When you look around you, you will see an item or two that has gone through metal fabrication. Furniture, vehicles and aircraft are among the many products of metal fabrication. It includes a wide range of processes, including metal smelting or refinement, along with metal alloy and superalloy manufacturing. These metals are used to create other metal products and castings.
If you want to learn about the common methods and techniques used in metal fabrication, well, you’d be glad you found this article because we will discuss those and more.
Fabricators use machining to remove material from pieces of sheet metal. During this metal fabrication process, they use machines with rotating tools such as ones with drills.
This is quite similar to punching metal. However, the die makes a raised portion in the material without going all the way through it.
Punch and die tools operate similarly to a pair of scissors. When a fabricator punches a piece of metal, the tool cuts a hole in it and removes the scrap using pressure. Such kind of process creates cut-outs and holes a various sizes and shapes. However, the most common are geometric shapes like squares, rectangles and circles.
This metal fabrication process involves using two tools to make long cuts on the sheet metal. One of the tools is placed above the material while the other is placed below, applying appropriate pressure during the sheering process.
During the blanking process, the fabricator removes a piece of material from the larger sheet at a pre-determined location. During a single operation, multiple pieces are typically removed from the larger material.
Metal fabricators use specialised tools like plasma torches and oxy-fuel to cut metal. Some models can reach temperatures as high as 45,000 degrees, effectively cutting metal. Some people believe that it can be hazardous to use plasma torches, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. A very small percentage of the ‘arc’ reaches such extreme temperatures. As such, the risk of it accidentally touching your body is also slim.
Fabrication companies typically use powered or manual hammers with press brakes and other accessories to bend metal. Fabricators can air-bend or coin metal sheets into their desired form and shape, using press brakes. Such kind of method provides a more accurate and cleaner bend. The fabricator places and secures the metal on a flat surface. The material is them lifted to accordingly bend at an angle. Metal brakes can achieve up to 90-degrees bend, making them invaluable in the fabrication process.
Metal can be assembled in various ways, but the most common method is welding. This process is used to prepare connection joints, allowing the fabricator to attach fixtures and fittings. Some of the common techniques used in welding include:
- Stick welding
- MIG welding
- TIG welding
- Flux-cored welding
- Submerged arc welding
Other methods for assembling metal include using threaded fasteners, binding with adhesives, riveting and bending with crimped seam.
Many fabrication companies shrink metal. In general, there are three primary methods used by companies in shrinking metal—tucking, using a shrinking tool and heat shrinking. The oldest method of shrinking is tucking and it includes forcibly placing the metal between a crack with a hammer. It can also be done by using a tucking fork to fold the metal over its edges. It is the method used by car manufacturers when they produced the earliest models of sports vehicles.
The other method involves using a lever-operated tool widely referred to as a shrinker. With its jaw-like design, the tool grabs the metal from both sides and squeezes it together. It may be more time-consuming, but it does produce more accurate results than tucking.
Using heat is another method for shrinking metal. In this process, the stretched sheet of metal is heated with a torch. While the metal’s temperature lowers, it naturally contracts, allowing it to become smaller in size.
Once the metal fabrication project is complete, the fabricator will have to option to have the material painted or blasted as a final touch. Any completed project can have a better visual appeal with custom painting.
So, there you have it… some of the methods used for metal fabrication. There are companies that use all of these techniques while there are some who don’t. In the end, you would have to base your judgement on the quality of the results they provide.