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Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication

  • Highly Durable Metal Parts
  • Precise Components with Tight Tolerances
  • Variety of Metals & Alloys with Unique Properties
Quotes for 25+ Manufacturing Processes.
Sheet Metal Fabrication Services
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Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication

Fathom uses sheet metal prototyping technology to deliver high-quality parts to its customers. Our team can meet the requirements of your time-sensitive, high-precision, highly complex or short run production related projects.

What is a Prototype in Sheet Metal Fabrication? / /

A prototype in sheet metal fabrication is a physical sample that allows for testing of both the design and function of a part prior to mass manufacturing. A prototype can entice more investors as it serves as a tangible example of a design. Sheet metal prototypes can be both functional and non-functional. It is much easier to transition from a sheet metal prototype to final metal part than it is to transition from plastic prototype to metal part.

Processes Used in Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication / /

Fiber Laser Cutting

Fiber laser cutting uses a high-power output and high-intensity level, making it a very efficient manufacturing process. Fiber laser cutting uses laser diodes transmitted through optical fibers to create desired cuts. The process also makes less noise while also decreasing any personal risk to the machine operator. There is also the benefit of increased efficiency, accuracy and a lesser heat effected area than traditional CO2 lasers.

Water Jet Cutting

The water jet cutting process uses a high-pressure pump which forces water through a nozzle to make precise cuts. The cut is facilitated by the balance of volume and velocity. To create abrasive water cuts, an abrasive substance is mixed with water.

Microcut™ Micro Water Jet Cutting

Microcut is a very unique technology that is not widely available. Micro water jet cutting is the production of complex, tiny parts. Water jet cutting’s high level of accuracy is what facilitates the manufacturing of parts on a micro level. So if you’re project need micro water jet cutting, then you need our services.

Wire EDM

Wire EDM uses electrical currents to cut through raw material. The wire EDM process submerges a metal piece into a dielectric liquid where an electrically charged thin metal wire uses electrical sparks to melt and create cuts. The spark’s voltage jumps the gap from the wire to the workpiece which causes the material to melt. The metal wire never touches the workpiece. The fluid is used to cool, flush excess material and control the spark.


Stamping may include punching, blanking, bending, drawing, embossing and more. During stamping, a blanked or coiled slit to width sheet metal is loaded in a press where the stamping tool is pressed onto the material. The stamping tool or die contains the desired shape of the part.

Prototype Etching

Chemical etching offers a shorter lead time and inexpensive tooling, which make it an ideal process for prototyping. Prototype etching may use photochemical machining, chemical milling or acid etching to make a part. Material is selectively removed by using baths of temperature-controlled etching chemicals.

Production Etching

Like prototype etching, production etching uses photochemical machining or chemical milling to produce metal parts with high precision and intricacies. Production etching is perfect for transitioning prototypes into production because it is fast, cost-effective and offers great design flexibility.

Laser Cutting

The laser cutting production method uses a high-powered laser beam to cut metal. A gas, liquid, or solid-state laser cutting technique may be utilized. CO2 lasers use a gas state laser using a mix of carbon dioxide to make cuts. Solid state lasers use laser diodes transmitted through optical fibers to create cuts.

CNC Punching

CNC punching uses a punch press machine that moves raw material in a 2-axis direction, positioning the workpiece beneath a punching ram. The punching ram punches a hole or form into the sheet metal. CNC punch press machines can have one head and tool rail design or a multi-turret design.


The welding process uses a combination of heat and pressure to join two or more pieces together. Welding services include arc welding, metal inert gas (MIG), tungsten inert gas (TIG), resistance spot welding, laser welding and oxyfuel welding and cutting. Spotwelding may also be used, which uses copper alloy electrodes to direct a welding current.

Hardware Installation

As part of a complete sheet metal fabrication program, Fathom offers hardware installation services. Our team can ensure efficiency and great quality for low- and high- volume production.


Fathom offers sanding and grinding services. Grinding removes weld or adds any desired cosmetic surface. Sanding removes scratches or burrs from parts after laser cutting or punching.

Liquid Painting

Liquid painting is a good match for projects that cannot use powder coating. The resulting finish can be corrosion resistant, custom colored and more.

Powder Coating

Powder coating coats a metal workpiece in a powder which is then cured. The result of powder coating is a professional grade finish that may be smooth, textured, matte and more. Fathom offers a variety of different powder coating options.

