A lot of heavy materials are needed if you wish to start a sheet metal manufacturing company. For starters, your first goal is to have a good computer and laser cutting machines. When you get these machines, you can now have bigger ones that can process and cut sheet metal.
Once you have your power tools, all you need to have is an excellent laser cutting and sheet metal software that could cover all your needs. Not all CAD software is the same, and have an idea of what software to purchase is critical to have a functional business.
What is the sheet metal design?
Sheet metal design has a considerable difference from solid modeling. Sheet metal design requires modeling and drafting equipment that generates data that is useful and beneficial for the fabricators. Sheet metal components are made from welding, bending, and punching to turn a 2D sheet into a 3D object.
With adequate tools for drafting and modeling, the design can be directly pushed to the shop floor if the product is right. If it is in terrible quality, it can delay the production process, loss of material, and a decrease in profits. Because of these reasons, it is essential to choose the right Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to minimize the errors of your future projects.
What to look for CAD Software
Sheet metal capabilities
The first thing to do when buying a CAD software for your sheet metal business is looking for the specifications of the software that you are planning to use. If this is your first time purchasing CAD software, you should always take note that there is no perfect CAD software that has everything you need.
Most CAD platforms available in the market today have easily-accessible sheet metal design features that are user-friendly when developing a 3D model. Most CAD platforms can also convert solid models to sheet metal components.
However, there are CAD platforms mainly used for mass manufacturing organizations rather than designs which has design requirements that are different and are developed through customization of the customers.
Draft tools for today and the future
Even if the products of sheet metal manufacturing come in 3D, you still have to do most illustrations using 2D drawings. The reason behind this is the lack of showing fabrication details such as dimensions, tolerances, and surface finish specifications that are required after assemblies such as surface treatment and others. If you are going to choose sheet metal software, your priority should always be the capabilities it has for your business.
The software that you should have is the one that can efficiently develop drawings according to the standards you follow for lettering, tolerances, and BOM listing. Also, keep in mind that you want to have software that can easily export on standard file formats so you would not have issues with your supply chain.
Capability to handle many formats
Always keep in mind that your new CAD system should have the ability to feel multiple file-formats, especially if you already have a large-scale manufacturing firm. Larger companies tend to have more supply chain vendors to participate in their product development, and these might have different CAD platforms that require a different file format for your projects.
There are instances where features are lost during the transfer of models to your primary system. The best solution for this problem is by having CAD software that can export a file into different file formats. In this way, your operation stays smooth while decreasing the chances of losing features by a considerable percent.
Interoperability issues can also be solved through agreeing with the other supply chains that you will be using a single file format throughout your operations, such as IGES or STEP, to secure your work.
Provision for DFM (Design for manufacturability)
Design for manufacturability is highly essential for the development of new models and must be maintained for sheet metal products. Modern CAD tools make it easier for engineers to check design for manufacturing feasibility and can authenticate the design before sending it to the actual fabrication.
Some of the modern-day CAD features are bend allowances, ribs, chamfers, collars, and reliefs. These features can be added to a sheet metal model so that it is easier for the shop floor to give the desired shape without having to order as much.
Short learning curve
One feature of a good CAD program is if it can quickly implement processes because of a familiar interface. This feature enhances the productivity of the company. It is essential to have a system that has a short learning curve that has a familiar intercept with the logical flow of the workplace so you would not have a hard time from concept to manufacturing documentation.
The most recommended systems with the shortest learning curves are the ones that can be learned in schools and universities since you would no longer need training for the operation, and you can use it right away. These systems also have detailed training material if others want to use the CAD system.
Other systems have come up with features such as hotkeys, reduced workflow steps, and other elements that benefits manufacturers. There are training courses that you can attend if you wish to learn about the CAD system and its workflows.
To have the best software, you must choose one that can be interactive to all supply chain vendors, has a short learning curve, has provision for DFM, and the one that can handle many formats of the design.
Prices can vary depending on the features of the software you will buy, so also consider the type of manufacturing that you will be doing on your company. There can be a possibility that the software you have is too advanced for the work you do, and that can be a total waste of your dollars.
Settle for a program that can cater to all your needs as a business but will never overlap that there would be features that you will use.