If a standard structure or enclosure won’t meet your needs, designing a bespoke solution promises a more perfect outcome. However, avoid creating problems when doing this, such as the design becoming too costly to make. Chris Arnold of manufacturing contractor ICEE Managed Services offers some advice


he decision to pursue a bespoke structure or

enclosure is usually made because a standard alternative cannot be found to meet specific requirements. It may seem like the perfect solution, but if you are not specifying or designing bespoke structures every day you may be unfamiliar with certain aspects of best practice design for manufacture. The risk is you specify or design features or specific details that are hard to make, or too costly. Sheet metal is a popular choice

for making parts, structures and enclosures. Today’s advanced technology is transforming design and manufacturing possibilities in this area.

TWO FACTORS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE First, plain old experience. If you are familiar with design for manufacture in sheet metal, then you will know many of the ways to get best outcomes, such as the right material choices, cutting and bending processes, and what is easy and least costly to fabricate versus what is hard and expensive. In short, whether the designer is

designing a simple bracket or a complex structure, there is potentially much choice or a variety of options to be whittled down to satisfy the brief, thus ensuring a safe, reliable and affordable outcome. Through training and experience, if you know about all these choices and options it may be comparatively easy to write a specification and produce correct drawings for manufacture. But if your business lacks the latest

manufacturing equipment, or if you are outsourcing, or unfamiliar and not up to date with appropriate manufacturing processes, it invariably pays to get specialist advice. If you send drawings for quote to the right contractor, they will most likely advise you there is a better or less expensive way to achieve what you want.

TECHNOLOGY STEPS IN At ICEE we use advanced design and manufacturing software that not only


speeds quoting but also dramatically cuts manufacturing time and cost. Data in the form of STEP files from the design office go straight into an optimising configurator. It automatically calculates and offers the best, or fastest and least costly way to cut and fold something. That includes nesting for economic cutting of parts from a sheet, plus determining all bend requirements, such as the all-important K-factor. Within minutes, the

estimating or design office can have an answer back about a ‘what-if’, or ‘can-you-make-this’ question. That makes prototyping iterations, development and manufacturing almost instantaneous, delivering a huge gain in rapidity and productivity, offering major benefits to the customer. This also substantially mitigates risk by revealing hard-to-make details. These can be dealt with at the design and quote stage, not half way through manufacturing, when it’s too late.

PHYSICAL PROTOTYPE BENEFITS There are many other potential ‘devil in the detail’ issues when specifying sheet metal parts or structures. As yet a CAD model won’t throw up some real-world issues and these challenges may only emerge when you make a

One integrated software program swiftly optimises nesting, cutting and bending operations

prototype. For example, in dynamic modelling on the screen a mechanism seems to work fine, but translated into a working prototype, it is noisy and when weight is applied, the assembly creaks and groans unacceptably. The prototype proves its worth and the design may be modified accordingly. Or a component proves too heavy

in stainless steel, but works perfectly when the material is changed to light aluminium. Sometimes, simple changes make a big difference – doubling over a sheet metal edge can make a panel sufficiently stiff to avoid increasing its thickness and thus weight, or having to add a bulky, space-consuming strengthening flange. Outsourcing to one contractor

the prototyping, development and manufacture of a structure of whatever scale has many advantages. At ICEE we have slashed design development and

Checking bending operations on-screen to ensure best outcomes in practise at ICEE

(images above: Bystronic Laser AG)

prototyping times. As a result we can explore more ‘what if’ options if required. We no longer discover after quoting ‘this will cost more to make’. Instead, we can say to a customer beforehand, it will be expensive to make your way, but here’s a better solution. In short, we can achieve best practice

design for manufacture faster, mitigate any production risks, reduce costs and raise productivity, all of which greatly benefits the customer.

Chris Arnold, key account manager, ICEE Managed Services

ICEE Managed Services T: 02392 230 604


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