Optimizing Sheet Metal Designs: 5 Tips for Mechanical Engineers

Last updated on January 29th, 2024 at 02:01 pm

Sheet metal fabrication is a highly versatile process for creating durable parts, ranging from single prototypes to large-scale production runs. As a mechanical engineer, optimizing your sheet metal designs can lead to cost-effective solutions without compromising quality. In this article, we'll explore five valuable tips tailored to help you enhance efficiency and reduce costs in your projects, all within the expertise of Approved Sheet Metal.

1. Material Selection Matters

Material cost significantly impacts overall part costs. Carefully choose the appropriate material for your project and consider utilizing stock sizes to minimize waste. For prototyping, contemplate using materials like Aluminum 5052 instead of more expensive options such as 304 stainless steel. Check Approved Sheet Metal's comprehensive list of available materials to make informed decisions based on your project requirements.

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2. Design with Standard Gauges in Mind

When designing your sheet metal parts, adhere to standard sheet metal gauges. Approved Sheet Metal can manufacture sheet metal parts up to ¼” (6.35mm) in thickness, depending on the part's geometry. Using thicker metals may impose limitations on achievable bends, so designing to common gauges ensures optimal manufacturability. Familiarize yourself with Approved Sheet Metal's capabilities and constraints to streamline your design process.

3. Embrace Simplicity in Bends

Simplicity is key in optimizing sheet metal fabrication costs. Design your parts with straightforward angled bends, featuring a radius equal to or greater than the sheet's thickness. Complex designs tend to incur higher costs, and small bends on large, thick parts may lead to inaccuracies. Explore Approved Sheet Metal's Design Guide for sheet metal, providing valuable best practices for creating cost-effective and precise sheet metal pieces.

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4. Strategically Manage Tolerances

Carefully assess the critical features of your part to determine necessary tolerances. Excessive tolerance callouts on various features, such as radii, hole diameters, and distances, can escalate manufacturing costs. To reduce expenses, assign tolerances only to mission-critical features and surfaces. Approved Sheet Metal's expertise ensures that your parts meet the required specifications without unnecessary additional costs.

Recommended Default Sheet Metal Tolerances

DIMTolerance (MM)Tolerance (Inches)Description
A± 0.13± 0.005Sheared Edge to Hole
B± 0.13± 0.0052 Holes on One Surface
C± 0.25± 0.010Formed Edge to Hole
D*± 0.76± 0.030Holes Across 2 Bends
E*± 0.76± 0.030Holes Across 4 Bends
F± 0.25± 0.010Sheared Edge to Bend
G± 0.38± 0.015Across 2 Bends
H*± 0.76± 0.030Formed Part

Noted dimensions are to be taken while the part is in a restrained condition. Noted dimensions are for parts within a 12” envelope.
* Dimensions D, E and H are not recommended forms of dimensioning
These tolerances are recommended and best practices. We can obtain tighter tolerances (depending on part geometry/ construction), contact us for more information

5. Ensure Consistent Bend Orientation

Maintain uniform bend orientation for parts in the same plane to avoid unnecessary reorientation during fabrication. Consistent bend radii contribute to cost-effectiveness and precision. Approved Sheet Metal provides detailed insights on the basics of bending sheet metal in their blog post, offering valuable information for engineers seeking optimal design practices.

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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.

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