Plastic prototypes have been the norm for many years. The material is cost-effective for nearly every application. However, the latest trend in engineering and design is in the form of sheet metal fabrication services.
Thin metals are now available for engineers' creative minds without the high cost or time commitment during production. Learn how 3D Hubs is bringing metal back with an online twist.
A fresh alternative
With 3D printing and injection molding working with plastics, it might seem unheard of to choose the metal route for those prototypes or thin-walled products. Think outside the engineering box with sheet metal fabrication services.
3D Hubs uses both laser cutting and bending in order to maximize an order's cost savings while focusing on precision quality.
The metal may be thin, but it's versatile in applications, such as:
- Air-conditioning components
- Aerospace applications
- Retail containers, such as soda cans
The metal withstands impacts and temperature swings after production. Engineers can design several variations on one concept without breaking the department's budget.
There isn't a complicated ordering process for online sheet metal fabrication either. In fact, it's just as simple as any other order with 3D Hubs' team. Upload the data to the 3D-Hubs website. The system saves it in the company's account, and the engineers are provided with a quote and estimated timeline.
With every approval in place, the data ends up with a fabrication facility that's open for new orders. Backlogs aren't a part of this process. The order ships out when it's completed, which is usually only a few weeks instead of several months.
Checks and Balances Included
A frustration that plagues any engineer's mind is concern over design imperfections. As an item becomes a 3D object, it's possible for it to show some production problems. Delays set in, which impacts every part of a reasonable timeline.
With online sheet metal fabrication, the platform comes with a verification process. Computers run through the design as the project is being quoted. If any imperfections arise, the system notifies the engineer.
Those hidden problems are now highlighted and fixed. The system runs the corrected design through the checks-and-balances process again. With a clean bill of health, production starts with an accurate quote that remains true.
Engineers aren't limited by sheet metal fabrication services either. In fact, there are several different metals that work perfectly with online orders, including:
- Mild steel
- Stainless steel
Ask the manufacturer about the materials that might work for that next project. There's always a solution that can be either laser cut or bent into shape.
Laser cutting involves metal material that's between 0.5- and 10-millimeters thick, which gives engineers a lot of flexibility when it comes to design options. Bent metal must have stricter specifications, such as using metal that's 0.5- to 6-millimeters thick.