What material do you use for prototyping?

I can’t be the only one who feels the need to make parts out of something cheap and more available to check dimensions, etc, can i?

What’s everyone using to do first runs and make sure everything comes together like it’s supposed to? I have access to a big woodcutting CNC, so i thought of prototyping out of 3mm MDF, which i have in abundance, but i’ve recently found out about Aluminum trim coil, and was wondering if that’s something which is conducive to plasma cutting? Seems cheap and should be good enough to mock up things which can later be cut out of thicker sheets?

Or do i need to just get with the program, suck it up and stock up on the materials i plan on making things out of?

I go to the local recycling/junk yard and buy scrap for 25 cents a pound. Its unreal what factories consider scrap.

What sort of materials do you look for? I went to two recyclers already, and none of them could think of any sheet stuff they might have. One of them let me rummage through their container they were using as an “inbox,” and all i could really found were radiators/condensers of all different shapes and sizes, and maybe a small amount of something which looked like angle iron. Am i just looking at the wrong kind of recycling joints?

A 4x10 sheet of 18 gauge is cheap enough, I’m planning on using it to mock up some parts in designing. Part of what I consider is how much time am I going to spend trying to find free material that is the right size, clean enough, and close enough to source.


Scap yards will be hit or miss but out my way two of the three material supply yards have a “rusty metal” area they sell at scrap price. One in particular, has almost any size you could want and the inventory changes constantly. Much of the new stuff is not even rusty yet.

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I found this a Lowes:

It’s 28 gauge and might not work as a template for every thickness of final material, but it’s 10 bucks a sheet, so cheap enough to test the torch and perhaps some complicated cuts you need to see physically before committing to your perfect 20 gauge cold roll.