Sheet Metal Prototyping Fabrication

IDEAL’S custom sheet metal prototyping services offer a fast and cost-effective solution for your projects. Services including bending, punching, cutting standard gauge metal for both prototypes and low volume production runs.  Sheet metal fabrication produces durable, end-use metal parts with a wide selection of materials and finishes that meet your specifications, for a variety of industries like: Automotive, Medical device, Aerospace, electronics, energy and robotics.

Advantages of Sheet Metal Prototyping Fabrication

  • 01

    Fast, affordable, and high quality for production or prototyping

    Fabrication can quickly produce prototype parts with the same precision and speed that it can produce in production. It can also be easily customized, so if the first design doesn't work as planned - no sweat - the very next part can be adjusted. This customization aspect makes sheet metal versatile, flexible, and affordable when it comes to custom part creation.

    When parts approach high volumes, sheet metal becomes even cheaper per-part with exceptionally consistent results.

  • 02

    Vast number of techniques and materials

    Fourteen types of sheet metal fabrication are mentioned. These varying techniques allow make it possible to create relatively complex parts by cutting flat sheets, bending parts into place and adding holes, slots, and notches cut in all the right places.

    Together with the wide range of compatible materials and its ability to withstand (even thrive) in high heat, thermal conduction, electrical, and corrosive environments, sheet metal can be suitable for a diverse number of applications.

  • 03

    High strength to weight ratio

    Sheet metal can be useful when trying to keep a project lightweight. Adding bends to sheet metal increases the structure's strength tremendously because it increases the stiffness in multiple axes. Adding a finish to the sheet metal can also make the material resistant to corrosion and scratches.

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How does Sheet Metal Fabrication Work?

There are several different ways to shape sheet metal, but they all boil down to two broad categories: sheet metal can either be cut or formed.

As there are many different ways of cutting and forming sheet metal, many specific tooling types are needed which can drive up costs. This is why developing a good understanding of the various sheet metal fabrication processes available is essential to producing the most efficient design for a particular application is essential.

The most basic form of sheet metal fabrication begins with a flat sheet of metal and a blueprint (usually a DXF or CAD file). This blueprint will serve as the instructions on how to cut, form, and finish the base material.

It could be as simple as a single bend to turn it into angle iron, or laser cut and bent at the edges to make computer enclosure panels. When these processes are combined, the material is first cut and later formed, followed by finishing and joining.



Laser cutting uses a laser to cut the sheet metal part. A high-power laser is directed onto the sheet and intensified with a lens or mirror to a concentrated spot. In the specific application of sheet metal fabrication, the focal length of the laser varies between 1.5 to 3 inches (38 to 76 millimeters), and the laser spot size measures around 0.001 inches (0.025 mm) in diameter.

Part accuracies of better than 0.002 inches (0.05 mm)

Kerf widths of 0.006 inches (0.15 mm) to 0.015 inches (0.38 mm)

Material versatility

Laser cutting is more precise and energy-efficient than some other cutting processes, but cannot cut through all kinds of sheet metal nor the very highest gauges



When the sheet metal needs to be punctured with holes, a designated punching machine is generally more efficient than the above cutting methods. Punching involves sandwiching the sheet between a punch and a die; when the punch moves into the die, it forces a hole in the sheet. The process can also be used to form irregular shapes, by making several small punches in series.

Most sheet metals can be punched, but the diameter of a round hole should generally be larger than the thickness of the chosen meta



Sheet metal bending is used to create V-shape, U-shape and channel shape bends using a machine called a brake. Most brakes can bend sheet metal to an angle of up to 120 degrees, but the maximum bending force is dependent on factors such as metal thickness and tensile strength. In general, sheet metal must initially be over-bent, because it will partially spring back towards its original position.



Stamping is another deformation process used to form sheet metal into a desired shape. The process uses a stamping die — either mechanic or hydraulic — to press the sheet metal into its new form.

Stamping is used on cold sheet metal, but the friction caused by the die causes the metal to heat up to high temperatures. Individual stamping processes include, but are not limited to.

Coining, in which a pattern is pressed onto the sheet metal part

Curling, in which the sheet metal is deformed into a tubular shape

Hemming, in which sheet metal is folded on itself for extra thickness

Ironing, in which the sheet metal part is reduced in thickness



    Sheet metal parts sometimes need to be joined together using the process of welding, which fuses components together with heat.

    Sheet metal materials like aluminium and stainless steel have high weldability.



    A product may be designed so that several sheet metal parts can be fitted together with joints, screws or other common methods.

    This usually comes after the parts have undergone any required finishing processes.

Sheet Metal Materials

Sheet metal fabrication has relatively less options for materials, usually aluminum, copper, and steel. Please check the materials IDEAL provides for sheet metal services.

  • Aluminum

    Commercially, aluminum is the most sought after material for sheet metal fabrication. Its popularity is due to its adaptive qualities and its high thermal conductivity and low resistance rates. Compared to steel—another common sheet metal material—aluminum is more cost-effective and has a higher rate of production. The material also generates the least amount of waste and can easily be reused.

    Subtypes: 6061, 5052

  • Copper

    Copper is a broadly used sheet metal fabrication material in many industries as it offers good malleability and ductility. Copper is also well suited for sheet metal fabrication because of its excellent heat conduction properties and electrical conductivity.

    Subtypes: 101, C110

  • Steel

    Steel offers a number of beneficial properties for industrial applications, including rigidity, longevity, heat resistance and corrosion resistance. Steel sheet metal is ideal for producing complex designs and parts that require extreme precision. Steel is also cost-efficient to work with and has excellent polishing properties.

    Subtypes: SPCC, 1018

  • Stainless Steel

    Stainless steel is the low carbon steel that contains a minimum of 10% chromium by weight. The material properties associated with stainless steel have made it a popular metal within a broad range of industries, including construction, automotive, aerospace and more. Within these industries, Stainless steel is versatile and is an effective choice for many applications.

    Subtypes: 301, 304, 316

Sheet Metal Fabrication Standard

We have experience and the right sheet metal fabrication services necessary to bring that YOUR idea to life. This includes services like high tolerance and wide thickness range laser cutting, bending capabilities, and other post-processing options.

Dimension DetailTolerance
Side to SideMin ±0.05mm
Hole to HoleMin ±0.05mm
Hole DiameterMin ±0.05mm
Bending AngleMin ±1°
Board Thickness (cutting)0.2mm-6.35mm
Board Thickness (bending)0.2mm-6.35mm
Geometric ToleranceMin ±0.15mm

Sheet Metal Prototyping Fabrication FAQ

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