During the past three decades, many metal operations have been moving away from U.S. manufacturers, but we held strong. We hired a talented group of people and bought the appropriate equipment needed to keep ‘Made in the USA’ a real thing. Today Fotofab provides a full range of metal forming services on a rapid delivery basis.
Fotofab manufactures all of our own tooling in-house so that we can control quality and lead times. Our system of metal forming utilizes simple tooling which can be built quickly and inexpensively. Rather than making costly progressive dies, tooling is broken up into multiple stations. At each stage a single operation is performed such as a single bend. These stations can be made in parallel to save time.
We want to provide feature complete parts, so you can begin using them instantly.
Advantages of Fotofab’s Metal Forming Process
- Speed: Parts can be formed in as little as 1 day
- Precision: Tolerances can be held as tight as +/-.001” (.025mm)
- Cost: Tooling cost is minimal
- Flexibility: Multi-station tooling allows geometries not otherwise achievable with progressive dies
- Reliability: All parts are made to Fotofab’s exacting quality standards
Check out the Metals We Etch
Learn more about our Tolerances
If you do not have a design for your metal part, then Fotofab's engineers can create one for you from your handcrafted prototype, sketch on a napkin, or from simple information on how the parts are supposed to work and where they need to fit. We will help design both the blanks and the tooling required to etch and bend the parts to their final shape.
Check out the Industries we work with
Fotofab stocks pre-built tools for dimpling and simple 90-degree bends so we can save time on your next project. Methods available:
- Kick Presses, 30+ on-site
- Hydraulic Presses, including a deep draw press which allows the manufacturing of drawn cans
- 4-Slide Machines, which can be used for stamping and/or forming
- Learn more about Stamping
- Hand Forming
Fotofab most often uses kick presses which are ideal for this low-cost tooling and can be setup very quickly. Even when built quickly, our results are very precise and repeatable. Unlike the methods used by many prototype shops, the Fotofab method does not rely on the manual work of operators, but rather, robust tooling. This ensures the same result every time and is ideal for rapid prototype parts.
In addition to the kick press operation, Fotofab also has several hydraulic presses. These are ideal for parts which require additional force for bending, such as thicker metals or parts that require drawing or coining.
These presses can also be used for what Fotofab calls a One-Shot Tool. Unlike stage tooling which requires a separate operation for each bend, a 1-shot tool performs all operations in a single strike. These tools cost more than stage tooling but can pay for themselves in a lower part cost with adequate volume. The break-even quantity will vary based on the geometry of the part.
Fotofab produces drawn cans in rapid prototype and production quantities. A drawn can is a seamless, 5-sided box with rounded corners, made by stretching or “drawing” the middle of a rectangular blank. They can be made from material .010″ to .040” thick with a draw radius of 2.5x thickness and finished with or without a lip along the bottom. They can be very inexpensive and are also ideal for hermetic applications.
4-Slide stamping is suitable for smaller parts (typically narrower than 3") with a less complex feature geometry. The machine is a horizontal press with 4 moving tools which strike the metal part from different directions. By working on 4 axes it is able to be very versatile, and usually less expensive to tool than a progressive die.
For the quickest and least expensive option, Fotofab recommends hand forming. Hand forming is ideal for parts at least .008” thick (0.2mm) with 90° bends and does not require tooling. To facilitate this, Fotofab etches a channel into the blank during which serves as the inside of the bend and ensures an easy and accurate bend.Fotofab can work with material thicknesses from .0001” to .125” (.0025mm to 3.175mm), depending on the features required. And just like the chemical etching process, our standard lead time is 1 week. Expedited lead times are available in as little as 1 day, even with new tooling!
Contact Us to learn more.