6 Tips to Optimize Your CAD Processes for Metal Fabrication

Are your CAD processes optimized to save you money and time?

30% of a CAD operator’s day is spent completing non-productive tasks. Understanding the fabrication process and the shop’s operating procedures will help you make fewer mistakes and cut costs by saving time on redesigns. 

Designing your parts in CAD is more than just laying out dimensions and materials. With the right software and processes for how to use it, you can grow your business. Efficient CAD software processes can help you reduce your material costs, win more bids, and produce higher-quality products.

Learn how to improve your CAD processes to save money, save time, and improve production with your metal fabricator.

CAD Processes for Metal Fabrication

The materials you choose and the simplicity of your designs will affect the overall production costs and the quality of the product. Automating processes can help you streamline your workflow and cut down on production times. This is crucial when it comes to providing your product quicker than the competition without having to sacrifice on the product quality.

1.

Understand the Fabrication Process

You need to know how the shop is working with your designs if you're going to optimize them. We talked to someone once that told us how their entire production bay was shut down one day because crews painted the walls over the weekend. Baffled, the engineers couldn't figure out why the shop couldn't manufacture their equipment because the walls were painted.


They found out that the fabricators had been making changes to the drawings to "fix" problems with them. They wrote their notes on the wall to remember their adjustments for the next job.


Communication with your fabricators is crucial to your process.


Knowing how your design is created out of sheet metal will keep you from making some common mistakes. If you understand the process, you will learn the limitations so you can create designs that are more cost-effective and durable. 


Take the time to study the fabrication shop’s operating procedures and compensate for allowances, guidelines, and machining errors. 


Fabrication Techniques

Sheet metal can be fabricated by punching, cutting, stamping, bending, or other techniques.  The most common techniques are: 


  • Punching - The sheet metal is placed between a punch and a die with the same shape. The punch is pressed into the die, which creates a hole or depression in the sheet metal.
  • Cutting - Various tools are used to cut the sheet metal. Water jets, lasers, plasmas, or even tin snips can be used.
  • Stamping - A stamping press is used to form the metal into the desired shape with male and female dies.
  • Bending - The sheet metal is bent in V-shapes, U-shapes, or channel-shapes using brakes or presses.

Recommended Reading: Steps Involved in Getting a Part Fabricated

2.

Pick the Right Materials

The selection of metals your fabrication company can provide will have an impact on your design. What material you use will affect your product’s cost, durability, aesthetics, resistance to heat and chemicals, conductivity, and corrosion resistance. Consult with your fabricator early and let them help you select the perfect material for your design.


Metals Used in Sheet Metal Fabrication

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Silver
  • Stainless Steel
  • Steel

Recommended Reading: Factors That Affect Fabrication Costs
3.

Keep Your Designs Simple

Intricate designs are harder and take longer to manufacture. Limit additions of unnecessary flourishes or narrow spaces. Tight areas with small grooves can compromise the structural integrity of your finished product.


Stay consistent in your designs.
Maintain the same bend radii, countersink, and hole diameters to reduce the need to change tools during production. This will cut time, which in turn will cut production costs.


Include bend reliefs.
You should add a bend relief anywhere that a bend turns into a flat surface to help keep the part from tearing or breaking.


Design your parts with corner fillets.
Corner fillets should measure about half of the thickness of the sheet metal being used.


Include a flat layout.
A flat layout is what the finished part will look like before it’s bent into shape. It will include the cuts, notches, and holes so the fabricator can make more accurate estimates and production plans.

4.

Streamline Your Workflow

Streamlining your workflow will reduce production time and improve product consistency. Take a detailed look at your current operating procedures and processes. Identify the tasks which are completed regularly and find ways to speed them up. Automating some of the work with the assistance of machinery and robotics can enhance productivity, reduce human error, and reduce production times.

Create and maintain a standard operating procedure that will allow you to analyze performance goals and identify areas that can be improved sooner. It’s crucial to create a process that is clear, easy to follow, and well organized. Use software that will create the data you need to monitor and analyze all your workflow from start to finish. Software like IronCAD can help you by responding to formal RFQs that require drawings, projecting accurate labor costs, calculating material costs, and modifying existing designs quickly for reuse.

5.

Educate and Cross-Train Employees

Your employees will be less tempted to cut corners or take shortcuts when they know the impact it will have on the project further down the line. Educate your employees about every step in the process so they can understand how their job impacts the whole project. 


Cross-training your employees can save you future headaches and cut costs. When employees are absent, the workflow can be maintained with little fuss when your workers can move from one job to another seamlessly. Production can continue without any time wasted.

6.

Choose a Fabricator Wisely

You should keep in mind the capabilities, experience, methodology, customer service, and quality of the work when choosing a company for your metal fabrication needs. Asking the right questions can help you choose a company that will keep your costs low while still providing a product you can be proud of.


Questions to Ask

  • How do you manage difficult situations when budgets are tight? What are your financial policies and practices?
  • Where do they purchase the raw materials from, and how long does it take to get them in?
  • Do they have reputable references?
  • How do they envision their company growing in the future, and what steps are they taking to remain up to date on current trends?
  • Do they have the appropriate equipment required for your project?
  • Have they invested in any technology to speed up their production times and other processes?
  • Will they allow you to tour the facility and answer questions?
  • Will all of the work be completed in-house, or will they be outsourcing the work for part of your project.
  • How do they handle emergency situations?

Recommended Reading: How Your Fabricator Can Help You Lower the Cost While Adding Value

How We Can Help

Optimizing your CAD processes is essential for the success of your business. If you want to win project bids and increase your sales, you need to offer your product quickly without cutting corners or sacrificing quality. EMS uses innovative technology to streamline our workflow. Our staff is knowledgeable and knows how to work with you quickly and efficiently. 


Contact us and find out how we can help with all your fabrication needs. Our team will make sure you have a top-quality product with the least amount of turn around time as possible.