Let's be real here. Like every business, sheet metal production has its own vocabulary spoken by people who work in it. We're presenting some popular phrases used in sheet metal fabrication and their definitions because we want to include you in the conversation. Let's discuss business!
The phrase "sheet metal fabrication" refers to the industrial procedures used to form sheet metals like steel and aluminum into precise forms. Flat sheets of sheet metal are delivered to a plant and can be formed into anything from cabinets and enclosures to chassis and beyond.
New product development is the process of designing and creating a new product. This calls for developing a new design or changing an old one, then testing it in a small-scale production environment.
Prototypes: Using prototypes is a great technique to evaluate a design and comprehend the shape, fit, and function of a product. Because prototypes are made in small quantities, they often cost more per piece than production units. These are expertly crafted yet without the use of factory tooling. Now is the moment to make engineering adjustments to increase the product's ability to be manufactured for mass production. Prototypes can also make advantage of variations from production units, such as various fabrication techniques, materials, or component purchases.
First Article Inspection (FAI): After a design has been "frozen" and all engineering modifications have been implemented, FAIs are the first stage. This is a run for validation. FAI units are manufactured in a production setting, as opposed to a prototype, using production tooling and fixtures.
Using computer-aided design (CAD), original product specifications—which should ideally comprise both 3D models and 2D prints—are transformed into a sheet metal design. This allows for the creation of flat patterns and production instructions. These are then sent to the shop floor to fuel the manufacture of sheet metal.
Tooling is a device used for sheet metal fabrication in order to make a product. Hard, soft, hand, and hybrid tooling are all examples of this.
Hard-tool: Die sets that are often seen as being used with punch presses, shaping machines, or stamping machinery. Hard-tools are often more expensive than soft-tools, but they work wonderfully for intricate features and big volume manufacturing.
Using a press brake and a die set, sheet metal may be bent to the desired radius and angle.
Soft-tool: CNC machines, such as those used for laser cutting components, typically employ soft-tools. Soft-tools, which are often less expensive than hard-tools, are perfect for cutting flats devoid of form characteristics. These are also fantastic for quick-turn, high-accuracy applications.
Hybrid-tool: This category encompasses a variety of tools. A punch press is a good example of a hybrid tool since it allows you to make several features at once while still employing hard instruments like stamping to make the more intricate features.
Hand tools: These include items like drills, riveting guns, grinders, and welders when it comes to fabricating sheet metal.
Punching: Forcing material out of a working component or part using a turret and die. Simply put, this procedure makes holes. Punch press turrets are available in a variety of sizes and designs to produce variously shaped holes.
Stamping: A die is used during the stamping process to mold and form shapes. Stamping doesn't totally cut through metal as punching does. This is the same as hard tooling.
Bending: The addition of a specific form along a single axis to a flat sheet of metal.
Machining is a subtractive production method that involves taking material out of metal to get the desired form or shape.
Punch press or turret alternatives include laser cutting, which employs a laser to cut the sheet metal.