Comprehensive Guide to Sheet Metal Tolerances

Sheet metal tolerances are the maximum allowable dimension deviation during sheet metal fabrication. This concept is crucial as it directly influences the product’s quality and performance. Ensuring every product falls within this tolerance range in our work is essential.
We acknowledge the significant impact of sheet metal tolerances on the final product application. Therefore, we consistently control precision to ensure that each part meets or exceeds our customers’ expectations.

Comprehensive Guide to Sheet Metal Tolerances

What Is Sheet Metal Tolerance?

Sheet metal tolerance refers to the specified range that allows for deviations in the design sizes of parts. This range defines the upper and lower limits of the workpiece’s variable design size. Upper and lower deviations define the tolerance zone. Looser tolerances have a wider zone, while tighter tolerances have a smaller range. Tighter tolerances also indicate that the dimensions of the workpiece are more precise.

Types of Sheet Metal Tolerances

1. Geometric tolerances: These tolerances are more complex and related to the size and shape of the component. For instance, in the case of a flat metal sheet, geometric tolerances determine the balance required for the metal and the precise placement of holes. They are especially important for complex assemblies where precision is critical.

2. Dimensional tolerances: These refer to the allowed variations in the physical dimensions of a part. For example, if a piece should be 10 cm long, the tolerance may allow it to be between 9.98 cm and 10.02 cm. It’s crucial to ensure that the parts are perfectly aligned.

3. Material tolerances: Finally, we also need to consider the properties of our materials. Different materials will behave differently in the same conditions. Material tolerances account for factors such as the thickness of metal and its ability to expand or contract. This ensures that the product will perform as expected in different conditions and maintain its functionality.

Why Sheet Metal Tolerance Matters?

Small variations in the metal plates during workpiece processing can lead to differences in the final product. Factors such as the purity, thickness, age, texture, and material processing method can affect the quality of sheet metal processing.

The tolerance range can vary depending on the material and thickness. Here are some common tolerance range data:

Thickness of the Material  (mm)Tolerance  (mm)
0.5 -1.0±0.1
1.0 – 2.0±0.15
2.0 -3.0±0.2

Different materials have different tolerance requirements during processing. For example:

Aluminum Alloy: The typical tolerance range is around ±0.1mm due to its softer nature.

Stainless Steel: The tolerance range can be slightly larger, around ±0.2mm, with its higher hardness.

Carbon Steel: The tolerance range is usually around ±0.15mm.

Maintaining a specific tolerance range can reduce production costs and improve the fit of the workpiece as long as it is within a reasonable range.

Excessive size precision necessitates more specialized technology and equipment, which usually translates into longer processing times. Therefore, reasonable tolerances in part design are essential for determining the measure of the final product.

Common Standards for Dimensional tolerances

We adhere to various standards in sheet metal fabrication. ISO 2768 is the most widely used standard for general tolerances, while ANSI Y14.5 is more specific. These standards serve as a guide to ensure consistency in production regardless of the project’s complexity.

It’s not just about compliance; it’s about guaranteeing the predictability and reliability of our parts. These standards are crucial for the smooth integration of components into our clients’ products, especially in industries that demand precision, such as aerospace and automotive.

How to Choose Sheet Metal Tolerances?

When manufacturing parts, part tolerance refers to the dimensions that do not have tolerance indications or are not part of the size chain and do not directly affect the fit properties. Reasonable choice of component tolerance is critical for the dimensional fit of components in mechanical design. If the part tolerance is incorrectly chosen, the design size chain will be incomplete. General tolerances can be utilized in the tolerance marking process for parts with lower accuracy requirements. However, for parts with high precision requirements, the mechanical design should specify the tolerance in detail to guarantee that it meets the actual needs. A part’s size, shape, location, and other requirements are determined by its function. The selection of the tolerance grade should fulfill the design and quality needs of the components, considering factors such as processing cost, product performance, function, service life, and fuel consumption.

Tolerance Guidelines(+/-) mm(+/-) Inch
Angularity+/- 1°+/- 1°
Bending or Forming 0.5080.020″
Hole to hole0.1270.005″
Diameters with inserts0.07620.003″
Bend to hole or feature0.2540.010″
Edge to edge0.1270.005″
Edge to hole0.1270.005″
Hole to hardware0.2540.010″
Edge to hardware0.2540.010″
Hardware to hardware0.3810.015″
Bend to hole0.3810.015″
Bend to hardware0.3810.015″
Bend to bend0.3810.015″
Bend to edge0.2540.010″

Factors That Impact Tolerance During Sheet Metal Fabrication

Various factors affect actual tolerances in sheet metal fabrication, highlighting the importance of involving your fabricator in the initial design stages. Ensuring that CAD designs conform to Design for Manufacturing (DFM) standards is crucial in establishing realistic and achievable tolerances, considering the complexness of material, equipment, and fabrication techniques.

Material Selection: The type and thickness of the chosen material have inherent tolerances. These natural variations are critical in determining the finished part’s overall tolerance.

Equipment Accuracy: Different tools and machines used in fabrication have varied accuracy levels. The precision capability of the equipment is a determining factor in achieving specific tolerance levels.

