PEKO Precision Products

4 Capabilities You'll See In a Low Volume Sheet Metal Fabrication Shop

Posted by Scott Baxter on Mar 31, 2015 8:55:00 AM

Low Volume Sheet Metal Fab:

sheetmetalfabrication1Across the USA, there are hundreds, even thousands of Sheet Metal Fabrication shops.  These shops support a huge number of OEM customers,Defense contractors and even hobbyists.  It is generally accepted that metal sheets of thickness under .250" fall into the sheet metal category.  Aluminum, stainless steel, copper, brass, galvanized, tin and nickel all are available in their sheet metal form.  Sheet metal fabrication shops themselves can be setup in a plethora of different ways to serve a multitude of different customers.  Some shops are set up for high volume production which means cycle time is more critical than setup time.  Also, material handling becomes very important for moving a high volume of product around the shop.  These high volume shops are probably going to be full of automated sheet feeders, robotic loaders/unloaders and other automated production and material handling equipment.  Low volume sheet metal shops however, are an entirely different animal.  These shops will typically have more manual labor involved, and they will be more concerned with lowering setup time so jobs can quickly be changed over.  Furthermore, these shops should have smart systems in place that can track all the different jobs and customers that are running on the same pieces of equipment.  Here at PEKO, we have used our low volume sheet metal fabrication division in unison with CNC machining and assembly.  This gives a well rounded approach to Contract Manufacturing and an ability to make frames, skins and other components that roll into a large assembly.  Other sheet metal specialists often opt to sell their services for simply component level purchasing.  Both are good approaches for the right customers.      

There are many possible capabilities you'll come across in a low volume sheet metal fab shop.  Below I'll out line some of the more critical capabilities that you'd definitely expect to see to make the fabrication possible.

1. Forming and Bending

Forming and bending are exactly what they sound.  The metal sheets are bent into the desired features and angles with specialized machinery.  Machines like panel benders and CNC press brakes are perfect for bending and forming operations.  A great low volume sheet metal shop will have multi axis press brakes (here at PEKO we have 8-axis brakes) to help lower both setup time and cycle time.  The 8 axis brakes allow one to setup multiple forms on the same machine.   Having skilled programmers and operators make the job fast and easy to complete.   These folks are highly knowledgeable when it comes to creative set ups, force application and process optimization.  Forming and bending is critical to most fabrication products.

2. Cutting

Cutting of sheet metal can be done with machinery like powered shears, CNC lasers and even CNC punches.  Each machinery has pros and cons and smart manufacturers set up their shop to optimize process based on the parts coming through.  A low volume fabrication shop might use the CNC laser for parts with intricate designs that must be cut or blanked with extreme precision and smooth edges.  Conversely, a less sophisticated part can be quickly nibbled with a CNC turret punch at a high rate of speed and a lower cost.  By choosing a manufacturer with a depth in cutting capabilities, customers can be assured that process optimization is being considered for their parts.

3. Joining

Engineers have many methods for joining sheet metal such as swage nuts, welding, rivets, bonding and clinching/folding.  Any good shop should have a number of these methods at their disposal.  First, it will help to comply with the OEMs original specification on the print.  Second, it gives the fabricator an option to present to the OEM customer that might be a more functional or most cost effective option.  A great sheet metal fabrication plant should certainly provide welding and riveting options.  At low volumes, it is very advantageous to have these options available for these types of products.

4. Powder Coating

For many applications, powder coating emerges as the best coating method for industrial, medical, defense and other parts and components.  It is a cheaper and more durable alternative to most other methods.  Powder coating in house makes this list because often times, there is going to be a coating operation for the product.  Over the years, we have had trouble using outside vendors for powder coating so we decided to do this in house.  Some powder coaters can be prone to significant over charging and the -parts are susceptible to damage in transit.  Choosing a fabricator with an in-house powder capability can help save time and headaches.



CONCLUSION:

The four capabilities above are certainly critical for a good sheet metal fabrication shop to have.  As mentioned, there are many different types of machinery and processes that can carry out these tasks, so it is important to make sure your product is optimized for the supplier.  But in general terms, make sure your fabrication shop can provide cutting, forming, bending and powder coating.  There are dozens of other sheet metal operations, but these are certainly a critical baseline.  For more information on sheet metal fab and how PEKO can help with your low volume, complex sheet metal jobs, click below or contact me direct at sbaxter@pekoprecision.com

low volume sheet metal fabrication

Topics: sheet metal fabrication