Screen Printing

Screen printing can be used to add a custom design to a part. Screen printing can result in various finishes and colors.

Assembly & Kitting

Fathom performs assembly and kitting in-house. Services include installing hardware, manual or automated process, and more. Fathom will ensure your finished part is to your exact specifications.

Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication Services Offered by Fathom / /

Fathom can help you with your sheet metal prototype fabrication needs. Our manufacturing services include laser cutting, water jet cutting, Microcut™, photochemical machining and wire EDM. Finishing and post-processing services available include welding, deburring, bead blasting, and more. Sheet metal prototyping is just one of 28 manufacturing services offered by Fathom.

Additive Manufacturing

  • FDM
  • SLS
  • SLA
  • Polyjet
  • MJF
  • DMLS
  • DLS
  • STEP (Evolve)

CNC Machining

  • CNC (3 & 5 Axis)
  • CNC Lathe
  • Precision Grinding
  • Wire & Sinker EDM

Injection Molding

  • Injection Molding
  • Tooling
  • Compression Molding

Metal Cutting and Forming

  • Thermoforming
  • Sheet Metal Punching
  • Sheet Metal Cutting
  • Metal Forming
  • Laser Cutting
  • Water Jet Cutting
  • Chemical Etching
  • Welding
  • Micro Cutting


  • Die Casting
  • Urethane Casting
  • Composite Layups
  • Extrusion
  • Post Processing & Finishing
    • Pad Printing
    • Powder Coating
    • Bead Blasting
    • Surface Grinding
    • Polishing
    • Anodize
    • Powder Coat Passivate
    • Chemfilm
    • Vacuum Metallization
    • Silkscreen
    • Plating
    • Tumbled

Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication Quote Times / /

Standard lead times are below, but 24hr expedite options are available.

Parts Delivery time
1-50 flat part pieces 2 days
50-1,000 flat part pieces 5-7 days
1-500 formed parts 6-8 days
1-5 drawn part pieces 10-15 days
4 slide tooled parts 4-6 weeks

Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication Machines Used by Fathom / /

Fathom’s global manufacturing facilities are powered by over 530 machines, including mills, lathes, presses, press brakes, turret punches and additive systems. Fathom’s has equipment dedicated to metal prototype fabrication, including lasers, waterjet machines, finishing tools, autodeburring, 4 slide machines, multi-slide machines, press brakes, 300-ton presses, 22-ton presses, wire EDM machines, seely slide forming tools and 35-ton blanking presses.

In addition to sheet metal prototype fabrication, Fathom also offers hybridized services that leverage sheet metal manufacturing. Does your complex project require sheet metal prototyping? Fathom can deliver. A recent case study is listed below where Fathom delivered 20,000 parts in 27 days using 55+ tools, including metal prototype fabrication services:

Case Study //

Real Customers. Real Results.

A customer came to Fathom with a complex project that spanned the technologies and processes of rapid production—and needed it done fast. Fathom delivered.

20,000 Parts // Within 27 Days
55+ Tools to Injection Mold 15,000 Parts First Article in 2 Weeks

55+ Tools to Injection
Mold 15,000 Parts

First Article in 2 Weeks

3,000+ 3D Printed Parts

3,000+ 3D
Printed Parts

2,000+ Metal Fabricated Parts

2,000+ Metal
Fabricated Parts

Hybridized Services Used //

3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing—PolyJet, SLS, MJF.

DFM Analysis + CAD Mods.

CNC Machining. Laser Cutting.

Stamping. Die Cutting. Post-Opp Drilling.

24-hour Turnaround Urethane Casting.

Injection + Compression Molding.

Model Finishing. Insert Assembly.

Advanced Project Management.

Fathom’s Locations for Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication Services / /

Fathom offers metal prototyping at 3 of its US-based facilities. Fathom’s nationwide coverage includes advanced prototyping and manufacturing services including injection molding, CNC machining, chemical etching, metal 3D printing, and more. We have provided over 200,000 quotes to leading US companies and are ready to provide you with a quote today.

Locations include:

7770 Washington Street
Denver, CO 80229
ISO 9001:2015

1920 Slaterville Road
Ithaca, NY 14850

401 W. Shore Boulevard
Newark, NY 14513
ISO 9001:2015

Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication Materials / /

Aluminum Alloys

Alloy Temper Ductility Strength Corrosion Resistance Heat Treatable Comments
6061 T6 Low Mid Good No Minimum bend radii of 3x raw material thickness.
6061 T0 High Low Good Yes Higher-cost heat treating due to warping and need for secondary straightening.
5052 H32 High Mid Good No Most commonly used aluminum alloy and temper.
5052 H34 Mid High Good No Small radii bends in line with grain may fracture.
3003 H14 High Low Good No Good for deep drawn parts.

