If you have taken a new or updated product from design to production, you know it’s not always a linear path. Dealing with one vendor for sheet metal prototyping and another for production adds layers of challenges. Coordinating with multiple parties can lead to delays, miscommunications, and increased costs. Using the same vendor for both prototyping and metal stamping production can streamline the process and offer numerous benefits.

In this article, we’ll explore sheet metal prototyping and the advantages of working with a single vendor for your sheet metal needs, including how it can save time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Why Sheet Metal Prototyping?

While prototyping may not be necessary for all stamped parts, it is ideal for custom parts. Product design is challenging. You will understand the critical importance of having a prototype if you have ever designed a part that doesn’t fit together with another as it should, has assembly holes that don’t line up, doesn’t do what you thought it would do, is challenging to manufacture, or any other number of issues. Just because it looks good on paper (or a CAD file) doesn’t mean it will turn out as expected.

A prototype allows you to test fit, form, and function and its ability to be manufactured. In the software development industry, they use a term called iterative product development. It is a process of designing, testing, and refining a product through a series of iterations. Similarly, in sheet metal prototyping, iterative development involves creating multiple versions or iterations of a sheet metal prototype, testing it, identifying the flaws, and making changes to refine the design until it meets the desired specifications. This process can involve adjusting the dimensions, thickness, material choice, or any other variable that affects the performance or functionality of the sheet metal part.

Using an iterative approach to sheet metal prototyping has several advantages. It allows for faster design iterations and can help catch design flaws earlier in the process, ultimately resulting in a higher-quality final product. Additionally, it can save time and money by minimizing the need for costly redesigns and minimizing the risk of product failure.

In fact, getting the design right early can save a considerable amount of money. The Rule of 10 states that there is an exponential growth of costs over a product’s lifecycle. So, if a product in a perfect scenario can be produced for $X, it will cost $10x to fix a design flaw at the product design stage, $100X during product prototyping, $1000x at manufacturing, etc. Design issues that are not caught early on can have a snowball effect, leading to even more problems down the line. While costs may vary with product or industry, the Rule of 10 is an important principle that underscores the value of investing in quality and preventing errors early in the product development process to avoid costly rework and delays.

Benefits of a Single Vendor

While product design houses may specialize in designing a product, they are not specialists in manufacturing products. Understanding and having experience with the nuances of manufacturing can’t be read in a book. Having your prototyping done by the same metal stamper manufacturing your part has several advantages.


Consistency — Using the same metal stamper ensures that the prototype and final product are made using the same manufacturing process and materials. This can help to ensure consistency in the quality and performance of the product.


Efficiency — The metal stamper will be familiar with the design and manufacturing process, which can lead to greater efficiency in production. Since equipment can vary between fabricators, they will also better understand any potential issues that may arise during production, allowing them to address these issues more quickly and effectively.


Cost Savings — Using the same fabricator can help reduce costs, as the metal stamper will already have the necessary tools and equipment to produce the product. There may also be value-added services that can be performed, such as welding or assembly, that can be done by the metal stamper that a design house wouldn’t know about. This can help reduce the overall cost of production.


Reduced Time-to-Market — Using the same fabricator for prototyping and manufacturing can help to reduce the time it takes to bring the product to market. Your product can move from prototype to production without going through another design review from the metal stamper and potentially have additional design changes not reflected in the prototypes you tested.


Quality control — The vendor will be able to maintain quality control throughout the process, from prototyping to production. This will help to ensure that your product is of the highest quality.


Flexibility — The vendor will be able to quickly accommodate changes to your product. They can make changes to your prototype or production process as needed.


Communication: Open and transparent communication is critical to a successful product launch. Communicating with a single vendor instead of going back and forth between your designer and your metal stamper if there is an issue will be much less stressful.

Sheet Metal Prototyping Process

If you are new to prototypes, there are a few steps you should be aware of. Working closely with your metal stamper ensures the process runs smoothly. The sheet metal prototyping process can be complex and time consuming. By following these steps, you will have an accurate and functional product to bring to market.


Design — The first step is to design the prototype. Following Design for Manufacturability principles (DFM), engineers will ensure the design includes all the necessary dimensions and specifications, including materials, finishes, and tolerances. You may create multiple designs to determine the most efficient and cost-effective solution.


Fabrication — The prototype can then be fabricated. It may be stamped, or it may be fabricated using other methods.


Testing — Once the prototype is fabricated, it must be tested by the customer to ensure it meets the required specifications. This may involve conducting physical tests, or it may involve conducting functional tests.


Modification — If the prototype does not meet the required specifications, it may need to be modified. This may involve making changes to the design, the materials, or the fabrication process.


Retesting — Once the prototype has been modified, it must be retested to ensure it meets the required specifications.


Production — If the prototype meets the required specifications, it can then be put into production.

A One-Stop Choice For Metal-Stamped Parts

Consider Die-Matic as your one-stop shop for metal-stamped products. We can take you from prototype to production, guiding you through every step of the process. Our engineers will design a prototype (or several) that will ensure your product moves smoothly through production. If you need hardware insertion, welding, coatings, or assembly, we can help with that too! Let’s start building. Give us a call or request a quote online.