How to Choose the Right Sheet Metal for Your Custom Parts and Components

sheet metal bending machine

All metals are not created equal. The right sheet metal for your machined parts will depend on your component’s design, functionality, as well as fabrication process you choose to use. Regardless of the sheet metal you choose, sheet metal fabrication and metal stamping offer you a versatile, cost-efficient way to manufacture custom parts and components.

While metal stamping and sheet metal fabrication may appear to be interchangeable, there are differences between each process. Both processes are used for custom manufactured parts and components and both use sheet metal for the machined parts.

Metal Stamping

Suitable for high production runs, metal stamping uses a variety of methods like progressive die stamping or deep drawing via a machine press. This process is an economical way to manufacture custom components. Due to the simplicity of metal stamping, it requires longer lead times than sheet metal fabrication and can be cost-prohibitive for large production runs.

Sheet Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication utilizes CNC cutters, where sheet metal is bent or cut, and separate pieces are assembled or welded together. Fabrication allows for more complex shapes and designs. Metal fabrication is a quick process, with short lead times. It is well suited for prototypes or small production runs when compared to metal stamping.

Sheet Metal Alloy Options

Whether you choose sheet metal fabrication or metal stamping, choosing the right sheet metal alloy is just as important as the manufacturing process you choose. Factors to consider include formability, strength, as well as cost, and corrosion resistance.

Common sheet metal alloy options include:

  • Aluminum
    • Lightweight properties and excellent corrosion resistance make this alloy a viable option for a wide range of custom components.
    • Thermally and electrically conductive.
    • Variety of alloy grades for customization.
  • Stainless Steel
    • Various SS grades available for sheet metal fabrication or metal stamping.
    • Excellent corrosion resistance and strength.
    • Austenitic stainless steels (300 series) are non-magnetic while Ferritic and Martensitic stainless steels are magnetic.
  • Cold Rolled Steel
    • 1018 and 1008 alloy options.
    • Capable of complex geometries and tight tolerances.
    • Provides a smooth surface finish.

Metal Thickness

The thickness of the sheet metal for your custom component will depend on the manufacturing process and design of your components or parts. Metal foil, sheet, and plate reflect varying thicknesses that factor into the alloy and process that is best suited for your custom machined parts.

Manufacturing and Design Considerations

With materials playing a pivotal role in sheet metal options, design and manufacturing considerations matter as well. The size and complexity of your component combined with the material choice and budget can dictate which manufacturing process will be best suited for your needs. Additional factors to consider include:

  • Complexity of your component’s geometries
  • Wall thicknesses
  • Alloy considerations such as weldability or tensile strength

Finishing Considerations

There are various finishing options for sheet metal fabrication, including:

  • Polishing
  • Powder coating
  • Sand blasting
  • Plating
  • Brushing

Finishing options can provide additional corrosion resistance capabilities or offer an aesthetically pleasing option for your completed component.

Find a Sheet Metal Fabricator or Metal Stamping Manufacturer

Let Compass & Anvil source a sheet metal fabricator or metal stamping manufacturer for your custom component needs. We work with a wide range of industries, providing sourcing services for industry leaders across the US. Get started with a sheet metal fabrication or metal stamping project. Request a quote today.