Guide to Buying Sheet Metal Parts Online

Sheet Metal Parts

What Are Sheet Metal Parts?

Sheet metal parts are parts which are manufactured from a flat or coiled metal sheet by stamping, laser cutting, shearing or other process. They can be flat, bent, roll formed or any number of shapes, and can be joined together into assemblies or sub-assemblies by welding or riveting. Sheet metal parts are widely used in every industry for their relatively low cost, high strength, and ease of fabrication.

Sheet Metal Part

Fig. 1: Sheet Metal Part

Why Buy Sheet Metal Parts Online?

Traditionally, sheet metal fabrication has been handled by very small or very large vendors, with quote turnarounds sometimes taking days for longer jobs and pricing transparency and lead times generally poor. There weren’t the same off-the-shelf options you had in the electronics industry, with easy comparison shopping and stock ready for shipment.

Buying sheet metal parts online allows buyers to quickly compare offers, and weigh their options for surface finishing, material selection, and part turnarounds. Online sheet metal purchasing greatly simplifies the process of costing and buying parts and makes it as smooth as buying electronic parts off the shelf.

Fast Turnaround

One of the most compelling reasons to buy custom metal parts online is the fast turnaround times available. Traditional procurement methods can be time-consuming, involving multiple steps from the initial price inquiry to delivery.

Online platforms like Komacut or Xometry streamline this process, providing instant or 24-hour quotes, and express part production and shipping, significantly reducing the time between placing an order and receiving the parts. Simpler parts can be ready in as little as 72 hours, and the quotation and ordering process can be completed in minutes. This efficiency is particularly crucial when parts are needed fast, whether for product development, just-in-time manufacturing, rapid prototyping, or when urgent replacement parts are needed.

Quick Quotations

Many online platforms generally feature instant or fast-turn-around quotes, enabling you to quickly price out different options. While not all platforms support immediate quotations at higher volumes, some instantly offer quotes online. This contrasts with traditional methods, where reaching out to a sheet metal shop and getting a quotation could take days or even weeks. Real-time pricing enables quicker decision-making and budgeting, streamlining the procurement process.

Customization and Options

You can specify dimensions, material, thickness, bending angles, and finishing options effortlessly. This level of customization is especially beneficial for projects requiring unique specifications.

On some online systems, you can customize your orders and immediately see how the changes affect the price. This feature is invaluable for tailoring sheet metal parts to specific needs without the back-and-forth communication traditionally required.

Sheet Metal Quotation Engine

Fig. 2: Komacut's Sheet Metal Quotation Platform

Order Tracking and Updates

Online platforms offer robust order tracking and management features. You can monitor the progress of your orders in real-time, receive updates, and make adjustments if necessary. This level of transparency and control is a significant advantage over traditional ordering methods.

Support for Lower Volumes

Traditional manufacturing often requires large minimum order quantities, which can be a barrier for small businesses or individual projects. Many online platforms support low volume, making it feasible for you to order custom metal parts anywhere from 1 to 100,000 pieces.

Cost-Effectiveness for Small Batches

The economics of online ordering systems favor small-batch production. Advanced manufacturing technologies like CNC machines and laser cutters used by their systems are well-suited for producing high-quality metal parts even in smaller quantities at a reasonable cost.

Cost Transparency

Online platforms have a more transparent pricing structure. You can see a detailed breakdown of costs, including material, production, and shipping expenses. This transparency helps you to make informed budgetary decisions without any hidden costs.

Sheet Metal Parts Quotation - Price Breakdown

Fig. 3: Breakdown of Costs

Global Access

Online platforms offer a borderless shopping experience for sheet metal parts. You can access them from anywhere around the world, allowing you to find the best price, quality, or specific expertise that might not be available locally.

Simplified Logistics and Shipping

Many online platforms have integrated logistics solutions, simplifying the shipping process. This integration leads to more efficient and more cost-effective shipping options, as well as simpler processes for handling international customs and duties for cross-border transactions.

Continuous Availability

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar suppliers, the online platforms are available 24/7. This constant availability allows you to place orders, make inquiries, or check the status of your order at any time.

Buying custom metal parts online extends beyond just convenience and speed. It encompasses a range of benefits like wider material selection, customization options, and instant quotation. It provides faster turnaround times, cost transparency, simplified logistics, the ability to support lower volume orders efficiently, and round-the-clock service, making it an increasingly preferred customer choice.

Where to Buy Custom Sheet Metal Parts Online?

While it is possible to order some simple parts off the shelf on engineered component platforms like Arrow, custom sheet metal parts are generally sold on specific online platforms. Amazon and Walmart are generally not offering custom aluminum bracket fabrication services.

While many traditional sheet metal manufacturers have their websites, the number of manufacturers with online quotations and ordering is generally low, as those companies are mostly focused on specific industries and existing buyers.

Instead, an ecosystem of online companies, some with their own production, and some acting as middlemen or aggregators, has grown up over the past decade or two.