Process Sophistication: The number of processes a part undergoes directly affects the ability to maintain tight tolerances. Tolerance stack-up occurs as variations accumulate with each additional process, complicating precision.

Temperature and Environment

Temperature and environmental conditions significantly impact sheet metal tolerances. We control facility temperature to minimize these effects, ensuring consistent fabrication regardless of external temperature fluctuations, especially for materials sensitive to temperature variations or parts with tight tolerances.

Fabrication Producers’ Abilities: Each custom fabrication and assembly company boasts exclusive equipment and expertise. The variety in capabilities affects the company’s ability to meet specific tolerance requirements, making pre-engagement essential for aligning expectations and capabilities.

How do Material Tolerances Affect Fabrication?

Material tolerances have a direct impact on our fabrication processes.

Welding: Different thicknesses and compositions can also influence welding. Materials with different thermal properties must be welded carefully to prevent warping and weak welds.

Laser Cutting: The composition and thickness of the material will affect how it responds to cutting processes. Materials with higher carbon content may require different laser settings than those with lower carbon content.

Surface Treatment: Surface finishes such as heat treatment, coating, or painting depend on material tolerances. A material with a specific composition may require a different layer to prevent corrosion.

How do Material Tolerances Affect Fabrication?

Tips to Work With Tolerances

Material Properties: Different materials will exhibit varying behaviors under the same conditions. Designers must consider these properties when establishing tolerances.

Comprehending the Process: Designers must understand the manufacturing process, including its capabilities and limitations, to design products within feasible tolerances.

High Flexibility: While accuracy is crucial, excessive tolerances can inflate production costs and lead to longer production times. Striking a balance between accuracy and practicality is essential.

Better Communication: It is crucial to communicate tolerance requirements on engineering drawings by including detailed notes and complying with international standards for tolerance symbols.

Tolerances and Manufacturing Processes

Cutting Processes & Tolerance

In sheet metal fabrication, we use different cutting techniques.

Laser cutting offers tight tolerances, with precision up to a few hundredths of a millimeter.

Waterjet cutting is suitable for materials sensitive to high temperatures. It provides good but less tight tolerances than laser cutting.

Plasma cutting is faster but offers lower tolerance accuracy than laser cutting, making it ideal for applications that require speed over precision.

Sheet Metal Tolerances for Stamping and Bending

In stamping, metal is formed by pressing it into a die. Die precision is heavily relied on for tight tolerances in stamped parts. Bending is the process of reshaping metal without removing material. The type and properties of the bending machine influence tolerances. Our modern machines are calibrated for consistent bending angles, which is crucial for maintaining tolerances.

Tolerances for Welding and Riveting Methods

Tolerances are crucial in the joining stage of sheet metal projects. Factors like the welder’s skill and the type of welding used affect tolerances. Our welding processes ensure precise parts. Riveting is used for strong joints, and its tolerances depend on rivet size and location. Precision in riveting is essential to maintaining part dimensions.

Tolerances and Manufacturing Processes

Quality Control and Sheet Metal Tolerances Management  

Quality is not just a step in the process but the entirety of the process itself. Quality control is a proactive and comprehensive process covering every production stage. We have implemented a rigorous quality control system with several key components.

Checking before mass production: We review design files and material specifications before production begins to ensure they align with the required tolerances.

Process Control: Our technicians perform regular inspections during production to detect deviations as early as possible. They check dimensions and the quality of cuts, bends, and joins and ensure the consistency of material properties.

Inspection after production: Each batch of parts undergoes a final inspection to ensure that each piece meets the specified tolerances. We use precision measuring instruments and, in some cases, coordinate measuring machines.

Tolerance Management: Balancing Accuracy and Prices

Tolerance management involves finding a delicate balance between precision and cost control. Stricter tolerances can lead to higher costs due to longer production times and more precise quality control measures. At Enze, we work closely with our clients to help them understand their requirements and make informed decisions about the precision needed for their projects.

While high precision is non-negotiable for aerospace components, more relaxed sheet metal tolerances may be acceptable for less critical applications, ultimately saving the client money.

Innovations of Tolerances in Sheet Metal Fabrication

The future of tolerances in sheet metal fabrication is trending towards more remarkable accuracy and efficiency, with the following anticipated trends:

1. AI Training: These technologies will revolutionize how we manage and implement tolerances. By analyzing data from the manufacturing process, they can predict and correct issues before they occur, leading to more precise manufacturing processes.

2. Tolerances for Sustainability: With the global focus on sustainability, there will be an increased emphasis on optimizing material usage and minimizing waste. Tighter control of material dimensions can result in more efficient use, making tolerances critical in this effort.

3. Customized Solution: As industries move towards customized production and on-demand manufacturing, the ability to quickly adjust tolerances to meet specific customer requirements will become increasingly important. This shift will necessitate more flexible manufacturing processes and a deeper understanding of material behavior.


This article gives an overview of sheet metal tolerance and how to conduct a tolerance analysis. Part design is becoming increasingly complex, and the tolerances required are becoming stricter. Manufacturers must use precise machinery during production to achieve the required sheet metal tolerance in component design.

Enze has years of experience manufacturing sheet metal fabrication processing. If you want to purchase sheet parts, our experts can provide detailed information.