Sheet Metal Design for NEC Europe

During the summer of 2018 I worked with NEC Europe in updating a medium sized Sheet Metal enclosure.

I used SolidWorks for this really enjoyable Sheet Metal Design project. We had to work hard and be creative to meet the high density of game consoles in a pre-defined size of a steel charging rack. It was a joy to work for a strong project manager and a small, professional team. The enclosures were successfully prototyped and tested, and are now being manufactured and installed for the client.

The NEC Europe project manager has kindly described my work as follows:

“… Neil’s work on the redesign of an enterprise high density game console charging rack for a prestigious museum and game console producer was to an extremely high standard. His methodology and approach was consistent with our ethos and workflows. His attention to detail and re-confirmation of requirements led to a successful proof of concept on time and in budget. We will definitely work with Neil in the future again as new projects with SolidWorks requirements arise …”

Mark Jackson, Department Manager MISD, NEC Europe Ltd.

SolidWorks model of Anglo Saxon Brooch

Anglo Saxon ornamental brooch modelled by Neil Taylor at Devon 3D CAD

Anglo Saxon Brooch modelled in SolidWorks by Neil Taylor at Devon 3D CAD

This Anglo Saxon Brooch and other pieces of exquisite craftsmanship are in the news again. I wanted to model them in SolidWorks, to see if I could replicate them faithfully.

I only had a low resolution photo from a newspaper to use as the basis for the design and I think I made a decent first attempt. I did a little research and found that it came from the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ of Anglo Saxon ornaments, coins and military objects from the 6 – 7th century.

Gold Wire Jewellery  Techniques for Anglo Saxon Brooch.

After a little more digging I found a higher resolution photo and a few posts about how drawn gold wire was used to such stunning effect. Now my own work seemed really wanting in technique. I am going to find out more about gold wire craftsmanship and try to remodel it using the same techniques as the original artisan might have used. In fact, it always makes sense to follow the correct design technique rather than a ‘Looks alright’ method. It makes me realise how skilled and artistic the craftsmen must have been. And they made these wonderful artifacts without the use of compters at all!

Look out for a better model from me. I will still use ‘curve driven patterns’ but make more realistic ‘figure of eight’ drawn wire strings.



SolidWorks Modelling in 3D, not the normal Mechanical Engineering models.

SolidWorks modelling a Pair of Scissors by Neil Taylor at Devon 3D CAD

If I were to spend all my time designing complex small scale electro-mechanical assemblies, I would be a very boring designer indeed. So I am starting a series of modelling familiar everyday objects using my trusty SolidWorks 3D modelling software.

The first model is of a pair of scissors. Not just any old pair of scissors but my favourite pair that I bought in San Francisco. I try to keep these for cutting non metallic materials and consequently they are in very good shape.

The major challenge was to faithfully represent the various sections, especially the shape of the handle between the finger holes and the blade. It is not circular and not planar – it also has a slight curve. I used a lofted feature which is OK but could do with a little improvement. It is extremely difficult to actually measure some of these shapes, so they end up as approximations. I modelled the finger holes as ellipses but I can see they are not quite ellipses in real life. Does it matter? Not  for the purposes of this exercise. I wonder what the German designer had in mind, for they come from Solingen.

SolidWorks 3D model of a pair of scissors by Neil Taylor at Devon 3D CAD
SolidWorks 3D model of a pair of scissors by Neil Taylor at Devon 3D CAD


Sheet Metal Design

Sheet metal design is one of the basic skills of a mechanical design engineer. I am a big fan of SolidWorks 3D CAD solid modelling software; it has a great suite of design tools specially for sheet metal design.  Here is a quick look at converting a solid part into a sheet metal part. This is not a masterclass in design, just a small, simple example of how good SolidWorks is at handling all the tricky bits of bends and folds.

For more sheet metal design go to the website of Devon 3D CAD.

Converting a solid part to a sheet metal part.

It is sometimes very convenient to start with a solid part, specially when you have already worked out the shape beforehand. Here is the finished part to get an idea of where we are heading.

Steel Cover DemoThe part is similar to a box with two flanges.











I started by modelling the basic shape as a solid. I always try to use geometry in design when I know that the part is symmertical, here about the Right Plane. The sketch is extruded a certain distance either side of the midplane.

Steel Cover Demo - Base part Sketch steel cover demo solid base by Neil Taylor at Devon 3D CAD

Next I shelled the part using the wall thickness I had chosen for the sheet metal.

steel rear cover demo solid base shell

Using the ‘Convert to sheet metal’ tool I choose one face to be static and choose the edges that will have to folded to form a sheet metal part. The software tool makes a break between the faces and allows you have a lot of control over how the folded faces meet at the intersections.

steel rear cover demo corner detail





You can see I have used an overlap feature where two faces intersect. The small gap between edges allow the part to be laser cut from the flat pattern.








Next I add a flange on one edge.

steel rear cover demo add flange









Then I mirror that flange about the top plane.

steel rear cover demo - mirror flange









Then I add mounting holes by extrude cutting 2 holes in each flange.

steel rear cover demo - add mounting holes









The ventilation holes are made by cutting one hole then propagating it using linear patterns.

steel rear cover demo - add vent hole









The first linear pattern makes one row of holes.

steel rear cover demo - add linear pattern









And the full number of holes is completed by patterning the row up and down the face.

steel rear cover demo - add second pattern









Finally a cable entry hole is added on the bottom face.

steel rear cover demo - add cable entry hole









And this is how the part is laser cut using the flat pattern from the 3D data.

steel rear cover demo - flat pattern