Sheet Metal Fabrication; Electroplating vs Painting?

 Electroplating vs PaintingSheet Metal Fabrication; Electroplating vs Painting?

Choosing a finish is an essential step in the sheet metal fabrication process. Finishes can prolong the lifespan of metal parts, improve their cosmetic appearance and increase their suitability for their intended use. There are a number of options for finishing sheet metal parts, but two of the most common are electroplating and painting. Both of these options offer distinct advantages as well as certain drawbacks depending on the product’s purpose.

Electroplating vs Painting

Electroplating is the process of attaching a thin layer of one metal, such as chrome, iridize or zinc, to the surface of another base metal, such as aluminum. The plating is chemically bonded to the surface of the base metal through electric conduction. Electroplating should not be confused with anodizing, which involves bonding an additional layer of the same metal to the base product through the same electrochemical process.

Painting is more straightforward and most people are familiar with it. A primer is first applied to the base metal, followed by multiple layers of liquid paint and finally, a protective coating such as lacquer is added to protect the underlying paint.

Advantages and Drawbacks of Electroplating

Electroplating offers a much stronger finish than paint. Depending on the choice of metal used for electroplating, the object may have better resistance to chemical corrosion or increased physical durability. For example, zinc offers additional resistance to water damage, while chrome reduces the friction on the metal’s surface and tin can be used to join aluminum, which is commonly used in sheet metal manufacturing, to dissimilar materials. Certain finishing metals can also increase paint adhesion to metal parts as well.

Because electroplating chemically bonds the finish to the metal product itself, the coating expands and contracts at the same rate of the base metal itself, making it suitable for environments with drastic temperature fluctuations.

However, electroplating can be expensive and uneconomical, especially when parts are small. Furthermore, the advantages offered by electroplating may be excessive if the metal product is intended for a use that does not take full advantage of the benefits offered by the process.

Advantages and Drawbacks of Painting Sheet Metal

The most obvious advantage of painting is that fabricators have a much greater degree of control over how the finished product will look. Paint comes in just about any color imaginable, meaning that there are endless options for how the final product will look. Furthermore, company and product logos can also be added to the surface to further increase its cosmetic value.

Certain paints offer similar advantages to electroplating; some can increase the metal product’s resistance to chemical corrosion or physical damage, though not to the same degree as electroplating. Damage to specific areas of painted surfaces is easily repaired as paint can be applied quickly and easily to small areas of a product’s surface. Another advantage paint has over electroplating is that it can be applied to certain areas of a product’s surface if the entire product does not require finishing. Unlike electroplating, painting is not an “all or nothing” process.

Paint, however, is not as durable as electroplating. Furthermore, because paint is applied as liquid, it can take many applications to ensure a finish of even thickness and color.

Which Option is Best For You?

Electroplating and painting each offer unique advantages for finishing a sheet metal product. Ultimately, deciding on which finishing option is best for you depends on the intended use of your product. It is important that you consider all factors and the advantages and drawbacks of each before making a final decision.

Oil Storage and Transportation: Minimizing The Risks

oil transportation and storageOil Storage and Transportation: Minimizing The Risks

Crude oil can be dangerous and capable of doing a great deal of damage in a short amount of time. Preventing serious accidents and hazardous situations should always be a priority. Good design, regular maintenance, and proper training all come together to create safe, reliable transportation and industrial storage solutions.

Safer by Design

In designing industrial storage solutions, you are well served by remembering the basics. In order to burn, fire requires three things: heat, a combustible material, and oxygen. Oxygen is readily available in the air, and the oil itself, along with the fumes it gives off, is a combustible material. This combination makes pumping stations a prime candidate for an incident.

Pumping stations should be kept as cool as possible and pumping should only occur when truck engines are turned off. Smoking and anything that involves combustion must be prohibited from the area. Pumping stations must also be well ventilated so escaping gasses do not have a chance to build up.

Storage tanks must be properly grounded to avoid any electrical sparks, and they should be equipped with gas detection systems so operators can be alerted to dangerous situations. It should go without saying that all storage units should be built according to code.

