Sheet metal is a popular material favored by many industries for its strength and durability. Unlike plastic, sheet metal can be used to make a long-lasting product that can handle heat and friction while also protecting more delicate parts. It is very commonly used as housing for electronics, among other things.
Many different metals are available in the sheet metal industry. Aluminum, brass, copper, steel, tin, nickel, and titanium can all be made into sheet metals. They are frequently used to create a large number of different products. Gold, silver, and even platinum also come in sheet metals for decorative products.
Sheet metal doesn’t have the same flexibility in manufacturing as plastic, however, and needs to be used in a certain way for a product to be easy to manufacture. If you aren’t completely familiar with sheet metal for the manufacturing process, you will need a sheet metal design service to make sure you don’t get your product designs sent back to you.
As an example, all sheet metal parts must start from a flat piece. The product arrives at its final appearance through being bent, cut, or welded if needed to reach its final form. Plastic, on the other hand, can arrive at its final form in a variety of different ways and may never be cut at all.
This is why you need a metal design specialist rather than your standard CAD design service. A mechanical engineer that specializes in sheet metal will understand all the ways a piece of metal can be easily worked on, and more importantly, the ways that it can’t.
When searching for a freelance mechanical engineer, you may be wondering what the associated design costs are. This guide is designed to help you understand the process and give you an idea on how much your project is likely to run.
Basic Pricing Information
Every project is unique. Fluctuations in the market, changes in pricing, availability of sheet metal, and other factors can change the costs from one project to another. While this guide is meant to help you get an estimate, it isn’t a guaranteed price point. You’ll need to get quotes from several different freelancers or firms and compare them before you can be certain of current pricing.
How Much Are Metal Design Services?
When a company is in need of metal design services, they typically turn to freelancers for this work. Freelancers are a practical choice because they only need to be paid for the time working on the project. If your company only needs occasional work with sheet metal and there are periods of time with no work, it makes little sense to pay for a mechanical design services’ salary.
Other companies hire freelancers that specialize in sheet metal to take advantage of their expertise. Engineers that work with sheet metal frequently will be more familiar with how to make a part easy to manufacture and still get the job done.
Although any mechanical engineer could possibly do the job, you ideally want an engineer with experience in design for manufacturability services. They should also have experience with sheet metal design because if they don’t, they may not understand the differences in sheet metal compared to other manufacturing methods.
They may also add more bends or other changes that aren’t strictly necessary, driving up the cost per part for aesthetics. If the aesthetics aren’t necessary to the product, such as a car part that no one will see once it is under the hood, these bends make no sense and only cost money.
Sheet metal engineers can range in price from $40–$200, depending on their level of education and experience. The price may be on the higher side if design plans sent in are faulty, requiring them to make changes or work with it in other ways beyond the scope of the project. This can push the price up to $10-$15 per hour.
This may seem like a pretty extreme difference in pricing, but it also shows the variability in expertise and also in what may be needed for sheet metal work.
What Do Freelancers and Firms Charge for Metal Design Services?
In general, you can expect the prices for a metal design project to be more expensive compared to more common CAD projects. This is because sheet metal requires a precise understanding of how the manufacturing process works and doesn’t have the same margin for error that plastics do.
The average price of a metal fabrication project is $2,140. Small or simple projects can run as low as $300, whereas a complex or large project could be as much as $4,000. This is why it’s very important to have as many details as possible before talking with a freelance CAD drawing service so that they can give you the most accurate quotes.
It may be helpful to keep all the information you have on a project together in one file, so it is easy for you to share with your freelancer when beginning a project. Clear communication is a key part of getting accurate quotes.
Price Example Chart
|Type of Project||Rate|
|2D Manufacturing Drawings||$50-$60 per hour|
|3D modeling||$90-200 per hour|
|Part Conversion from 3D models||$60-$70 per hour|
Factors Effecting Rates and Pricing
Now that you have a rough idea of what metal design services can look like pricing wise, you can narrow down where you fall on the cost spectrum by looking at what changes effect rates and pricing. The more complex a part is, the more it will cost to have it designed and eventually manufactured.
