What Is The Difference Between Sheet Metal Parts and Machined Parts?

Last Updated on October 17, 2023 by assistant

In manufacturing, two common methods are used to create complex and precision parts: sheet metal fabrication and machining. Both processes play a vital role in various industries, but they have significant differences in materials, production methods, and applications. Understanding the difference between sheet metal parts and machined parts is crucial for you to choose the machining service that best suits your specific needs. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between these two manufacturing technologies.


One of the main differences between sheet metal parts and machined parts is the material used. Sheet metal fabrication primarily involves thin, flat sheets of metal such as stainless steel, aluminum, brass, or copper. These boards are available in a variety of sizes and can be easily formed, bent, or cut to create complex shapes.

Machined parts, on the other hand, are typically made from a solid block or blank material, usually a metal such as steel, aluminum, or titanium. The machining process involves removing excess material through cutting, drilling, milling, or turning operations to form the desired part.


Production Process

Sheet metal fabrication involves a variety of processes including cutting, bending, welding, and assembly to form the final product. Initially, the metal sheet is cut to the required size using laser cutting, waterjet cutting, or shearing methods. It is then bent or shaped using tools such as press brakes or rollers. Multiple sheet metal parts can be joined together by welding and then subjected to finishing processes such as grinding, painting, or coating.

In contrast, machining involves the use of computer numerical control (CNC) machines such as lathes, mills, or drill presses. These machines remove material from the workpiece precisely according to a predetermined design. Machining processes can include milling, turning, drilling, reaming, and threading. CNC machines follow specific tool paths to achieve the desired shape, size, and surface finish of a part.


Complexity and precision

Sheet metal fabrication is ideal for producing parts with complex geometries, especially those that require bends, flanges, or complex cuts. The process is highly flexible and can create prototypes, small batches, or large-scale production. However, the accuracy achievable with sheet metal parts can be relatively low compared to machined parts.

Machining, on the other hand, excels at producing parts with high precision and tight tolerances. CNC machines can achieve exceptional precision, ensuring consistent dimensions and surface finish. Machining is often the preferred method for manufacturing parts that require intricate details, fine features, or tight tolerances.


Strength and structural integrity

Sheet metal parts often have inherent strength and structural integrity due to the nature of the manufacturing process. The bending, folding, and welding operations performed during the manufacturing process provide rigidity and durability to the final product. Sheet metal parts are often used in applications where strength and stiffness are critical, such as enclosures, chassis, brackets, or panels.

The strength of a machined part, on the other hand, depends on the choice of material and the specific machining operations employed. A solid block of metal is inherently strong, and processing techniques can further enhance its structural integrity. Machined parts are used in industries where strength, load-bearing capacity, and precise fit are critical, such as aerospace, automotive, or medical equipment.

In summary

While sheet metal and machined parts both play important roles in manufacturing, they differ significantly in materials, production processes, complexity, precision, and strength. Sheet metal fabrication offers flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and the ability to create complex geometries, while machining delivers superior precision, tight tolerances, and strong parts. Understanding these differences allows you to make an informed decision when choosing the machining service that best suits your specific requirements.

It’s worth noting that manufacturing is a lengthy process involving many steps. Only high-quality CNC companies can provide you with better manufacturing services. Ruitai has more than 15 years of machining experience in the machining industry. Whether you need sheet metal parts fabricated or custom machined parts, we can provide you with production services. Contact us now and we’ll provide you with a free quote. Thank you for reading.