Without the expertise of metal fabricators, we would be without many products that keep our lives running smoothly. Some everyday objects made from durable metals include tables and chairs, hand tools, automobile parts, nuts and bolts, pipes, structural elements for buildings, and other equipment.
Metal fabrication involves the cutting and shaping of metal, which will soon be assembled and formed into a product. This includes plate metal, formed and expanded metal, hardware, fittings, sectional metal, welding wire, and so many more. Read on to learn more about this fascinating process.
How does metal fabrication work?
Our homes and our workplaces could not operate without the dutiful fab shop. Fab shops are specialized metal fabricators. Contractors and manufacturers often contact fab shops to pitch special projects. After bidding for jobs based on detailed drawings, a contract is awarded to the metal fabricator. Blueprints are made, dimensions and specifications are clarified, and calculations are finalized.
Of course, the kind of metal used is one of the most important decisions to settle. Many shops will be able to work with aluminum, copper, iron, silver, steel, stainless steel, magnesium, and more. Some shops specialize in a certain type of metal or fabrication process.
Types of processes
The following are different types of metal fabrication processes that occur after the initial stages of project planning:
A sheet of metal is split into smaller sections by sawing, laser cutting, waterjet cutting, or plasma cutting. These tasks can be performed by CNC (computer numerical control) or power tools. Cutting is frequently the first step in a fabrication project. It does not always have to be a sheet of metal; sometimes pre-shaped metals like bars can be cut.
Die cutting is a process that uses a die to cut material. Rotary die cutting employs a cylindrical die attached to a rotary press, flatbed die cutting uses a press to cut shapes out of thicker metals, and digital die cutting involves computer controlled lasers and blades.
Casting is the process by which molten metal is poured into a die to cool and harden over time to create a product. This is helpful when you need multiple identical parts–such as plumbing nozzles, brass nuts and bolts, or aluminum mounting plates. It is also a money saver because it fast-tracks a series of processes that might be used to make the same part (i.e. cutting, folding, stamping).
A permanent mold casting is made from a steel or cast iron. The molten metal is poured, cooled, and removed. A sand casting will break away to reveal the part made. During die casting, metal is poured into a die and forced to maintain a shape through applied pressure.
How are products such as car ramps and architectural brackets made? Thank welding, which involves bringing two metal parts together. This is accomplished through a combination of heat and pressure. There are four primary welding processes:
Stick or Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) joins metal together through the use of a high temperature electric current that forms an electric arc between an electrode stick and the metals. The most common process is Metal Inert Gas (MIG) or Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), which applies a shielded gas along a wire electrode with a constant and direct power source. To connect heavier metals like stainless steel, a tungsten electrode rod is employed through Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW). Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)uses a tubular wire with flux inside and does not always need shielding gas.
Stamping and punching
Stamping uses a press to create indentations and raises metal in order to create specific shapes. This is how coins are manufactured.
Punching uses a press to create holes in metal by placing the metal between a punch and a die. Holes are necessary for such things as fastening latches. Blanking is when a specialized punch works on a sheet to make multiple parts at once–the metal punched out is the final product.
This is a complicated process meant to bend metal at different angles and commonly involves a brake press to shape a sheet. Products such as shelf brackets or computer equipment are produced via this method.
Straight upper and lower cutting blades, or a punch and die, are used to make a long cut and split sheet metal into two portions.
In order to remove material from a piece of metal and shape it to your specifications, machining is used. Drilling will form holes, turning uses a lathe to rotate a piece and create a cylindrical shape, and milling uses a multi-point tool that will move against the metal to cut off unwanted material. These are done manually or through CNC machinery.
For more information, reach out to us today!