There are a wide variety of processes involving metal that would be considered types of metal fabrication, but most of the time when people use the phrase they’re talking about sheet metal rather than the hundreds of other types. Sometimes the customers are wanting hundreds or thousands of items mass produced and other times they only need one, maybe as a prototype. There are three main categories that encompass most of the fabrication types, let’s take a look.
The First Phase Usually Involves Cutting
Many times making something out of metal is similar to making an article of clothing, you start with a pattern, draw or trace the pattern’s outline on the piece of metal or cloth, then cut around the edge. There are a lot of different ways to cut metal, sometimes with a metal cutting band saw, other times with a torch.
If you’re going to be making hundreds of the same item, you can use larger machines that will cut out pieces rapidly and identically. Typically this is done with a machine called a CNC, which will automate the process and it will be computer controlled. The CNC machine may use lasers, metal routers, or other types of cutting methods. Since they’re controlled by a computer they can be highly accurate, which will also cut down on the time needed to clean up corners and rough edges.
Joining Pre-Cut Pieces Will Be The Next Step
Now that you have the pieces all cut out for your project you’ll need to start joining some of them together according to your plans. Some will be welded, riveted, or bonded using adhesives, but bolting and other methods will also be used depending on the application of the part being made.
The beauty of welding is that it’s a strong and permanent way to attach two pieces of metal. Rivets aren’t as strong, and can be drilled out and replaced if needed, plus they’re way faster to implement by machine, taking only a mere second to install. Bonding two pieces of metal together with adhesives can be a great alternative in some applications depending on the final task that the fabricated metal needs to perform.
Bending Of The Metal In The Fabrication Process Is Common
There are a lot of times that pieces of metal will need to be bent, and it could come at any time during the process when it’s needed. There are special machines that can bend nearly any sheet metal or metal tubing using hydraulic presses. This step can also be automated either partially or completely depending on how many parts need to be done and whether the time needed to automate can be done faster than bending the parts manually.
In many applications parts are bent in order to add strength in certain high-stress areas of a manufactured item. Anytime a part can be made without any joints at all it becomes much stronger and more durable.
There Will Always Be Finishing Touches To Be Done
Depending on the types of metal fabrication used throughout the process of making the finished product, there may by a lot of rough edges to grind and file off. Using the more modern machinery will also make the cuttings more precise and have fewer rough edges to clean up. After that is done most parts will have to be cleaned and then at least primer painted to stop rust from forming.
If an item is going to be used outside in the elements there are a variety of finish coats that can be applied as well. Powder coating is commonly used as that is fairly easy and quick to do. There are also anodizing treatments that can be longer lasting and more durable.
Fabrication of metal pieces for a project you’re working on can usually be ordered at the local fabrication shop. However, if lots of items need to be manufactured then most likely a larger manufacturing location will have to be used.