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What is the Difference Between Metal Sheet, Plate, and Foil?


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Working in construction or industrial manufacturing, you have most likely already come across a variety of metal options in varying lengths and sizes. But what about metal thicknesses? What is the difference between sheet, plate, and foil?

When choosing between the three types of products, the only difference is the thickness:

  • Metal plate is classified with the thickest options
    • Metal plate reflects sheet metal 6mm or thicker
  • Metal sheet with medium thickness
    • Metal sheet reflects any metal from 0.5mm up to 6mm
  • Metal foil with the thinnest options
    • Metal foil is categorized by sheet metal with a thickness less than 0.2mm
US-based metal suppliers commonly measure the differences between metal sheet, plate, and foil in millimeters. British metal manufacturers and engineers will often use mils. The use of gauges, while sometimes still used, is discouraged. Gauge numbers can vary, having limited usefulness without having general agreement on meaning.

steel sheet

Metal Sheet, Plate, and Foil Variables

Aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper and brass, are common non-ferrous metals available in metal sheet, plate, and foil options. Your project requirements will determine which alloy is best suited, while differentiation of each sheet metal option can help decide which thickness will work best for you.

Plate Metal Applications

  • Stainless steel plate is often used for industrial applications like construction or applications that require its hygienic properties such as food processing applications.
  • Steel plate is ideal for a broad range of applications such a structural support or heavy machinery manufacturing.
  • Aluminum plate can be used in aerospace and automotive manufacturing where its mechanical properties can withstand wide temperature ranges.

Sheet Metal Applications

  • Stainless steel sheet is used for both industrial and commercial applications. Its corrosion resistance makes it well suited for fasteners, machinery components, heat exchanges, and food service parts.
  • Steel sheet is well suited for railings, gates, and automotive components.
  • Aluminum sheet can be found in commercial applications like packaging as well as home appliances, building and construction, and automotive body panels. 
  • Brass and copper sheet is useful for decorative components as well as mechanical applications.

Foil Metal Applicationsmetal foil

  • Stainless steel foil is used for a wide range of industries including foodservice, packaging, construction, and chemical processing. It is often used as a wrap or for enclosures or covers.
  • Steel metal foil is commonly used for shielding or fabrication applications.
  • Aluminum foil sheet is often used for tooling or decorative designs.
  • Copper and brass foil can be used for decorative purposes/hardware.

Why Different Sheet Metal Thicknesses Matter for Metal Fabrication

Understanding the differences between metal thicknesses can ensure you choose the best metal option for your project requirements. Each alloy’s mechanical and physical properties can also factor into your metal decision.
Call or visit one of our Southern California or Arizona locations to find the right metal sheet, plate, or foil options you need. We stock a wide selection of quality metal materials, ready for will-call pick up or next day local delivery.