Maintaining Safe Conditions

Degradation of storage and pumping units can lead to dangerous conditions and preventable incidents. Therefore, storage facilities require a stringent routine of inspection and maintenance. Trained inspectors should check for gas leaks on a daily basis, and all workers must be required to wear rubber-soled shoes. Smoking, cell phones, and anything else that could cause a spark must be prohibited from the area.

Maintenance tasks should never be completed with battery operated tools, as they are more likely to spark than hard-wired tools. In addition, all tools and extension cords should be in good repair as both are potential sources of sparks that could result in fire.

Training for Prevention

Industrial storage solutions are inherently dangerous. There is no safety procedure or any piece of safety equipment that is going to be effective without proper training. The education begins with the storage facilities:

  • Operation supervisors must know the purpose of each storage unit, and must use each tool and device correctly.
  • Inspectors must perform thorough inspections rather than simply report gas accumulation figures.
  • Inspectors should understand the proper use of each storage tank, where it can fail, what the first signs of failure are, and how to stop any degradation before it reaches the point of failure.

Training should be an ongoing activity, not a one-time event. Safety procedures should be reviewed with all employees on a regular basis, and all training materials should be frequently updated. Emergency procedures should be practiced and memorized by all workers so there is never any confusion or delay when incidents do occur.

Sandblasting Helps Save Time and Money

sandblastingSandblasting Helps Save Time and Money

A major challenge facing many industrial companies is how to get more use out of their storage tanks. Often companies simply purchase new tanks without trying to repair or restore their existing tanks. However, what many companies may not realize is that sandblasting provides an easy way to repair and restore their tanks to almost new condition. Sandblasting is a time and cost-effective method for maintaining and restoring existing tanks.

What is Sandblasting?

Sandblasting is the process of shooting a gritty, particle-based medium such as sand, glass beads or aluminum sulfide onto a hard surface to sand or polish it smooth. There is a variety of purposes where sandblasting can be useful. It can be used to clean pollutants or remove rust from storage tank walls or to prepare them for repainting or recoating.

Sandblasting is an extremely versatile process because of the many types of mediums that can be used. For example, a more delicate tank lining may require a gentler sandblasting medium such as walnut shells or glass beads. Tougher jobs, such as those found in oil storage tanks or where the tank surface must be stripped to bare metal may require a more abrasive medium such as silicon carbide.

Save Money By Recycling What You Already Own

Including installation, a new tank could cost more than $20,000. However, an existing tank of the same size can be sandblasted, have its leaks welded and then be repainted for under $4,000. This is less than 25 percent the cost of a new tank. You can add five to 10 years to the lifespan of tanks by choosing to have them sandblasted.

Most sandblasting mediums can be reused multiple times. Glass beads are often recycled from glass bottles and may be used for sandblasting up to 30 times. Other mediums, such as silicon carbide, may also be reused multiple times.

Some of the mediums used can be made from byproducts produced with a water jet cutting process used in some metal fabrication shops. This further reduces their cost. An added advantage with some mediums, such as walnut shells, is that they are fully biodegradable, thus saving money on their clean up and disposal costs.

Reap the Benefits of Sandblasting

It is possible to save time and potential headaches that come with buying a new tank or replacing your old one. It can take months to fabricate, transport and install a new tank. In many cases, the entire sandblasting process from site preparation to cleanup can be completed in less than a week. The most abrasive sandblasting mediums can further reduce downtime because they can achieve the same results as softer compounds but in less time.

Most sandblasting companies are full service and take care of all aspects of the process, including other repairs that may arise and site cleanup. This helps alleviate hassles you might encounter trying to coordinate a new tank install. As a result, sandblasting effectively reduces your usage downtime because your tanks are out of commission for a shorter amount of time than they would be if you chose to replace them.

With sandblasting, your old tanks can be restored to their former condition, quickly and inexpensively. This can be beneficial if your tanks are located in a visible location or an urban area where old rusty tanks might be considered eyesores. 

