowess Empower Your Startup

Prototyping doesn't have to be a daunting, expensive process. Our experienced and engaged team thrives on solving even the most complex prototyping challenges, and we’re fully equipped to help you obtain the prototype fabrication services you truly need.

Start your prototyping partnership with ASM. Get in touch.

Prototype Sheet Metal Fabrication Tips for Startups FAQ

Prototyping at low quantities tends to involve setup and run-time costs that are aggregated into the fabrication of a single part, contributing to the higher costs. However, partnering with the right fabrication team and adopting collaborative strategies can help optimize budgets without compromising quality.

Contrary to popular belief, experienced fabricators like ASM can produce high-quality prototypes at quantity 1, offering competitive pricing without sacrificing quality. The idea that higher costs equate to better quality in prototypes is a misconception that often doesn't hold true in practice.

Adopting a 'sheet metal first' approach, opting for readily available materials and standard finishes, and consulting with prototype fabrication specialists can significantly reduce costs. Prioritizing sheet metal components and choosing standard options for prototypes can save time and money.

Partnering with a fabrication shop specializing in prototypes, like ASM, offers startups ongoing support, quality service, and expertise tailored to prototype fabrication. Such partnerships ensure dedicated guidance, favorable pricing, and a long-term collaborative approach to prototyping.

Understanding the purpose behind creating a prototype influences design, material, and fabrication choices, thereby impacting costs. Having a clear objective for the prototype helps in making informed decisions, and collaborating with the fabrication team aids in effective planning for future steps beyond the prototype.

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