When it comes time to reducing production costs or increasing profit margins in metal product manufacturing, the responsibility may fall to the manufacturer’s engineering team to determine how best to cut product costs without sacrificing quality and structural integrity.
Roll forming is often viewed as a cost-prohibitive process for metal fabricators. Typically, metal fabricators turn to stamping, press braking and extrusions for their needs, and roll forming is cast aside without consideration.
Yet roll forming can be the most cost-effective method to achieving a quality product. Roll forming has the ability to reduce your product’s weight, simplify design and cut secondary fabrication needs that can be handled inline.
Even if you’ve never designed for roll forming, it may be time to consider what its capabilities can do for your bottom line. This roll forming guide has everything you need to determine whether roll forming is your best option, manage costs and take the next steps in designing a roll formed product.
Roll forming can seem like an overwhelming process to design for, if you’re used to stamping, press braking, extrusions or other techniques. The truth is, it can actually open up new doors to creativity—and cost savings.
Roll forming is all around. Yet, for many, it’s hard to recognize how roll forming techniques are applied in everyday life.
For example, walk into a grocery store and grab a carton of milk from the dairy section. There’s a good chance that the shelves of the refrigeration unit are roll formed.
Or on a Sunday when you want to clean the gutters, you might not realize that the rails on your trusty Little Giant ladder were redesigned and roll formed.
The metal trim on your cubicle—roll formed.
The steps on your ladder—roll formed.
The stainless steel grill bars on the truck that just passed by—roll formed.
The roll forming process hasn’t changed much in the many years it’s been used by metal fabricators and manufacturers. Despite its resemblance to the original lines of the past, roll forming continues to be an efficient production method that offers in-line processing, consistent profile geometry and high yield.
And yet, the field faces a problem. A lack of education around roll forming (due in part to its absence from collegiate engineering curriculum) has made it difficult for roll forming to gain traction as a viable alternative to extruding, stamping and press braking. In addition, the process has become commoditized, with little to differentiate one roll former from another.
So what’s the secret to standing out? We believe it is to meet the evolving needs of our customer base. Manufacturers need more than an outsourced metal fabrication vendor; they need a supply chain partner.
Should you press brake or roll form? It’s a big decision with multiple factors to consider. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what fabrication method will yield the desired quality for the lowest overall cost.
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As a design engineer, you understand what type of production method is best suited for your design.
You understand that the metal fabrication option you choose can impact design integrity, production efficiency, and, ultimately, corporate profitability.
That may be only half the battle though. You may also need to convince a decision maker, such as a sourcing manager, of the value of alternative production methods such as roll forming, press braking or stamping, and justify why he should choose one of these methods—particularly if it isn’t historically how the part has been produced.