Sheet Metal Shop vs. Machine Shop

Those who aren’t familiar with the metal fabrication world easily confuse a sheet metal shop for a machine shop. When in fact, there is a difference between the two types of shops. Sure, all manufacturers have machines they use to fabricate things, but it would be incorrect to classify all manufacturers as machine shops simply because shops are full of machines. To keep everyone on the same page, this blog will distinguish the difference between the two types of shops.

Sheet Metal Shop: This may seem pretty self explanatory, but a sheet metal shop is a shop that fabricates parts out of sheet metal. Sheet metal shops have a variety of equipment and machines to fabricate sheet metal which include:

  • Shear: Equipment which cuts material to the required size.
  • Turret Punch: A machine that has tooling which are controlled by programs to punch designs/patterns into sheet metal.
  • High Speed Laser: Laser cutting sheet metal to it’s specified design rather than using tooling.
  • Press Brake: Equipment used to form sheet metal.

As you can see, a sheet metal shop has all the necessary equipment that allows them to fabricate sheet metal parts.These are the type of parts that would come from a sheet metal shop:

Machine Shop: A machine shop is a shop that machines metal. This is not to be confused with sheet metal. Bar stock or billet metal is used for machining parts from it. Machine shops have a variety of equipment and machines which subtract material from thick metal to its desired geometry. Here are the types of equipment you would find in a machine shop:

  • Saw: Equipment which cuts material to the required size.
  • CNC Vertical Machining Center: A machine that uses tooling that vertically removes material from bar stock or billet metal. Also known as drill, tap, bore, and mill.
  • CNC Horizontal Machining Center: A machine that uses tooling that horizontally removes material from bar stock or billet metal.
  • CNC Turning: A machine that turns the material/part onto fixed tooling. Also known as lathe.

As you can see, a machine shop has all the necessary equipment that allows them to physically remove material to achieve a desired geometry. These are the type of parts that would come from a machine shop:

So the main difference between the two types of shops is the material being used (sheet vs. bar stock) and the functionality of the machines (punch/form vs. subtractive manufacturing). We hope this post helps to clarify any confusion in regards to the difference between a sheet metal shop and a machine shop.

Be sure to stay tuned for our next blog post! Thanks for reading.

 

5 thoughts on “Sheet Metal Shop vs. Machine Shop

  1. Hi, I am an insurance underwriter and I’m currently underwriting insurance for a company that makes faucets, shower sprays, water stations, etc. Would you say that the company’s operations are considered to be machining or fabrication. I’m leaning toward machining but I wanted to get an expert opinion. Please advise.
    Thanks!

  2. Thanks for going into specifics about this. People generalize things a lot and because of that end up going to the wrong place to get help. I do that all the time! And then it just adds more time and hassle to my already busy life.

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