When it comes to steel tube fabrication, the cost of the final product is about more than just raw material prices. When determining the cost of steel tubing per foot, manufacturers consider multiple factors -- including the complexity of the shape, bending, and forming, secondary processes needed, scrap, waste and more.
When planning your metal tube fabrication order, it’s nice to have an idea of what goes into the pricing process. With the right knowledge, you can adapt your designs to keep costs down as much as possible (and know when you’re getting a raw deal).
Steel Tube Fabrication -- Cost Considerations
The best way to know what your steel tube fabrication order will cost is to speak with your tubing fabricator. However, you can get a rough estimate of whether your order will be more or less expensive than the norm by considering these points:
- Quality of your material
- How complex your shape is
- Any secondary processes needed
- Scrap and waste
- Project volume
1. Qualities (& Quantities) of Materials
Different materials offer different benefits, some of which may not be obvious immediately. You may think that you want one material when there is another material that could save you money and still perform to your specifications.
Take stainless steel and aluminum tubing, for example. Both materials can be a viable option for certain situations, and each could be affordable in the right circumstances.
Aluminum is more expensive to purchase per pound than stainless steel. Of course, aluminum is ⅓ the weight of stainless steel, so buying 1 lb. of aluminum will get you a lot more raw material than buying 1 lb. of stainless. So, you get more aluminum for your dollar than you would stainless steel.
However, aluminum is more challenging to weld, which means your secondary processes are more expensive. Have we confused you yet!? Remember, stainless steel tube is stronger than aluminum, but heavier too.
Determining the most cost-efficient material is about more than just one factor, such as weight or price per pound. It requires measuring multiple variables in relation to your specific engineering needs.
2. Complexity of Shape
There are many options for shaping a tube, some of which are simpler and easier than others. The more complex, the more the cost. Some considerations for shape complexity include:
- Centerline radius (CLR) – The tighter the CLR, the more it tends to cost.
- Distance between bends
- How tight the tolerances need to be
- Tooling costs
- How smooth and attractive the shape needs to be
3. Secondary Processes Needed
Some parts can be churned out at high speeds and in high volume and require very little work done afterward. Other parts must be cut, welded, machined, finished, and so on.
These are known as secondary processes, and naturally they add to the cost of the project. A smart, DFM-friendly concept can help eliminate unnecessary machining.
4. Scrap and Waste
Your fabricator needs to purchase materials to complete your project. In an ideal world, all that material would go into the component with no remaining waste.
For example, if you need simple steel tubing with bends that are easy to produce and flow one into the other -- so there’s no need to cut off excess material to complete the part -- the fabricator can use up most of the raw material. However, if you need a complex part with multiple radii and visual appeal, the fabricator is likely to have to remove material on each part.
All scrap produced is material you’re paying for, even though it doesn’t yield anything you can use.
5. Project Volume
Generally, projects that require a lot of volume deliver economies of scale that benefit you and the fabricator. You may get a better deal on:
- The materials you buy
- The labor you pay for
- The overall price the fabricator chooses to charge
In contrast, if you have a small run that requires detailed custom steel tubing fabrication, you’ll pay more per part for all the same reasons that you pay less with a large-volume order -- materials, labor, and overall pricing tend to be higher
Learn More About Steel Tubing
If you have questions about budgeting for custom metal tube fabrication, tube forming, bending, steel tubing cost, and fabrication, feel free to reach out to our crew. Being an all-in-one metal manufacturer, we can help you understand the factors that will contribute to the cost of tubular steel fabrication -- or any other metal manufacturing project: