One of the challenges facing metal fabricators today is getting their clients to make the leap from idea to reality. Clients come up with all sorts of requests, but they are hesitant to commit because they fear the costs will be too high or that they won’t be able to get exactly what they want. It’s up to sheet metal fabricators to help their clients make that jump, but how can they do that? Here are some steps for taking metal fabrication from idea to reality.
The Process of Creating Metal Products
The process itself requires a solid foundation in welding, metal fabrication, laser cutting, etc. These are services that any good sheet metal fabrication company can provide. It’s important to make sure you choose the right fabricator for the project.
Create An Idea
It all begins with an idea. The first step in fabricating a product is deciding on how you want it to function.
Sometimes, a sketch or model isn’t enough. Everything ever invented began as an idea. Once you have your idea, put it on paper. Sketch out what it would look like, add details about what it would do, and include anything that’ll be helpful with the team you begin working with.
As you create your idea, focus on why:
- Why even build it?
- What problem does it solve?
- Who will use it?
- What other products does this compliment?
- Which materials work well for this project?
The answers to these questions will help refine the idea into something feasible.
Create A Plan For Your Product
You have your idea. Now what? Think about what purpose it’ll serve, who it would market to, and how you will bring the product to market. These steps will help you create a good business plan that you can use as a basis for building your product.
Decide if you’ll design and manufacture your product yourself or hire someone else to do it for you.
- Do you need a factory that can produce your product in bulk, or can it be done on a smaller scale?
- How much will each product cost, and how many customers are there for your product?
- Will you need to patent your product before you launch it?
- How will you market your product, and at what price?
All of these questions will help you much later down the road to reduce wasted time and expenses.
Next, think about the materials that you’ll need for your product. Metal is popular for durability, but other materials might make more sense depending on what you’re making. For example, if your item needs to withstand extreme heat or cold, then metal may not be the best option because it doesn’t conduct heat well. Once you’ve decided on which type of material to use, research fabricators and compare prices.
Design Your Project Using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software
Designing the project in CAD software is a crucial step in the process, because it provides a visual representation of your project before you start cutting metal. It will also help you stay on track and achieve the desired outcome. CAD software will help you avoid mistakes and make it easier to produce accurate drawings for manufacturing.
Depending on your experience, you may need to work with a company to put your idea into a CAD design file. If so, have them walk you through their process of creating the file so that they can take care of any mistakes or concerns during the design stage.
Assemble The Tooling You Need
Once you’ve designed your CAD project, it’s time to start thinking about how that’ll be built. Each project may need its own type of tools. By knowing what’s required ahead of time, you’ll be able to more accurately budget and find the best suppliers for your needs.
You will want the right metalworking tools, welding equipment, and a metal lathe if necessary. Be sure that you have enough raw materials on hand as well. Your project might require different types of steel.
Cut, Bend, and Shape The Metal Stock Into Your Final Project
You have your design and tools ready, now it’s time to build out that idea. The metal stock can be cut with a bandsaw or an angle grinder (electric saw). To bend the metal, you can use various methods, including vices, hammers, and stakes.
To shape the metal, use sandpaper or a belt sander. Use the plan established earlier to turn the idea into something physical. When you have cut, bent, and shaped your metal stock into its final form, it’s time to check for square. Is your metal square? Can it be welded together?
If not, you might need to go back and change something in your design. If it does fit together properly, you’re ready for welding or bolting them together. This can be done with a metal welder or a drill/driver with nuts, bolts, and washers.
Complete Any Other Finishing Steps Needed For Your Product
Now that your product is built, you may need some additional steps before it’s your final product. Those steps could include sanding down the metal or removing any machine marks left over from cutting.
You might want to paint or powder coat the metal for aesthetic reasons or protection. You might also want to use a sealant like epoxy if you want the metal color to stay intact for a long time in harsh environments like salt water or humid climates.
Begin Mass Production
Once you’re happy with your end product, it’s time to start thinking about mass production to meet the needs of your customers. The first step is designing a plan for production that includes how many items will be made, what materials are needed, and how much space will be needed for fabrication.
The next step is creating a budget and figuring out if you’ll need an investment or not. Finally, look at staffing needs and decide whether to hire employees or find freelancers to keep up with orders.
If you don’t do the fabrication yourself, make sure you work with a company that can do as much of the production as possible. If you can find a company that could do it all, even better!
IMS provides scalable, high-quality metal fabrication for businesses all over the Twin Cities and Minnesota in general. With state-of-the-art tooling and an extremely efficient process, we create premium metal goods at a price most businesses can afford.