The good news is, a good design engineering service can often take back the price of their fee and more through savings in the manufacturing process. If a part can be redesigned to use less welding while still performing its intended purpose, the price of manufacturing can be lowered significantly, sometimes as much as half of the original manufacturing cost.
Speed of Service
How quickly you need a project done can greatly affect the cost of the project. If a sheet metal engineer needs to work evenings or weekends to get the project done on time, this will reflect in the price.
For fast turnaround time, you can expect the cost to increase as much as half as what it would have been without the same sort of time pressure. Some freelance electronics design services and firms even have specific rates based on time. If you don’t see this, consider asking a candidate for your project about their time-related costs.
On the other side, if you’re not in a hurry for the project to be finished you can sometimes get a lower rate by telling them you’re in no rush for the project to be completed. They may be able to lower your price since there is no time pressure.
Level of Quality
Obviously, the more detail you want in a 3D model, the more time it will take. The more time a project takes, the more money it will cost. We all have an idea in our head and know what our idea of absolute perfection is, but that perfection has a cost to it.
Although it is less common to need renders of your models compared to other industries, it’s possible you may need these done if you want to show a model of the part to a potential client or for other reasons. Renderings may also end up adding to the price tag.
If you want fine details and precision lines, expect your project to be on the higher end of the spectrum. If you’re on a budget and need to bring costs down, take a hard look at your project and decide just how much detail it really needs to still be functional. If you can, asking for a simpler design could help save on project time and cost.
Level of Experience
New sheet metal engineers who are just starting out may offer lower initial prices to try and help bring in their first customers. Without the reviews and referrals from those first few customers, it can be hard to get more business.
There is some risk in trying out these new prototype design engineers because they don’t have any reviews to go off of, but if you’re on a tight budget you can sometimes find a talented individual that just needs their foot in the door.
On the flip side, more experienced people are typically faster, make fewer mistakes, and have a higher skill level due to working on so many similar projects. You can get an idea of their quality of work and professionalism because they have customers you can refer back to, and you’ll know what you’re getting when you start the project.
Level of Education
Mechanical engineering requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but many sheet metal designers don’t stop there. They may take the time to familiarize themselves with multiple different types of software, get additional certifications, and spend hours practicing their craft.
The more educated your candidate is, the more they will cost. A talented engineer with a lot of resources at their disposal may be able to redesign your product so that it costs less to manufacture than it otherwise would have, saving you money overall.
Sometimes, it’s worth investing in a quality design that will save thousands on manufacturing, rather than saving on the engineer only to spend more on a product that is more expensive than necessary to manufacture.
Scope of the Project
It’s not just details that have an effect on pricing. How much you need done will make a difference also. If you need a 3D model as well as 2D drawings, this will cost more than a 2D drawing or 3D model alone. If you have several parts that need to be designed and fit together, this is more complex than a single part.
If you have a large project with many different aspects, expect your price to be on the higher end. If you just need one simple thing done, it will probably be on the lower end.
How to Get an Accurate Estimate
This pricing guide should help you understand how much your project will cost, but prices can fluctuate. Your next step after getting a rough estimate of costs is to contact your candidates for a more accurate price estimate.
Provide as Much Detail as Possible
The more information you have on the project, the more accurate your pricing will be. Make sure you include all of the information for the project, including what you will need in terms of models and drawings, and how many if it is a large project and many are needed.
Ask Several Freelancers
You should ask at least three freelancers for a quote in order to gauge whether the price estimates are fair or not. If you have two offers that are close to the same, and one that is extremely high or low, it’s safe to assume that the general pricing is about what the job is valued at.
If someone’s price is very high or low, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid them, but you will need to look at them more closely to see why their price is that way. Their price could be low because they are new, or extremely high because they have an extensive background and a lot of skill.
Ask a Lot of Questions
It’s better to ask about fees for faster service, corrections, and change orders before you start the project so you’re not surprised when the pricing changes later. If you’re not sure about what you need, clear communication can help clear it up and keep you from being surprised at the total for the project.
Cad Crowd’s Sheet Metal Designers at Your Disposal
At Cad Crowd, we have the privilege of working with a network of sheet metal designers. Our freelance professionals have worked on all sorts of projects. If you need help, find out how it works today.