Stainless Steel

Alloy Temper Ductility Strength Corrosion Resistance Heat Treatable Comments
*Range **High High Excellent No Small radii bends in line with grain may fracture in full hard temper. Full hard temper is cost effective for springs as there is no need for heat treating or plating.
Annealed High High Excellent No Used heavily in the medical industry.
410 Annealed High Mid Mid Yes Excellent for springs. Stays stable in heat treating and has a bright finish.
17-4 PH Annealed Low Excellent Mid Yes Small radii bends in line with grain may fracture.
17-7 PH
Cond. A
Annealed Mid High Mid Yes Excellent for springs intended for repeated cycles. Remains stable during heat treating.
17-7 PH
Cond. C
Mill Hardened Low High Mid Yes Small radii bends in line with grain may fracture. Highest hardness and strength achievable in alloy 17-7 PH.

*Annealed, 1/2, 1/4, 3/4, and full hard possible
**Ductility decreases in harder tempers and mill hardened materials

Low Carbon and Spring Steel

Alloy Temper Ductility Strength Corrosion Resistance Heat Treatable Comments
Soft, 1/2, 1/4 Full Hard High Mid *Poor **Yes When rolled at or near room temperature, excellent ductility and strength is produced and is more uniform than hot rolled steel.
Annealed High Mid *Poor **Yes Rolled at a temperature greater than the recrystallization point, which produces surface scale. Good ductility, but weaker and less uniform than cold rolled steel.
HSLA Annealed Mid High *Poor **Yes Requires 25-30% more power to form than cold rolled steel or hot rolled steel.
Annealed Excellent ***High *Poor Yes 1095 has the highest carbon content of the materials listed. Higher carbon content yields higher strength with less ductility after heat treating.
1095 Blue Tempered Low High Mid No Good for flat springs or leaf springs with large radii.

*Poor without plating or surface treatment
** Limited to carburizing
*** High strength after heat treatment

Copper Alloys

Alloy Temper Ductility Strength Corrosion Resistance Heat Treatable Comments
C10 Cooper Wide Range High Mid Good No Highly conductive. High cost.
C172 Beryllium Copper Wide Range Excellent Excellent Fair Yes Excellent for electrical spring contacts. Highly conductive, excellent electroplating adhesion coefficient and remains very stable during heat treating. Moderate cost.
C260 Brass Wide Range *Ranges High Good No Small radii bends in line with grain may fracture in full hard and spring tempers.
C510 Phosphor Bronze Wide Range *Ranges High Fair No Small radii bends in line with grain may fracture in full hard and spring tempers.

*Ranges according to temper

Precision Forming: Prototype to Low-Volume / /

Does your project require precision forming? Fathom has developed a technique in which a press brake is used as a manual progressive die. Combined with the custom tooling produced by our in-house toolmakers, we can deliver intricate and complex parts.

Large Format Parts and Prototypes / /

For projects that are too large for a traditional press brake, our facilities in Ithaca, New York maintain a 300 Ton Press with a 36” x 72” bed. The 300 Ton Press is best for smaller volume jobs with deep-drawn custom parts or for large die sets with gussets and embosses.

Large format parts and prototypes

Sheet Metal Prototype Design Tips / /

Fathom can facilitate your project from product development to finishing, including Design for Manufacturing (DFM) support. Our experts can suggest alternative design features or manufacturing methods to help you meet your design requirements quickly and efficiently. There is rarely one metal forming process that will meet the requirements of a design and our engineers are ready to support your design process and offer guidance. Below are common design requirements to consider:

  • Avoid exceeding the maximum material thickness and over designing corners and edges. Features close to bends need a minimum 2-3x material thickness. Punching and stamping metal requires a bend relief of 1-1.5x the material thickness. Stamped parts have a die break.
  • Tolerances and post operations like milling and drilling can increase a project’s costs.
  • Radii are more economical than corner style. The project cost can be reduced by using standardized tooling inside radii of 0.01”, 0.03” and 0.06”. Most parts can be formed with 0.010” bend radii, but it will add stress to the material.
  • Embossing can add clearance and strength but will also add stress and warping.
  • Partial shear is good for locating features but may cause material to be displaced from surface to surface.
  • Definition and clearance can be added using coining, but it can also cause material to be displaced from one surface.
  • Edge conditions will be different depending on the process. Our laser machines use specific assist gas to produce unique edge qualities. Laser cut parts will have a heat-affected zone.
  • Laser beam widths vary from 0.010”-0.025”. Our waterjet cutter width is 0.030” and greater.

