I'm coming from the software engineering world (please don't rip me to shreds here), and I'm somewhat unfamiliar with the manufacturing process when it comes to cut and bend steel.

To provide broader details, we're making a pretty simple steel enclosure (basically a box), that will house some electronic, and need to build a relatively low number of them (a few hundred).

So my question is:

  • Are there CAD tools specifically created to allow for the design of a folded steel enclosure?
  • If I needed to provide a standard design document to a variety of manufacturing places to get quotes, which should my document look like? What info should it have about the enclosure?
  • What are my best resources to find a vendor to help us build something like this?

Sorry about how noobish this all sounds, I'd love to learn more about this process, any help is very appreciated.


Many CAD packages do have tools for sheet metal design which can plan folds, tabs etc for manufacturing. However you do need to have at least some understanding of the practicalities of the process for these to be of any real use.

I would say that the best advice is, if you are going to a manufacturer in any case then make use of their expertise by concentrating your design efforts on what you actually want to achieve. For example work out what dimensions are important and where any brackets, mounting points etc need to go. This will give them the information they need to manufacture what you actually need and let them work out how to achieve it in a practical fashion.

In this sort of situation it it a common problem for a client to show up with a very specific solution which, while it isn't 'wrong' as such isn't the most effective way to solve their underlying problem with a specific manufacturing process.

Having said that doing a CAD model will certainly be very helpful as it will allow you to clearly articulate your requirements.

Indeed it may be useful to do a simple model of the part(s) that you want to put in the enclosure, this will help you work out how much space you need and is also useful in assessing if the whole thing will be reasonable easy to assemble and maintain.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your feedback Chris, by no means will I be able to produce drawings fit for production, my hope is I can give them to a real engineer and they'll have a closer approximation what I want to achieve and they'll be able to re build it the right way. $\endgroup$ – JP Silvashy Oct 13 '16 at 13:17

I've done some research and I think I've learned enough to throw some novice advice up here regarding my question:

  • The tool doesn't matter that much, as long as it can produce CAD drawings that a machine shop (depending on the complexity and precision of the part) can follow.
  • I went with Solidworks (using a friend's to see if I want to actually spring for the subscription, it's not cheap)
  • As far as community goes, I posted a similar question on Element14, but nobody has responded (2 days), so I'm still not sure about where to go if you're a noob in this space.
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  • $\begingroup$ As far as where to go, the place to go is to skim a book or two first, and then ask specific questions when you have them. There are hundreds of books on technical drawing, many even specifically for sheet metal. You can also talk to a vendor you want to work with. As a general rule if your question is broad enough that a whole book can be written about it, it is far too broad for a good Q&A. $\endgroup$ – Ethan48 Oct 12 '16 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Ethan, im not 'new' to the idea of sites like this one: stackoverflow.com/users/103739/jp-silvashy I think we need to do a better job guiding people that have questions that aren't living in this world every day like you. Too often new people don't know where to look for help, or even if there are books in the field that are of use to me. Moreover just saying "read a book" doesn't help that much, I know there are books about sheet metal. do you have specific ones that are helpful? $\endgroup$ – JP Silvashy Oct 13 '16 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ Please remember that each stack exchange site sets up its own rules to serve its own community, and they don't all work the same. If you check out our help center you will notice the guideline: "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much." This site is for people with specific engineering problems to solve, or at least people who have spent a few minutes on google first. $\endgroup$ – Ethan48 Oct 13 '16 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ How would I be able to "imagine a book" on a subject I don't fully understand, I think it's not particularly great for a community to be dismissive of someone that doesn't frequent this world, you're making this not a welcoming place with your position. $\endgroup$ – JP Silvashy Nov 9 '16 at 15:28

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