Sheet Metal Manufacturing: Three Considerations for Material Selection

If you are planning on commissioning a custom sheet metal fabrication project, you should evaluate some factors before the commencement of the project. One of the critical issues is the material. There are numerous metals which can be formed into sheet metal, and these include carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminium and copper. Each of these specific metals has some unique characteristics. Therefore, these materials might not all be suitable for your applications. If you are conflicted on the type of metal that you should use for your fabrication work, you should consider these factors for ideal decision making.

Design Complexity 

You should evaluate the complexity of your design or the appearance of the final customised product. In general, different metals have varying levels of malleability and formability. Therefore, some materials can be used to create intricate bends, angles, curves and shapes. Others might be too stiff for the creation of a delicate shape. These harder materials are more suited for use in projects which require simple bends, cutting and punching. Aluminium and most of its alloys are highly malleable and are perfect for use in complex custom designs. Mild steel is also quite formable due to its low carbon content. However, if your interest is in strength, you should opt for harder metals such as stainless steel.

Manufacturing Processes

You should think about the manufacturing processes which will be used in the fabrication of your sheet metal. If you are interested in specific cutting or grinding techniques for your project, some metals might not be suitable for your work. Also, you might need to make some compromises if your chosen manufacturer uses limited procedures in their setup. For example, laser cutting is favoured by both fabricators and clients in sheet metal fabrication because the technique provides cleaner edges and reduces material wastage. Unfortunately, this method cannot be used for cutting aluminium. This metal conducts heat too well, so using the hot laser beam can change the shape of the sheets. If you prefer this cutting method, you should choose mild steel or other steel alloys.

Project Budget

Finally, you should think about your budget when looking for the best sheet metal materials for your custom fabrication project. Under ideal circumstances, the price should not be your primary deciding factor. However, you should not ignore the financial implications because the price discrepancy between different metals can be quite high. For the best results, you should choose the lowest cost material which matches the functional requirements, such as durability, corrosion-resistance and aesthetics, for your applications.