Sheet metals refer to very thin and flexible metal sheets that can be processed into just about anything. They are relevant across an array of industries including automotive, aerospace, building and construction. Thinner sheet metals are commonly called foil or leaf, while their thicker counterparts may be called plates. While it is possible to physical feel the thickness of a sheet metals, human attempts are prone to errors.
Physical properties such as thickness and material type go a long way in influencing the quality of your sheet metal fabrication. When we talk about gauging in sheet metal, we refer to the ascertaining the standard thickness of a sheet metal material. Generally, the higher the gauge number, the thinner the material. For instance, metals with higher gauge numbers will be thinner than those with lower gauge numbers.
Gauge numbers are specified in millimeters, however, the scales are different for both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Since choosing a sheet metal with the wrong gauge number can be catastrophic to design and part performance, let’s take a look at why choosing the right gauge numbers are important for sheet metal fabrication.
Why Gauging is Important
Gauging is important for design validation, costing and project economics. Here’s a couple of more reason to choose the right gauge before proceeding to sheet metal part fabrication:
There is a correlation between the level of thickness of a sheet metal and its cost. Depending on the application, you may or may not require thick sheet metals. Buying sheet metals that are thicker than required will ultimately involve some additional processing cost to bring them to the desired specifications. Too dense sheet metals can also impact shipping and transportation costs. To mitigate this, always work with the gauge number.
There is a similar correlation between the gauge number and sheet metal strength. Building a lasting design relies on adhering to engineering specifications. Some objects require lower gauge sheet metals (thicker sheet metals), while others do not. Deploying a sheet metal that is too thin can therefore impact the strength, toughness and durability of your part.
• Structural integrity
Using sheet metals too thin or too thick can affect the structural integrity can cause stress buildup or deformation of your part. Before choosing a gauge, factor in the load and stress the part will be exposed to, against the surface area and weight of the part.
Design for manufacturability often plays into the functionality of your part. Going above or below the specified sheet metal gauge may affect the usability and performance of the final part.
Determining Sheet Metal Gauge
Gauging sheet metal is one of the top priorities that your sheet metal fabricator must get right. As we have already highlighted above, it is important to use the correct thickness for project efficiency and cost optimization. How then, do you determine the thickness of sheet metal to opt for? Here are a few tips:
The working condition and environment that your sheet metal part can determine the thickness and type of sheet metal required. Factors like weather, temperature and pressure all vary with the material type and sheet metal gauge number. For parts that may be exposed to environmental extremes, thicker sheet metals are often better.
Thicker sheet metals are usually more expensive than lighter ones. If your project functionality does not hinge on the thickness of your sheet metal, opt for thinner ones to improve project economics.
If your project involves creating more rigid objects, you will need to opt for thicker sheet metal materials. Objects that have curves and complex geometries with lighter feel will demand more pliable sheets, meaning you will have to use thinner sheet metals.
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