Sheet metal fabrication is an incredibly versatile and cost-effective manufacturing method for creating just about anything. Using sheet metal, you can create incredibly durable, high-quality parts for different applications in various industries.
If you’re considering using sheet metal fabrication to produce your next project, a key factor on your mind is probably cost. However, there is no standard cost associated with sheet metal fabrication.
The final cost is influenced by different factors like materials, labor, etc., which vary from project to project.
In this article, we’ll discuss some standard costs associated with sheet metal fabrication. We’ll also give you some industry tips on you can plan and design your product better to reduce these costs.
Factors Influencing the Cost of Sheet Metal Fabrication
Many factors can influence the cost of sheet metal parts. Let’s have a look at some of the common ones:
√ Material Choice
The material you choose plays a huge role in the final cost of your sheet metal project. Metals like stainless steel and high-quality alloys are more expensive than lower-grade ones like carbon steel.
Furthermore, the price of sheet metal is higher for thicker sheets.
The cost of these materials can also vary by location and supplier. Supply chain disruptions and sourcing costs can drive the prices of sheet metals up, leading to higher costs.
Additionally, certain metals have higher handling and processing costs associated with them. For example, bending or cutting a higher sheet metal gauge will take more machine and laborer time.
√ Machines and Process Choices
Sheet metal fabrication covers many processes, such as cutting, bending, and joining. All these processes require various machines, which you have to pay for.
Most times, you have to pay to use these machines on an hourly basis. Also, when designing your product, you must keep in mind that some sheet metal fabrication processes are more expensive than others.
For example, cutting up sheet metal with a laser offers more accuracy than using a water jet. However, it is more expensive.
√ Project Size and Complexity
The size of your project directly influences just how much material it will take to manufacture it. Larger volume sheet metal parts will often have larger “lay flat” sizes, leading to higher material usage and costs.
Also, if your project is a complex one with many folds and features, more fabrication processes will be needed to manufacture it. This will raise the machining costs.
√ Order Sizes
This factor varies from machine shop to machine shop. Some shops offer discounts for larger orders as it allows them to procure, plan and produce the parts cost-effectively.
√ Assembly and Finishing Options
Sheet metal parts may require different finishes depending on their intended applications. They may need painting, laser engraving, or anti-rust coatings if they are heading for corrosive environments.
Also, if the final parts need to be put together with fasteners like studs, rivets, etc., this will incur additional costs.
Sheet metal fabrication requires specialized labor to carry out. You need skilled machinists and engineers to operate the CNC and other machinery required to manufacture the products.
We also need skilled quality control officers to check the products and certify if they adhere to the customers’ standards. The cost of these professionals’ services is also part of the final quote.
Getting the product safely to the customer is the final step of the sheet metal fabrication process. To ship products, you need to buy standard shipping crates and packing materials to avoid damaging the product in transit.
Next, we need to use an efficient shipping service to deliver your products within your required timeline. All this will be factored into the final cost of your project.
Tips on Reducing Sheet Metal Fabrication Costs
You can reduce the final cost of your sheet metal fabrication project by making some good design choices. These choices will make it easier to manufacture your project cost-effectively.
Let’s look at some of them:
√ Use Standard Metal Gauges
Standard sheet metal gauges are easier and cheaper to source from manufacturers as they usually have them in stock. Non-standard gauges must be specially ordered, which can increase lead time and material costs.
√ Limit the Use of Tight Tolerances
Sheet metal parts with tight tolerance are often challenging to fabricate because they take more effort and longer time. This can increase the final cost of the project quite significantly.
To limit this, ensure tight tolerances are only used in holes, bends, and surfaces when needed. Go over your design, and if you can get away with specifying low tolerances in non-crucial areas, use them.
√ Use Standard Parts Where Possible
Standard parts can help reduce the fabrication processes needed on the project and save you money. These standard parts can range from fasteners like rivets or screws to structural elements in your design.
For example, you can easily procure components like wire racks relatively cheaply instead of fabricating them in the workshop.
√ Choose The Right Material
Using the appropriate material for your project can save you a lot of money. For example, if the product isn’t going to be under any load or structural stress, it might be better to use a material like aluminum for it.
Going for a metal like stainless steel would be more expensive and over-engineering.
√ Cut Costs on Prototypes
When designing prototypes, the aim should always be to save money anywhere possible. For example, if you’re going to be using the prototype for structural tests, then you might not need finishes like painting or engraving.
Conversely, if you’re using it mainly for aesthetic and non-functional purposes, you can choose a cheaper metal.
The above tips are great for saving money on your sheet metal projects. However, an even better way to get the best deal is to partner with a reliable low volume machine shop.
At RapidDone, we’ve manufactured a lot of sheet metal projects for different partners in various industries. In all our partnerships, we’ve always focused on delivering the best value and the highest quality to our customers.