Oil Prices and More: Mobile Apps for the Oil & Gas Industry

oil pricesOil Prices and More: Mobile Apps for the Oil & Gas Industry

Today’s oil and gas industry is a dynamic and rapidly changing environment and oilfield professionals constantly require accurate and up-to-the-minute information to perform their jobs. Luckily, there is a wide range of mobile apps, which support these professionals, including the following 10.


Rigzone provides oilfield personnel with up to date news on developments in the industry. Furthermore, it allows job seekers to search and apply for thousands of jobs in the oilfield directly through the app. The app works with pre-existing Rigzone accounts.


Pipeline Regulations

The Pipeline Regulations app supports professionals such as oilfield engineers in their work by providing selected parts of the Code of Federal Regulations for pipeline construction and natural gas facilities.

The app includes information on minimum safety standards, pipeline safety programs and incident reports. Offline access is available for those working at remote jobsites.

Oil Price

The price of oil and natural gas can change rapidly and have a profound effect on oilfield companies. The Oil Price app displays current oil prices as well as price trends.

The app is based on three major oil and gas trading benchmarks; natural gas, Brent Crude Oil and West Texas Intermediate.

Oil and Gas News

Oilfield professionals must know what is happening beyond their jobsite in order to operate most efficiently. Oil and Gas News provides users with instant access to local and national oilfield news. The app includes a constantly updated news feed that sorts news into specific topics. Users can also share stories with each other directly through the app.

Baker Hughes Rig Count

The Rig Count app displays an interactive map of active oil rigs and their locations in the United States. The map is updated weekly in conjunction with the release of the Baker Hughes Rig Count, which serves as a major indicator for oilfield businesses as to where there is a demand for their supplies and for oil and gas production.


Safety is a primary concern for all oilfield companies. Users of the Observations app can quickly and easily record safety observations in the field including detailed accounts of chemical, biological, physical and psychological hazards. These observations are then uploaded into an online database, where they are accessible to other users.

Schlumberger Oilfield Glossary

This app serves as a dictionary of all oilfield terms and includes more than 4,600 definitions, all of which have been reviewed by technical experts. High quality, color photographs or diagrams accompany many of the definitions. This app is accessible to both amateurs and professionals.

WellEz Mobile

The WellEz Mobile app allows users to view the status of their active oil wells and allows them to monitor them for performance, drilling activity and non-productive periods. Users can also compare their wells’ actual performance to their original production plan as well as compare their current project costs to their estimated costs.

eRedbook Mobile

Halliburton’s “Redbook” cementing tables have served as the oilfield standard for referencing calculations for cementing and completing oil wells for the past 80 years. eRedbook Mobile gives oilfield professionals instant access to information on commonly used materials such as casing and tubing. The app can also be customized for instant access to information on a user’s most commonly used materials. 

Top Trends for the Storage Tank Industry for 2015

storage tanksTop Trends for the Storage Tank Industry for 2015

The industrial storage tank industry has grown exponentially over the last few years and 2015 is set to be no exception. Here are some of the top trends that will affect the industry this year.

Cleaner, Lighter Fuels

Storing fuel is a major part of the storage tank industry. Cleaner, lighter and alternative fuels are now in greater demand than products such as crude oil, which previously ruled the storage tank industry.

The shift towards more refined fuels has been in large part spurred by increasing government regulation of heavier fuels and more stringent environmental protection legislation. Consumer demand for lighter fuels has also increased and created more of a need for storage solutions.

Now more than ever, there is a greater demand for storage tanks of varying capacities and sizes to fulfill these consumer preferences.

More Flexibility for Storage Needs

The increased demand for cleaner fuels means that there are a greater variety of products in need of storage solutions. As a result, industrial storage tank owners are becoming more flexible with the products they store.

Because the demand for commodities can change rapidly, storage tank owners cannot restrict themselves to specific products. In order to maximize their profits, owners must be able to utilize all of their assets by being flexible with what products they can store.