What are the Advantages of Sheet Metal Prototyping? / /

There are multiple benefits to sheet metal prototyping including:

  • Precision: The latest in CNC manufacturing can be used to produce sheet metal prototypes with high levels of accuracy and repeatability.
  • Wide range of materials: Stainless steel, aluminum, titanium and more can all be used in sheet metal manufacturing. Sheet metal is lighter in weight which makes it much easier to work with.
  • Flexible solutions: The automation of sheet metal manufacturing facilitates more flexibility of design. Designs can quickly be adjusted without the need to create a new mold. After gathering feedback from the use of a prototype, it is easy to make necessary adjustments to the final design.
  • Durability: Sheet metal is a highly durable material that can be formed into different shapes. Sheet metal is ideal for a variety of different environments, including extreme conditions.
  • Budget-friendly: Sheet metal is highly affordable while offering great quality. As a widely available raw material, sheet metal is suitable for many industries including aerospace, industrial, automotive and more. As the form and function of a design can be tested through a prototype, the time and cost-savings can be passed on to the final product.
  • Rapid turnaround: Many sheet metal manufacturing processes are fully automated, which allows for a quicker turnaround. Additionally, it is very easy for workers to make on the spot modifications to designs throughout the production cycle.
  • Scalability: It is much easier to transition from a sheet metal prototype to a final metal part. Once a prototype has been tested and approved, it is easy to begin manufacturing on a larger scale.
  • Variety of finishing options and thickness: Many kinds of sheet metal are available, from thin to thick, brass, copper, stainless steel and more. This wide variety allows for sheet metal prototyping for a variety of different applications.

Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication FAQs / /

Q: Does Fathom offer metal prototype fabrication?

A: Yes, Fathom offers metal prototype fabrication.

Q: What is metal prototype fabrication?

A: Metal prototype manufacturing is creating a sample or “rough draft” part that can be used to test the form and function before mass production.

Q: Is Fathom ISO certified?

A: Fathom’s certifications include ISO 9001:2015, ISO 9001:2015 Design, and ISO 13485:2016. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: Is Fathom ITAR certified?

A: Yes, Fathom is ITAR certified. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: Is Fathom AS9100:2016 certified?

A: Yes, Fathom is AS9100:2016. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: Is Fathom NIST 800-171 certified?

A: Yes, Fathom’s certifications include NIST 800-171. For site-specific certifications, please visit https://fathommfg.com/fathom-manufacturing-certifications.

Q: What is sheet metal prototyping?

A: Sheet metal prototyping is the use of sheet metal manufacturing methods to produce prototypes. Manufacturing methods may include water jet cutting, chemical etching, wire EDM and more.

Q: How do you make a metal prototype?

A: A sheet metal prototype can be made using various manufacturing methods including forming, wire EDM, laser cutting and more.

Q: What are the types of prototypes?

A: A prototype can be functional or non-functional. A functional prototype may be used to test the form and function of a part. A non-functional prototype can be used for marketing purposes like commercial photography or as a tradeshow model.

Q: What is the purpose of a prototype?

A: A prototype is a physical example of a design which is used to test, gather feedback, and gain interest from investors.

How to Get Sheet Metal Prototype Fabrication Quotes / /

Do you need to calculate costs for an upcoming project? Do you need a sheet metal prototype fabrication quote? Use Fathom’s SmartQuote application for a fast quote.

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from coast to coast.

1050 Walnut Ridge Drive
Hartland, WI 53029

444 W. 21st St. Ste. 101
Tempe, AZ 85282

46758 Lakeview Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538

7770 Washington St.
Denver, CO 80229

14000 N.W. 58th Court
Miami Lakes, FL 33014

1207 Adams Drive
McHenry, IL 60051

1401 Brummel Ave
Elk Grove, IL 60007

13758 Johnson Street NE
Ham Lake, MN 55304

1920 Slaterville Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14850

401 W. Shore Blvd.
Newark, NY 14513

1513 Sam Bass Rd.
Round Rock, TX 78660

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