When it is time to have your sheet metal project completed at a fabrication shop, a design consultation can be useful, both for you and the shop you are giving the project to. Use the following questions to help you determine whether a particular shop is equipped to handle the project.
How Many Projects Like This Do You Have?
When hiring a fabrication shop, you must be sure that their equipment and staff can produce the metal pieces you need without too much delay. Asking about their workload can help you get an idea of what the turnaround time will be for your own project. Not only that, you can also gauge their ability to handle the specifications of your project. If they have worked with others who needed special gauges or specific weight requirements, for example, you can feel confident that they can do similar work for you.
What Kind of Process Do You Have for Checking the Clearances?
If, like many companies, you and your team used 3D drafting software to design the pieces you need for your project, it's important that you realize that the clearances in the software might have to be tweaked or recalculated in order to be sure that pieces can fit together properly. Find out whether your team needs to re-investigate the clearances manually or whether the design shop will do that for you before they begin cutting the pieces.
What Finishes are Available?
There are many metal finishes that can be applied to your sheet metal after it is cut into the shapes you specify. Finishes can help your pieces look glossy and "finished", but they can also provide useful protection so that the pieces last. For example, metal plating can provide an extra layer of corrosion resistance and a blackening finish will help the pieces that need to handle multiple abrasions. Talk to the shop about what kind of finishes are best for the project you have in mind.
Do You Have Suggestions?
You and your team might think you have covered all the bases insofar as your design goes, but there is always room for improvement. A fabrication shop that handles these kinds of projects on a regular basis might have staff members who can offer you cost-cutting measures or other ideas to help make your design better. For instance, they could recommend that you select a different sheet metal or one that has a different gauge than your design indicates. They could recommend lower tolerance machines that can cut more quickly and therefore get the project completed sooner.
Questions like these allow you to have an idea of whether a particular shop can handle your sheet metal fabrication project. Talk with a number of shops in the area so you can feel confident that your pieces will be fabricated properly and in a timely manner.