Increased Investment in Storage Capacity

Recent trends indicate that traders are more interested in investing in storage capacity, with particular attention being paid to independent tank owners. Storage capacity offers a more stable revenue stream than buying directly into more volatile commodity streams, which are typically more susceptible to market fluctuations.

The heightened interest in investing in storage capacity can be attributed to the increasing flexibility that industrial storage tank owners are now utilizing to make their revenue more stable.

Terminal Growth

Despite concerns about hydrocarbon production and consumption, the demand for fossil fuels is increasing. In turn, the demand for industrial storage solutions for these fuels is also on the rise. As a result, storage facilities are becoming larger and more numerous.

The increased demand for storage capacity has been facilitated by several factors. There is an imbalance between global supply and demand for petroleum products. This means that there has been a subsequent increase in demand for storage solutions to help accommodate this disparity.

Furthermore, increasing government regulation of international trade has slowed down the transportation of petroleum products across national borders and as a result, there is a greater need for storage tanks at international ports and crossings.

Growth in Africa

Although there has been an industrial storage tank industry in Africa for several decades, it has seen explosive growth over the past few years. Increasing political stability in many nations, as well as the discovery of sizable hydrocarbon deposits, has meant that the supply of petroleum products to the international market has greatly increased. Booming populations across the continent have also increased demand for these products within Africa.

In turn, there has been a heightened demand for storage solutions. For example, the east coast of Africa, which offers the most direct ocean-based trade routes to Europe and the Americas, saw a number of new storage facilities become operational in 2014.

A Big Year for Industrial Storage

These trends show that 2015 will be a big year for industrial storage tank owners. With many indicators suggesting that the storage tank industry will continue to grow in 2015 and beyond, storage tank manufacturers, as well as those looking to invest in the industry, have much look forward to.


Keystone XL Pipeline Myths and Facts

keystone pipeline, keystone XL7 Myths About Keystone XL, And The Real Story

In the commotion surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline project, from environmental concerns to economic claims, it’s hard to pick out the real story. Here, we address seven rumours, from the frivolous to the serious, to try to uncover the truth.

Myth: Keystone XL Exports Internationally 

This myth is based on pure misinformation, but somehow it is still shared. Oddly, rumours persist that the pipeline would export oil to China, but that’s not in the plans. Keystone XL brings Canadian oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast. These refineries are locked in to long-term contracts to receive oil from Keystone XL, so the reality is that the oil will not be exported internationally.

Myth: Oil Transported by Keystone XL Will Have an Elevated Spillage Risk

This myth stems from the idea that synthetic crude and dilbit, which will be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline need to be heated or are more likely to corrode pipes, leading to spills.

In fact, the pipeline will be built to much higher safety standards than other pipelines. And it’s untrue that the oil would be more corrosive than standard crude—no heating, no major compositional changes.

Myth: Keystone XL Would Increase The Price At The Pump

This myth is mostly a misunderstanding of how oil prices actually work. Gasoline prices are determined by international, not local markets. We saw the result of that when OPEC decided to keep their production levels high and prices plummeted. It’s incredibly rare for one source to determine prices.

That said, Keystone XL has a comparable production capacity to half the current U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf. This stable source of oil could actually lower the price at the pump by making refineries less endangered by global disruptions.

Myth: Exploring the Canadian Oil Sands Will Result in Greater Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In reality, crude oil from the oil sands has very similar well-to-retail pump greenhouse gas emissions to other common sources in the U.S., such as Venezuelan crude. Furthermore, producers aren’t leaving greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands to chance. Rather, they are actively working to improve the environmental impact of development.

Myth: Stopping Keystone Would Stop Canadian Tar Sands Exploration

This claim is pretty unlikely. The Canadian oil sands production will have a market, whether or not Americans are purchasing from it. It’s much more likely that if Keystone XL wasn’t approved, Canadian producers would just export their oil elsewhere, likely to Asian markets. In that scenario, it’s not like North Americans would stop needing oil, and would likely continue to import from distant Middle Eastern sources. Of course, all of that shipping takes energy, which means it requires oil. From that angle, stopping Keystone could actually increase overall greenhouse gas emissions as all of this oil moves around the world.

