Traditional Sheet Metal Fabrication vs. Sheet Metal Stamping: Which Does Your Part Need?

Here’s an interesting bit of information: the number one reason ASM no-quotes a part is that it cannot be made using traditional sheet metal fabrication processes. Instead, it needs to go to a stamping house.

You aren’t alone if you are unsure of the difference between sheet metal fabrication and metal stamping. Here, we’ll describe these different processes and help you understand which approach is best for your parts.

Traditional Sheet Metal Fab vs. Metal Stamping

Metal Stamping - Stamped Electrical Connector
Stamped Electrical Connector

Precision sheet metal fabrication leverages standard tooling and equipment to create a part’s shape and features. Metal fabrication shops are ideal for prototypes, one-off parts, and low-volume productions that don’t require custom tooling.

Metal stamping employs custom tooling and specialized equipment to create a part’s shape and features. Stamping houses are best for high-volume productions.

Fabrication equipment and capabilities

Metal fabrication shops provide cutting, punching, shaping, folding, welding, and custom fabrication. These powerful machines support ASM’s fabrication processes:

    • Laser cutters. Our laser cutters achieve precise cuts with minimal material waste. We can handle even complex designs in various material types and thicknesses.
    • Punch presses. The punch press employs a shaped die to quickly cut holes and other openings in your sheet metal material.
    • Press brakes.The press brake uses a die to form sheet metal parts, performing bending and drawing processes with high precision.
    • Welding machines. Our welding experts perform MIG, TIG, and spot welding with incredible accuracy, ensuring a strong, durable final product.

ASM’s additional capabilities include finishing, hardware insertion, and assembly services. An ITAR Registered Metal Fabricator, our metal fabrication shop commonly makes precision prototypes, enclosures, weldments, brackets, panels, frames, assemblies, covers, card cages, consoles, RF and EMI shields, busbars, chassis, cabinets, 19" racks, contacts, and more.

Stamping equipment and capabilities

In stamping, a single press applies a series of dies customized to the part’s various angles and features. Metal stamping machines can fill an entire room, with presses ranging in size from 20-6,000 tons. You’ll find machines like these in a stamping facility:

  • Mechanical presses. Capable of progressive stamping, mechanical presses quickly and efficiently produce high volumes of simple, shallow-formed parts from sheet metal coils.
  • Hydraulic presses. Slower than mechanical presses, hydraulic presses produce deep, complex shapes in parts with extensive material flow.
  • Mechanical servo presses. With the flexibility of a hydraulic press and the speed of a mechanical press, the mechanical servo press offers fine controls, an array of dies, and varying production speeds.
  • Deep draw metal stamping presses. Also known as a “transfer press,” the deep draw press applies extreme pressure to draw a metal blank into a die and form the complex component.

Metal stamping houses make parts such as fasteners, torsion springs, hand tools, valves, flanges, rotary joints, gas fittings, and more.

Start with a Design Consultation

The decision between stamping and sheet metal fabrication begins with a design discussion. The ASM team will assess your design and recommend changes to improve the part’s manufacturability. If our precision metal fabrication services aren’t the right fit for your production goals, we’ll point you in the right direction.

Design considerations for sheet metal fabrication

Precision sheet metal fabrication is the way to go if your part includes traditional formed features like embossments and louvers. Remember, however, that the feature’s depth can’t significantly exceed the sheet metal’s thickness.

Get help designing fabrication-friendly parts!

Design considerations for stamping

With a deep draw press, a stamping house can bypass the depth maximums that limit a fabricator. Stamping can also achieve precise bends in tiny parts under 1“.

How are these features possible? In stamping, a custom tool is made for every feature in the part’s design, enabling impressive precision on parts of every size. However, stamping tools can cost tens of thousands of dollars each, making the approach cost-prohibitive for most small or mid-sized orders.

Avoid this major design mishap

When a customer requested a quote for a small quantity of single-bend brackets, we quickly discovered an unusual challenge. Unlike the typical straight bend on most brackets, this bracket incorporated a curved bend that was impossible to achieve without a custom $13,000 tool. Predictably, the high cost of the custom tool sent the customer back to the drawing board.

Avoid unexpected costs by talking with us during the design phase. We’ll help you identify design elements that could create preventable problems further down the line.

Make ASM Your Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication Partner

From design consultations to expedited delivery, our experts give you the guidance, quality, and speed you want and need.

Tap into our FREE resources for engineers, or kickstart your next project and request a quote through our secure portal.

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