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Sheet Metal Prototyping

  • Highly Durable Metal Parts
  • Precise Components with Tight Tolerances
  • Variety of Metals & Alloys with Unique Properties
Over 200,000 quotes provided to top US companies.
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Sheet Metal Prototyping

Using sheet metal prototyping technology, Fathom delivers high-quality parts to its customers. Whether your project is time-sensitive, high-precision, highly complex, or short production run related, Fathom will meet your requirements.

What is a Prototype in Sheet Metal Fabrication? / /

A sheet metal prototype is a physical example that allows designers to test the function and form of a part prior to mass production. Sheet metal can be used to make both functional and non-functional prototypes. More interest from investors is possible with a prototype as it serves as a tangible example of a design’s durability and aesthetics. It is easier to transition from a metal prototype to the final version of a metal product than it is to transition from a plastic prototype to metal part.

Processes Used in Sheet Metal Prototyping / /

Fiber Laser Cutting

Fiber laser cutting uses laser diodes transmitted through optical fibers to create desired cuts. The process makes less noise while decreasing any personal risk to the machine operator. Fiber laser cutting uses a high-power output and high-intensity level, making it a very efficient manufacturing process.

Water Jet Cutting

Water jet cutting 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

Micro water jet cutting uses the manufacturing capabilities of water jet cutting to produce parts on a micro-level. Water jet cutting’s high-level of accuracy is what allows for the production of tiny and complex parts.

Wire EDM

The wire EDM process submerges a metal piece into a de-ionized water (dielectric) where a charged thin metal wire uses electrical sparks to melt the material 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 contacts the workpiece. The dielectric fluid is used to control the sparks, cool and flush away excess material.

Stamping

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. Stamping may involve punching, blanking, bending, drawing, embossing and more.

Prototype Etching

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. Chemical etching is ideal for prototyping because of its shorter lead time and inexpensive tooling.

Production Etching

Like prototype etching, production etching uses photochemical machining or chemical milling to create 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

Laser cutting uses a high-powered laser beam to cut material. A gas, liquid, or solid-state laser cutting technique may be used. CO2 lasers use a gas state laser using a mixture of carbon dioxide to make cuts. Solid state lasers use laser diodes transmitted through optical fibers to create cuts.

CNC Punching

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

Welding

Fathom’s welding team uses a combination of heat and pressure to fuse two or more parts together. Welding services include arc welding, metal inert gas (MIG), tungsten inert gas (TIG), resistance spot welding, laser welding and oxyfuel welding and cutting.

Hardware Installation

Fathom offers hardware installation services as part of its complete sheet metal fabricating program. We can ensure efficiency and great quality for both low and high-volume production runs.

Sanding/Grinding

Sanding and grinding services are both offered by Fathom. Grinding removes weld or adds any desired cosmetic surface. Sanding can remove scratches or burrs from parts after laser cutting or punching.

Liquid Painting

Liquid painting is a finishing process suitable for projects where powder coating cannot be used. Liquid painting can result in a professional finish, corrosion resistance, custom colors and more.

Powder Coating

During powder coating, a sheet metal part is coated in a powder which is then cured. The resulting professional finish may be matte, smooth, textured and more. Fathom offers a variety of different powder coating finishes.

Screen Printing

Sheet metal parts can be screen printed in a variety of different finishes and colors. Fathom can also add a design of your choice to your custom part.

Assembly & Kitting

Our team can perform 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 prototyping Services Offered by Fathom / /

Use Fathom for your sheet metal prototyping needs. Our services include laser cutting, water jet cutting, Microcut™, photochemical machining and wire EDM. Finishing and post-processing services are also available including 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

Standalone

  • 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 Prototyping 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 Prototyping Machines Used by Fathom / /

Fathom’s global network utilizes over 530 machines, including mills, lathes, presses, press brakes, turret punches and additive systems. Fathom has equipment for sheet 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 prototyping, Fathom also offers hybridized services that leverage prototype fabrication. Fathom’s team of experts can handle your complex project. 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
15,000

55+ Tools to Injection
Mold 15,000 Parts

First Article in 2 Weeks

3,000+ 3D Printed Parts
3,000

3,000+ 3D
Printed Parts

2,000+ Metal Fabricated Parts
2,000

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 Prototyping Services / /

Fathom’s nationwide coverage includes 3 US-based locations that offer sheet metal prototyping. Fathom’s manufacturing and prototyping services include CNC machining, injection molding, metal 3D printing, chemical etching and more. Leading US companies have received over 200,000 quotes from Fathom. Our team is ready to provide you with a quote today.

Locations include:

COLORADO
7770 Washington Street
Denver, CO 80229
ISO 9001:2015
ITAR

NEW YORK
1920 Slaterville Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
ITAR

401 W. Shore Boulevard
Newark, NY 14513
ISO 9001:2015
AS910:2016
ITAR

Sheet Metal Prototyping Cutting Specifications and Tolerances / /

Sheet metal cutting is an efficient manufacturing method for prototyping. High levels of precision can be achieved using sheet metal cutting services, up to 0.0005” depending on the manufacturing process. Additional factors that affect tolerance include the complexity of design, geometry, and raw material.

