6 Ways Wal-Tek Bridges the Gap between Design and Manufacturing

At Wal-Tek, we don’t just provide sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining services—we also seek to build true partnerships with our customers.

Serving as a bridge between design and manufacturing, Wal-Tek is the “team you can trust” to collaborate with your engineering team to ensure your vision is honored and your part is manufacturable from the very beginning.

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6 Dos and Don’ts to Make Your Parts More Manufacturable

Here are six dos and don’ts to keep in mind during the design phase of your next project:  

1. Don’t overengineer your part

Design choices such as tight tolerances and sharp corners may be necessary for the functionality of some parts, but if there’s flexibility in your design, consider making slight adjustments to save time and money.

For instance, when parts require exceptionally tight tolerances for features that are already small and difficult to access, we have to slow our operations down and use small, specialized (and sometimes custom) tooling. These factors directly affect a project’s cost and lead time. If the design can be adjusted to accommodate a bigger toolpath, we can use a standard tool and operate our machines faster to get the job done.

We also see designs that call for corner radii as tight as 0.03” that aren’t necessary for the function of the part. These requirements don’t take into account the size and depth of standard tooling—there simply isn’t enough clearance in the machine to allow the tooling to operate without breaking. If we can increase the radii to accommodate a standard 0.25” end mill, we can make the part much faster and more cost-effectively. 

2. Do ask about hardware and fasteners

Knowing the ins and outs of various hardware and fasteners is our job, not our customers’. When we receive quote requests with the wrong-sized holes or incorrect hardware and fastener call-outs, we contact customers right away and make suggestions to ensure the part’s proper fit and functionality.

If you aren’t sure what the best hardware option is for a given material or don’t know the correct size hole a fastener needs, just ask! We’ll happily guide you in the right direction.

And if you’re working with outdated internal specification documents calling for certain hardware or hole sizes, we can get you the correct information to update your documents for future reference.

3. Don’t expect tolerances to be held after painting

Machining customers typically request “dimensions after finish” when submitting a quote. While we can anticipate build-up and make accommodations for some finishing treatments, such as plating or anodizing, paint is a different story.

Since paint is hand-applied, we have less control over the outcome than with highly scientific processes like anodizing. Paint can vary in thickness and may also build up and close holes in parts. Due to these variables, we can’t always guarantee that we’ll hold the required tolerances or meet all dimensional specifications post-painting.

Fortunately, there are other comparable finishing treatments to consider that won’t compromise dimensions and tolerances. When in doubt, have a conversation with us! We can discuss your part’s requirements and determine if a solution like powder coating might be more optimal. 

4. Do consider welding options

When customers need their parts welded, they often request that the weld be ground down and blended entirely, even if a cosmetic appearance isn’t a top priority. 

However, grinding down a weld until thoroughly blended increases the work time and cost while weakening the weld. It can even result in breakage.

We recommend avoiding this request if possible to optimize the strength of your part and save yourself time and money. 

You can rest assured that your part will still look great because our welders are true artists. They’re experts in their craft, and they lay beautiful beads down. Unless the finished product calls for a completely blended result, leaving weld beads is an excellent choice. 

In some cases, fasteners such as PEM® SpotFast® can eliminate the need for welding. During the quoting stage of a project, we can leverage the PEM Connect feature of our quoting software to verify if fasteners would be a cheaper, faster alternative to welding.

5. Don’t attach machining tolerances to sheet metal fabrication projects

As a multi-divisional shop, we see customers attaching machining tolerances to sheet metal parts, not knowing there is a difference between the two. A standard machining tolerance (± 0.005″) is much tighter than a standard sheet metal tolerance (± 0.010″). 

Furthermore, tolerances must be loose enough to accommodate sheet metal parts containing multiple bends. For example, a part with eight bends and tolerances of ± 0.005″ would likely (and unfortunately!) result in a no-quote. It would be outrageously expensive to take on the project because of all the required quality checks and the amount of wasted scrap material.

6. Do ask about our capabilities

Because we’re a full-service shop, we have more in-house capabilities than many customers expect and can often identify better alternatives to customers’ current manufacturing processes.

For example, we recently received an assembly order for a model with 52 individual components that needed to be welded together. We quickly realized that our sheet metal fabrication division could form almost the entire part out of one sheet of metal, eliminating most of the welding work. This approach would save our customer time and money.

We let our customer know that we could provide the assembly work as requested but that we also had the in-house capabilities to offer a more cost-effective and efficient alternative for future production runs. 

At Wal-Tek, we leverage our full range of services to bridge the gap between design and manufacturing and deliver top-quality parts as fast as possible. We want our customers to lean on us and use our resources, experience, and skills to get their jobs done right the first time. 

Connecting with us early and collaborating during the design process helps ensure project success. 

If you’re not sure where to start, one of the best ways to find out what we can do for you is to ask. We’re always happy to have a phone call, and we love meeting people in person in our shop. 

Come in and take a tour to see how we can get your next manufacturing project done the Wal-Tek Way. 



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