While they have their differences, the overall process and advantages are largely the same.

What Online Sheet Metal Platforms Are There?

There are numerous online platforms specializing in sheet metal fabrication, catering to a diverse range of needs for the industry:

  • Protolabs is known for its rapid prototyping and on-demand production. It has large factories in the US and a company servicing the European market but is more focused on low-volume quotes.
  • Xometry has an AI-driven instant quoting platform offering flexibility and scalability. They are essentially a match-maker platform, accepting customer orders and then sending them to their network of shops and factories producing parts on their behalf. This means a high level of flexibility, lots of capacity, and a wide range of capabilities, but prices tend to be higher.
  • SendCutSend specializes in laser cutting services, with quick turnaround times. They have more limited process capabilities but offer very fast lead times and a fairly wide range of materials.
  • Ponoko has an expansive material stock making it your go-to for affordable sheet metal prototypes. It fosters collaboration while focusing on recycled materials and carbon-neutral shipping.
  • Oshcut boasts seamless integration with design software and high-powered cutting machine expertise ensuring your parts are crafted with the perfect properties. They offer bulk order discounts.
  • Komacut is unique for ordering custom sheet metal parts with instant online quotes. It is a one-stop shop for cutting, bending, finishing, and speedy delivery of custom sheet metal parts high quality, and competitive prices. They’re also one of the only platforms to have its own factory resulting in lower-cost production and greater flexibility.

The nature of online purchasing means it’s relatively easy for buyers to check different platforms and compare their costs at different volumes and with different types of parts, so feel free to compare various shops. Each of these companies generally have their own set of strengths, specialties, and unique features. They may cater to different requirements, from rapid prototyping and small-scale projects to large-scale industrial manufacturing.

How Can You Order Custom Metal Parts Online?

Getting quotations and ordering sheet metal parts online is a fairly straightforward process, and sites have FAQs and tutorials to guide you through it.

Here's a walkthrough of the typical process you would follow:

  • Step 1: Prepare Your Drawing - Before you begin, ensure you have a ready-to-upload drawing of the part you need. This drawing should be in a supported CAD file format and your design should be made using a sheet metal design module.  Some sites provide quotations with DXF folders, but most will require 3D drawings for instant quotes.
  • Step 2: Visit or Log-in to the Platform - Some companies support direct quotations on their page, but most will require creating an account and a quick sign-in.
  • Step 3: Upload Your Drawing - Look for an option to upload your drawing, either drag and drop or select your drawing file from your computer and upload it to the platform.
  • Step 4: Input Part Parameters - After uploading your drawing, input the specific details of your part. This typically includes quantity, material, and finishing.
  • Step 5: Request Quotation - Once you have entered all the necessary information, submit your request for a quote and the system will generate a quotation based on your inputs.

Ordering Custom Sheet Metal Parts Online

Fig. 4: Ordering Custom Metal Parts on Komacut

The Ordering Process

After you've received your quotation, you are ready to order. Ordering is a streamlined and user-friendly process:

  • Step 1: Review and Confirm Your Quotation - Make sure the specifications in your quotation match your requirements. If everything looks good, confirm your acceptance of the quotation.
  • Step 2: Enter Shipping and Billing Information - Enter your shipping address and provide your billing details. This could be the same as the shipping address or different, depending on your situation.
  • Step 3: Choose a Payment Method and Pay - Choose from the available payment options. These include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, and other online payment services.
  • Step 4: Review and Place Your Order - Before submitting your order, review all the details for the final time. Check the parts specifications, quantity, shipping, and billing details. Once you're satisfied everything is correct, click the button to place your order.
  • Step 5: Confirmation and Follow-Up - You should receive an order confirmation via email. This will include your order details, a receipt of your payment, and an estimated delivery date. You can monitor the progress of your order.

By following these steps, you can smoothly order custom sheet metal parts. The process is designed to be as hassle-free as possible, with a focus on security and transparency, ensuring a satisfactory experience from placing the order to receiving the final product.

Getting Your Sheet Metal Parts Shipped

Local shipping is more straightforward and may have some low-cost options such as local postal services or express delivery. For international shipping, using a freight forwarder is generally a must, unless volumes are very low. They are experts in the logistics of shipping goods internationally and can handle customs clearance, import taxes, and other regulations. Freight forwarders can often negotiate better shipping rates, provide tracking, and ensure that your shipment is compliant with international shipping laws and regulations.

Explore our comprehensive guides for detailed insights on international shipping of sheet metal parts and tips on preparing your parts for shipment directly on the blog.

Choose Komacut for Your Custom Sheet Metal Parts

Komacut offers one of the most advanced quotation engines in the industry, with high-volume instant quotes, automatic detection and quotation for laser engraving, threading, and a wide range of processes. With instant quotes, factory direct prices, and support for both low and high-volume production, Komacut offers a high level of flexibility and competitiveness for customers’ needs. And for international customers, we've got you covered with straightforward, hassle-free shipping solutions.