Sheet metal fabrication is widely used in industries such as electrical and electronics, automotive, telecommunications, medical, and others. Sheet metal is the skeleton that supports and shapes products like a car, computer or cell phone. The design and manufacture of sheet metal parts are becoming a key stage in the development of new products with a trend towards diversified, low volume production. The EP-M260 metal 3D printer can help streamline the process, reducing costs.
In the conventional sheet metal manufacturing process, a punching die is used. Taking the sheet metal parts of automobiles as an example, the molding process is performed by punching, cutting dies, forming dies, separate dies, press dies, bending punches, and so on. The tooling process for manufacturing new dies is expensive and time-consuming and is not suitable for the rapid production of small series of sheet metal parts.
When manufacturing sheet metal parts in small lots, many sheet metal factories use a combination of laser cutting and CNC bending technology. Compared to the conventional punch forming process, this process does not require a tooling process, which is economical and is a short cycle for the rapid production of simple structural sheets.
However, laser cutting can only be used for molding and hole cutting, and bending can only be used for flat structures. This technique does not work for the production of specially shaped sheets with curved or uneven surfaces.
Flexible production of car seat parts
A car seat manufacturing company from China, specializing in the development, manufacture and sale of car seats became the main contractor of car factories such as Chang’an, Geely, Ford, and Great Wall. They planned to unveil a new car seat solution within a week, but the tools for the core sheet metal parts are still in progress, so sheet metal parts cannot be produced.
This car seat set consists of 78 pieces with a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 mm. Most parts have ribs and bumps. Therefore, it is not possible to mold parts by laser cutting or CNC bending. There are also some corner areas that are limited by CNC milling and cannot be completely restored to the original design made on the milling machine. By the way, milling itself is not a very efficient process for manufacturing parts.
EPLUS 3D provided the 3D printing solution for the sheet metal manufacturing. After data analysis, 316L stainless steel was selected as the manufacturing material on the EP-M260 system and the surface was polished with grinding. In just 7 days, the company delivered the complete seat plate parts manufactured, using three EPLUS 3D metal printers EP-M260, reproducing the original design.
3D printing for sheet metal parts
In another use case, a machine manufacturer wanted to produce a silencer consisting of four components with a uniform shell thickness of 0.73 mm and a uniform thickness of 0.6 mm for the medium structural area.
The sheet metal structure of the four silencer components is complex. It cannot be manufactured by cutting and bending. Due to its thin wall thickness, it cannot be manufactured by milling. Only two options are available. One is punching and the other is 3D printing.
Parts made with punching tools are equipped with high precision and a high degree of restoration of the original design. However, this requires a very long and expensive punching tool in production. On the other hand, metal 3D printing of the parts only requires 3 days from data processing to product delivery, and the details of the design are fully expressed.
The customer selected EPLUS 3D as a partner to complete the task. Metal sheets printed by EPLUS 3D EP-M260 achieved dimensional accuracy up to 0.1 mm. More and more cases are demonstrating that 3D printing technology can deliver high-quality parts, significantly reducing production costs and lead times.
Plate manufacturing is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Obviously, flexible production in sheet metal fabrication is the trend driven by product diversity and increasing demand for small series. More and more sheet metal processing companies are taking advantage of additive manufacturing technology, creating more value for their customers, such as reduced assembly steps, greater design freedom and minimized time and costs.