Material Thickness Tolerance Kerf Part Volume Set Up Cost Lead Time ** Notes
OMAX WATERJET Up to 6″ 0.005″- 0.015″ .020″/.040″ 1 to 5,000 Low 6-8 days Metal, glass, plastic, stone, rubber, Kevlar, carbon fiber, ceramics, etc. Taper up to 59°
MICROCUT™ .0005″ – 0.5″ 0.0005″ - 0.005″ 0.009″, 0.011″,  0.0196″ 1 to 5,000 Low 6-8 days Metal, glass, plastic, stone, rubber, Kevlar, laminates, carbon fiber, ceramics, etc.
FIBER LASER AL: 0.250″ SS: 0.375″ CRS: 0.500″ COP: 0.250″ Brass: 0.125″ 0.002″ – 0.005″ .008″ 1 to High-Volume Low 6-8 days Metals - Fast
WIRE EDM 0.001″ – 6″ 0.0005″ 0.005″ 1-200 Is Best Low 6-8 days Conductive Metals, Carbon
* CHEM ETCH 0.005″ – 0.060″ Is +/- 10% of material thickness, .002″ min. Equal to metal thickness 1 - Infinity $350 Min. 6-8 days Metal Only. No Burrs. Beveled Edges. Half Etch and Holes.

*Inner radius should be 75% of material thickness. Outer Radius should be material thickness plus Inside bend radius.
**Dependent on geometry, volume and material: 24hr Expedite options available

Sheet Metal Prototyping 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
301
302
304
*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.
316
316L
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
1008
1010
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.
1008
1010
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.
1050
1074
1075
1095
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

Sheet Metal Prototyping Applications by Industry / /

Medical, defense, aerospace, electronics, automotive and industrial companies have all used Fathom for their sheet metal prototyping services. No matter what industry, our team can meet the technological and manufacturing challenges your project demands.

  • Aerospace: Aerospace parts often require high accuracy and tolerances. Our team can deliver parts for the aerospace industry that are both durable and reliable.
  • Automotive: Every finished part that departs our facilities will meet the rigorous standards of the automotive industry. You can rely on Fathom for sheet metal parts that are both reliable and safe.
  • Defense: The defense industry requires high precision and efficiency standards for weapons, vehicles, and more. Fathom is an ITAR registered manufacturer and defense contract supplier who can support all military and homeland security projects.
  • Electronics: The electronics industry requires parts with tighter tolerances and finer surfaces. Whether your electronics project needs a simple or complex design, Fathom can deliver.
  • Industrial: Parts for the industrial industry must be reliable and durable. Using our all-in-one manufacturing services, we can assist you from design to finishing of your on-demand part.
  • Life Sciences: The medical industry sets high standards for both quality and cleanliness. Metal fabrication can be used to make a variety of medical equipment including implants and robotic devices used for medical procedures.

Sheet metal prototyping 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.

Q: Is Fathom ITAR certified?

A: Yes, Fathom is ITAR certified.

Q: Is Fathom AS9100:2016 certified?

A: Yes, Fathom is AS9100:2016.

Q: Is Fathom NIST 800-171 certified?

A: Yes, Fathom’s certifications include NIST 800-171.

Q: Can Fathom offer same day sheet metal?

A: Fathom is capable of a same day turnaround for sheet metal parts.

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: What is sheet metal modeling?

A: Sheet metal modeling is the digital process of designing a sheet metal part.

Q: What are the three methods of shaping sheet metal?

A: Three methods of shaping sheet metal include bending, cutting, and shrinking. Bending sheet metal is accomplished using a metal brake, cutting may be done manually using hand shears or snips and shrinking uses heat which is applied to an overstretched area.

Q: How do you design sheet metal?

When designing for sheet metal manufacturing in CAD, the thickness of the material, bend radius, and k-factor must all be considered.

How to Get Metal Prototype Fabrication Quotes / /

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

Manufacturing Locations Across National Time Zones
Manufacturing Locations Across National Time Zones
The Fathom Advanced Manufacturing Platform
new map update 3
HEADQUARTERS

1050 Walnut Ridge Drive
Hartland, WI 53029
ISO 9001:2015
AS9100:2016
ITAR

ARIZONA

444 W. 21st St. Ste. 101
Tempe, AZ 85282
ISO 9001:2015
NIST800-171 Compliant
ITAR

COLORADO

7770 Washington St.
Denver, CO 80229
ISO 9001:2015
ITAR

MINNESOTA

13758 Johnson Street NE
Ham Lake, MN 55304

TEXAS

1801 Rowe Lane
Pflugerville, TX 78660
ISO 9001:2015
AS9100:2016

1513 Sam Bass Rd
Round Rock, TX 78681
ISO 9001:2015
ISO 13485:2016

CALIFORNIA

620 3rd Street
Oakland, CA 94607
ISO 9001:2015 Design Certified
NIST 800-171 Compliant
ITAR

FLORIDA

14000 N.W. 58th Court
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
ISO 9001:2015 Design Certified
ISO 13485:2016


 

NEW YORK

1920 Slaterville Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
ITAR

401 W. Shore Blvd.
Newark, NY 14513
AS9100:2016
ISO 9001:2015
ITAR

ILLINOIS

1207 Adams Drive
McHenry, IL 60051
ISO 9001:2015

1401 Brummel Ave
Elk Grove, IL 60007
ISO 9001:2015 Design Certified