Additionally, the government doesn’t predict any change to oil sands production whether the pipeline goes ahead or not.

Myth: Low Oil Prices Have Made Keystone XL Irrelevant

This is far from the truth. Keystone XL pipeline is a part of an infrastructure to help North Americans become more oil self-sufficient, by connecting refineries and sources safely across the continent. With elevated safety measures and fewer shipping costs involved, Keystone XL remains as relevant as ever.

Myth: American Workers Don’t Benefit From the Keystone XL Pipeline

The American Petroleum Institute estimates that Keystone will create as many as 343,000 U.S. jobs in four years. Even conservative estimates from the government forecasts the creation of 42,000 jobs during the construction phase alone. Many of those will be high-wage manufacturing and construction jobs, which help families live comfortably.

In the long term, things look even better. The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) estimates that oil sands activity will increase the total U.S. GDP by $210 billion over the next twenty years. Jobs look good in the long view as well, as CERI predicts 600,000 jobs could be supported by the pipeline in the same period.

Metal Cutting Methods

Metal CuttingChoosing the Best Cutting Method for Your Metal Project

There are many types of metal and each requires different metal cutting techniques. Because of this, there are a variety of methods available to cut metal materials. The method you choose for your project will depend on the type of metal being used, the level of precision that is required and the intended use of the fabricated part and project.

Hand Tools for Cutting Metal Manually

For smaller cutting jobs, hand tools, including hand shears and hacksaws may be used for cutting metal into the desired shape. This cutting method is best suited for projects using more pliable metals, such as thinner-gauge aluminum. Using hand tools to cut metal is not recommended if the metal must be cut into extremely small pieces because the force needed to cut the metal may simply break it, instead of cutting it as intended.

Chisels can also be used to remove excess metal and to make a shape more precise. Depending upon the job, you may opt to use a cold chisel, with a sharpened edge or a hot chisel, which is heated before being hammered through metal.

Using Machinery to Cut Metal

For larger projects or those that use thicker or more robust metals, manual cutting is not always practical. There are numerous machine-based cutting methods to choose from, based on your metal cutting needs.

  • Grinder – For projects that require the finished part to be extremely smooth, a grinding machine may be your tool of choice. Using a rotating blade or wheel made of an abrasive material; a grinder uses friction to wear down the surface of the metal until it is smooth, similar to sanding wood.
  • Lathe – Using a sharpened cutting tool against a rapidly spinning piece of material, a lathe will cut a piece of metal to its desired shape. This machine is very common in the machining industry because it allows for a higher degree of precision.
  • Punch – This machine uses an extreme amount of pressure to force sharpened blades into or through metal to cut it into the shape desired. The amount of pressure generated by a machine punch is far greater than any human worker could produce, thus this cutting method is suitable for metals that are more robust. Some machine punches are capable of up to 1,000 hits per minute, making this cutting method very productive.
  • Water jet – Using water or water mixed with an abrasive compound, this machine directs an intense and concentrated stream into metal and cuts it. This method is best suited for metals that may be sensitive to extreme heat or temperature changes because it does not use heat in the process.
  • Flame and plasma – This process is similar to a water jet, but instead a flammable gas is pumped through a torch to create an intense hot flame. The flame then cuts the metal by burning and melting it. Flame torches, such as oxyacetylene torches are very efficient for cutting. Plasma cutters are known for their high degree of precision because they burn much hotter.

Greater Precision in a New Method of Metal Cutting

Laser cutting is one of the newest and most exciting methods in cutting technology. These cutters apply an intense beam of light to the metal, heating it past its melting point, and then cut through the metal. A laser cutter is able to concentrate light onto a very small area, which makes this method suitable for projects that require a very high degree of precision. However, this method is slower and more expensive than other methods of metal cutting.

Robotic Mining Equipment: Are We Ready for Automation?

mine operator safetyIs The World Ready For a Fully Automated Mine? 

