July 9, 2021

Sheet Metal Fabrication is a Go-To Choice for Computer Electronics Components

By Amanda Tierney

The growth of consumer electronics is enormous. Industry reports show that global annual sales in consumer electronics were expected to reach $1.06 trillion in 2021 and we know that’s not slowing down.

The number of devices that require computer electronics abound: TVs, smartwatches, smartphones, laptops, tablets, audio devices, smart home devices, and emerging technologies such as drones, pet tech, electric scooters, electric wheelchairs, and so on. The demand to stay connected has never been higher, challenging manufacturers to keep up.

Sheet metal for computer electronics
Fabricated sheet metal parts are quite common and critical in computer electronics components.

Sheet Metal's Role in Computer Electronics

Fabricated sheet metal components are quite common and critical in these markets’ building structures, such as sheet metal enclosures, housings, chassis, brackets, and cabinets. Sheet metal fabrication is often used for prototyping and end-use metal parts. It is an inexpensive process using laser cutting, punch presses, and press brakes. With new technologies to help automate some steps of the process, it’s also considered a speedy solution, when multiple iterations are required and speed to market is critical to success.

In addition, you’ll find multiple material options for fabricated sheet metal parts, with aluminum being the most popular for prototyping, because of its low-cost. More durable parts could be made from stainless steel, CR steel, copper, and brass. If you are looking for end-use parts, you can consider finishing options such as powder coat and plating for appearance or protection. For these reasons, sheet metal fabrication is a great low-cost alternative to plastic, casting, or extrusion.

Sheet Metal Fabrication
Sheet metal fabrication allows for easy customization, such as creating cutouts that can be manufactured for cable connectors, fans, switches, and LED panels.

Common Uses of Sheet Metal

For electronic mechanism protection, the use of sheet metal enclosures, housings, and chassis provides an effective barrier for sensitive equipment. Because sheet metal fabrication allows for easy customization, you can create user interfaces on your housing, sections can be ergonomically designed for buttons, and, lastly, cutouts can be manufactured for cable connectors, fans, switches, and LED panels. These types of applications are very common for electrical cabinets, computer enclosures, and wall mounts.  For a more complete prototype, sheet metal chassis can be plated, painted, powder coated, silk-screened, and welded together.

Sheet metal can also be fabricated to create small parts such as brackets or cable connectors. Steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and brass are all strong enough to hold larger metal or plastic components together without breaking. This is essential for those companies constructing computers, audio equipment, medical instruments, or drones, which get a tremendous amount of use and therefore have more opportunities for fatigue and breakage. And, don’t forget about the small custom components like gears and washers, which can be fabricated quickly and affordably, and are often used in hard drives and motherboards.

Because of the internet of things and the evolution of every day products being converted to smart objects, it’s hard to find a product that doesn’t require computer electronic components. Keep this in mind when designing for manufacturing. Sheet metal fabrication could be a low-cost, high quality, and fast-turnaround solution.

For more detailed information, check out our guide for sheet metal fabrication design.

For additional help, feel free to contact one of our applications engineers at 877-479-3680 or [email protected]. To get your next design project started today, simply upload a 3D CAD model for a quote within hours.


Amanda Tierney is the product marketing manager for CNC machining and sheet metal fabrication at Protolabs. She has 10-plus years of experience marketing to manufacturing engineers and designers across multiple industries. She holds a B.A. in business and marketing from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont.