7 FAQs for SOLIDWORKS Sheet Metal Design (Updated for 2024)

Last updated on January 23rd, 2024 at 12:17 pm

Are you designing sheet metal parts in SOLIDWORKS? If you’ve got questions, you’re not alone. While tech programs often provide helpful information for designing precision machined parts with this popular CAD program, training regarding how to design sheet metal fabricated parts is far less common.

Here, we share answers to some of the top SOLIDWORKS questions we have encountered as a sheet metal shop. With this information, you can take your SOLIDWORKS skills to the next level.

How to find the Sheet Metal Toolbar in SOLIDWORKS?

At first glance, the busy SOLIDWORKS interface can feel a bit overwhelming. Finding the appropriate toolbar for sheet metal design will orient you to the features you need for your sheet metal prototype.SOLIDWORKS Toolbar

  1. Navigate to CommandManager.
  2. Choose Sheet Metal from the dropdown list.

How to Create a Sheet Metal Tab in SOLIDWORKS

Now that you’ve found the Sheet Metal toolbar, creating a tab is simple.SOLIDWORKS Base Flange Insert

  1. Create or choose a plane or planar face.
  2. Sketch the tab on the plane to define its size.
  3. Select Base Flange/Tab on the Sheet Metal toolbar


Click InsertSheet MetalBase Flange.

Create a tab from your sketch using the standard sheet metal thickness, or select the tab and click Edit Sketch to alter any of its dimensions.

How to Flatten and Unflatten Sheet Metal in SOLIDWORKS

When designing your sheet metal prototype in SOLIDWORKS, it is often useful to toggle back and forth between the flat pattern and the 3D part.

There are three ways to flatten and unflatten sheet metal parts in SOLIDWORKS.

  1. Right-click the part and select Flatten from the Sheet Metal toolbar.
  2. Navigate to the Cut List, choose your sheet metal part, click Process Bends, and select Flatten.

For both 1 and 2, click Exit Flatten again to refold the part.

  1. Navigate to the Sheet Metal toolbar and select the Flatten feature.

Click the Flatten feature again to refold the part.

How to Fold and Unfold Sheet Metal in SOLIDWORKS

Unfolding and folding are similar to flattening and unflattening in SOLIDWORKS. But whereas a flattened part represents what the part will look like when it is ready to be formed, the unfolded part reveals all the design modifications.

If you need a more detailed view, choose Unfold/Fold:

  1. Click Fold or Unfold from the Sheet Metal toolbar.


  1. Select InsertSheet MetalFold/Unfold.

How Do I Find the Minimum Bend Radius?

Sheet metal forming can be a precarious process. To avoid damaging a part during forming, you must take into account its shape and dimensions, as well as the hardness and thickness of the metal you are using. These factors help you determine the minimum bend radius.

Many customers mistakenly believe their minimum bend radius should equal their material thickness (e.g., if the material is 0.125” thick, the smallest possible bend radius is 0.125”). This requirement applies to only about 15% of the sheet metal prototypes we see. Restricting the bend radius to the sheet metal thickness may require us to order specialty tooling.

The default bend radius in SOLIDWORKS is 0.100”, a specification that requires specialty tooling to achieve. We recommend changing the bend radius to 0.030”, the industry standard for sheet metal with a thickness of up to 0.125”. For thicker metals, we can help you determine the appropriate bend radius.

To set a bend radius in SOLIDWORKS:SOLIDWORKS Bend Radius

  1. Navigate to the FeatureTree, select Sheet Metal, and expand the sheet metal feature.
  2. Click Edit Feature.
  3. Select the appropriate gauge table from the Sheet Metal Gauges list.
  4. Select the appropriate edge or face for your bend.
  5. Set the bend radius.

What Is the K-Factor in Sheet Metal Design?

The k-factor─the ratio of the sheet metal’s thickness divided by its neutral axis─is the amount your material will stretch during sheet metal forming. This measurement must be subtracted from the dimensions of your formed part so your sheet metal shop can fabricate the part correctly.

Choosing an accurate k-factor in SOLIDWORKS, rather than selecting a standard default such as 0.5, helps a sheet metal shop save time by enabling them to use your native CAD model. Otherwise, they would have to create a flat model of your formed part to ensure the proper dimensions. An accurate k-factor also facilitates tighter sheet metal bends.

Download our FREE sheet metal bend gains chart to determine your K factor.

To set a k-factor in SOLIDWORKS:SOLIDWORKS K Factor

  1. Navigate to the FeatureTree, select Sheet Metal, and expand the sheet metal feature.
  2. Click Edit Feature.
  3. Select the appropriate gauge table from the Sheet Metal Gauges list.
  4. Select the appropriate edge or face for your bend.
  5. Set the k-factor.

Sheet Metal Part Design for Manufacturing Tip


Bending sheet metal parts is a process that is completed by utilizing press brakes and our very skilled press brake operators. At Approved Sheet Metal, we can hold tolerances of +/- 1 degree on most bend angles. The ideal bend radius on formed parts is 0.030 in., this ensures that you can get consistent, quality parts that will maintain solid structural integrity.


Should I Convert to Sheet Metal or Design a Sheet Metal Part?

While SOLIDWORKS does have the functionality to convert a solid part into a sheet metal design, we always recommend designing in sheet metal from the outset by creating your part from the Sheet Metal toolbar (see FAQ #1). This approach ensures that the system will flag any errors in the design (e.g., when folding and unfolding).

SOLIDWORKS Sheet Metal Part

Looking for a  sheet metal shop with DFM expertise and an in-depth understanding of SOLIDWORKS? Take a look at our SOLIDWORKS Resource Page and our Sheet Metal DFM eBook.

SOLIDWORKS Sheet Metal Design FAQ

To locate the Sheet Metal Toolbar in SOLIDWORKS, access the CommandManager, and select "Sheet Metal" from the dropdown list. This toolbar will provide access to features essential for sheet metal design.

After finding the Sheet Metal Toolbar, create a tab by selecting or creating a plane or planar face, sketching the tab's size, and using commands like "Base Flange/Tab" or "Insert → Sheet Metal → Base Flange" to form the tab. Modify dimensions using "Edit Sketch" if needed.

There are three ways to accomplish this. Right-click the part and select "Flatten" or use the "Process Bends" option in the Cut List, followed by "Flatten". Alternatively, access the Sheet Metal Toolbar and use the "Flatten" feature, clicking it again to refold the part.

Use the "Fold" or "Unfold" commands found in the Sheet Metal Toolbar, or access them through "Insert → Sheet Metal → Fold/Unfold". Unfolding reveals design modifications, while folding represents the ready-to-form part.

Access the FeatureTree, select Sheet Metal, and expand the feature. Click "Edit Feature", choose the appropriate gauge table, select the edge or face for the bend, and set the bend radius. The default in SOLIDWORKS is 0.100”, but industry standards may differ based on metal thickness.

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