In the last few years, mining operations have taken advantage of robotic mining equipment to perform some of the more dangerous and repetitive tasks the industry requires. However, despite their high costs, is it possible that a fully automated mine is on the horizon?

There are three reasons why it might be.


Mining is an inherently dangerous industry. After all, it entails using large machines to drill holes in the Earth, pack them with explosives, and blow them up. Even with the most stringent safety protocols in place, the rate of workplace injuries is higher than most other industries.

However, there are other reasons why safety is compromised in the mining industry. Many of the less dangerous tasks are repetitive and mind numbing, a good example being driving haulage trucks. The job consists of driving from point A to point B and back again. Human drivers are susceptible to boredom and attention drift. That lack of attention is what makes a safe, routine task one where two people are killed every year.

In the mines, robotized mining industry equipment can perform the routine and repetitive tasks, in order to save employees for important tasks.


Robotic mining industry equipment doesn’t need the same kind of breaks that people do. To be sure, they are subject to maintenance, but that can often be done on a predictable schedule, which isn’t true of human labor.

It goes beyond that, of course. Automation allows operations to get closer to the text book optimums for load size and frequency while also allowing for shifts in load sizes due to potential short-term fluctuations.

The use of robotics in scouting for locations offers another opportunity for efficiency. While a manned helicopter could cost as much as $2000 per hour to operate, a drone with a camera costs a mere $500 per hour, meaning drones can cover four times as much territory for the same cost in the same time frame.


Robotic mining industry equipment can operate in more dangerous locations, perform repetitive tasks with less loss of efficiency, and aren’t subject to the same workplace laws that humans are. But these are only the most obvious ways they are more productive.

Mining is not an industry that can pick and choose where the job gets done. The job goes where the raw materials are, and if there is a sizeable population of experienced miners, it will be more successful. However, if the area is remote, the operation is faced with either shutting down at times because there are not enough able workers to do the job on a full time basis, or bringing in workers from outside the region. Bringing in workers helps to keep the mine open, but comes at a substantial additional cost.

By performing many of the most repetitive and dangerous tasks, robotic mining industry equipment might actually lower the number of human employees necessary for an operation. Where this is not the case, robotic mining industry equipment will allow organizations to shift their workforce to safer jobs that require a less specific skillset.

In addition, automation would eliminate the need for all workers to be on site, which would allow an organization to place its workforce closer to a population center to eliminate or reduce the need to bring in workers from elsewhere.

A fully automated mining operation is not yet a reality, but with an increasing number of mining tasks being automated every day, it’s only a matter of time before a fully automated operation is possible.


Magnetic Separation in the Mining Industry

mining industryWhy Magnetic Separation Matters for the Mining Industry

One of the greatest challenges facing the mining industry is the separation of unwanted material generated by the extraction process from the valuable material. Mining, whether done through open seam or underground means, creates a huge amount of waste product in the form of worthless or low value minerals and unusable man-made materials. These materials can be extremely difficult to separate from the valuable materials miners are after. Perhaps the most efficient way of separating these materials is through magnetic separation.

What is Magnetic Separation?

Magnetic separation is the process of using magnetic force to remove metallic or ferrous materials from a mixture.

Magnetic separation machines consist of a vibratory feeding mechanism, an upper and lower belt and a magnet. The bulk material is fed through the vibrating mechanism onto the lower belt. At this point, the magnet pulls any material susceptible to magnetic attraction onto the upper belt, effectively separating the unwanted metals from the rest of the bulk.

How Magnetic Separation is Useful

Magnetic separation has been used in the mining industry for more than 100 years, beginning with John Wetherill’s Wetherill Magnetic Separator, which was used in England in the late nineteenth century.

Magnetic separation is most commonly used in the mining industry to separate “tramp ore,” or unwanted waste metals, from the rest of the bulk material. Tramp ore typically consists of the man-made byproducts created by the mining process itself, such as wires from explosive charges, nuts and bolts, nails, broken pieces from hand tools such as jack hammers and drills or tips off of heavy duty extraction buckets.

