The importance of CAD in custom sheet metal fabrication
When starting on a custom metal part, it is very difficult to visualize the part but computer-aided design (CAD) provides the fabricator an idea of the part’s shape and design prior to the start of the project. Determining the full function of the custom part is one of the first steps in the design process. The fabricator must be able to understand how the custom part functions in relation to other parts of the product. For instance, different factors must be considered that includes minimum and maximum length, dimensions and workload volume including appearance when necessary. After figuring out the purpose of the part and design constraints, a first draft will be created so that adjustments can be made to ensure that errors will be rectified before the final design.
The importance of CAD prototyping in custom sheet metal fabrication
The building of a CAD prototype is a critical step in custom sheet metal fabrication. Simulating a design through prototyping will minimize design errors before committing time and money to the production of a part or product. By building a prototype according to the design concept, different questions can be asked prior to full production. Through a CAD program, the fabricator gets a better idea through 3D or 2D renderings that will provide the necessary information on what the final product will look like and whether there are noticeable issues that need corrections before investing on die sets. After the final drawings have been completed with all necessary corrections made, tooling for the design can be created. Dies and fixtures can be rendered and tested according against the CAD rendering of the part or product. After tooling, the first production run of the part can be made so that any issues with tooling can be dealt with at this point.
Factors to consider when prototyping
Prototyping is intended to make a part as simple as possible so that its design potential can be easily evaluated. It is also important to understand the manufacturing process to choose the most suitable custom sheet metal fabrication of the part. The least amount of parts, the better because it is more cost effective and design constraints are minimized. It is also important to minimize processes and feature complexity of the part or product to save on fabrication costs. Proper tolerances and standard hole sizes must be specified to eliminate secondary processes like reaming. It is important to be a perfectionist when it comes to designing the prototype. The focus must always be on its functions, tolerances and dimension control.