Magnetic separation machines are usually placed at the beginning of a mine’s materials processing line to remove tramp ore before it can cause harm to “downstream” equipment such as ore crushers and conveyor belts, which can be easily damaged by metal shards or other sharp objects.

Most magnetic extraction systems are designed to be easily retrofitted onto existing production and conveyor systems, so major equipment relocation is unnecessary.

Types of Magnetic Separators

The type of magnetic separator used by a mine depends on what material they are extracting and how much tramp ore is generated by their process. As a result, separators of different magnetic flux, or power, can be used. There are 2 types of magnetic separators; electromagnetic and permanent.

Electromagnetic separators generate a magnetic field by switching power from alternating current to direct current. Electromagnetic separators are useful for removing large pieces of tramp ore from the bulk material. These separators are typically suspended over a conveyor belt and draw the unwanted material upward. Electromagnetic separators are easy to clean as removing the tramp ore that they separate from the bulk is as simple as turning off the power that creates their magnetic field.

Permanent magnets consist of materials that generate their own magnetic field. Though not as powerful as electromagnetic separators, permanent magnets are better at attracting strongly magnetized materials such as nickel, cobalt, iron and some rare earth metals. Some permanent magnets are now being made with rare earth metals that have the ability to attract even stainless steel, which is typically not susceptible to magnetic pull. In order to clean permanent magnets, a stainless steel scraper must be used to remove any metal parts from the magnet’s surface.


Types of Prototyping for Metal Fabrication

prototyping for metal fabricationTypes of Prototyping for Metal Fabrication

In preparing prototypes, it’s important to have an eye towards your eventual production plans. Whether you will be using precision stamping or fabrication could affect your design, costs, and flexibility down the line. Knowing how you plan to produce your parts will play an important role in the design constraints of the prototyping phase.

Creating quality steel products is no simple task. In order to make the best product for your client base, you have to plan and prepare. We’ve provided you with a few types of prototyping that will help you choose the right prototyping process for your project.

Sheet Metal Prototypes

When it comes to metal products, sheet metal prototyping is the key to success. If this all-important step is skipped during a major run of a key piece and alterations are required, the resulting changes, material losses, and time spent could cost tens of thousands of dollars on even a small project.

Quality steel fabrication relies on a testing and adjustment from the design phase up until production, to prevent major costs down the line. Prototyping with sheet metal allows companies to see and understand the product they are preparing.

Rapid Prototyping

Depending on your needs, different forms of rapid prototyping might be suitable for your business. For marketing models and fit checks, Stereo-lithography, or SLA, is a precise option. If what you need is a functional, durable model, then Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which is less smooth than SLA is a great option. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), on the other hand, makes an excellent engineering model tool, with cost-effective, durable prototyping available. If you need elastomeric or over-mold models, Polyjet might be the option for you. And finally, CNC machining can be used when you need metal models for precision work, but these are fairly expensive.

Precision Fabrication

Metal fabrication is a great tool for prototyping, but it’s a less reliable and consistent method in metal production than stamping. Unlike stamping, if something doesn’t quite work, it isn’t a major challenge to make adjustments. The process includes controlled machining, robotic welding, and accurate cutting techniques, which means that the product is carefully handled at every step of the way. However, the technique tends to be more costly than precision stamping, and the most complex pieces aren’t a great fit for fabrication techniques.

Precision Stamping

Metal stamping can be used to make all kinds of parts, and it’s a relatively fast and cost-effective solution for the production of several identical parts. If you require the production of unique parts, metal stamping probably isn’t the ideal solution since the work and cost to set up a stamp is the same whether you are producing one or thousands of identical pieces.

Precision stamping requires a design that is set in stone, since it’s difficult to make changes to designs once the stamping tools have been created. This leads to fairly long lead times to get production started.

That said, many precision stamping companies offer prototyping services to save costs. Because of the nature of precision stamping, it’s important not to commit to a design until it’s perfect.