American Fabrication Academy

Understanding the Process of Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication is a very crucial process to our economy and civilization. It touches several parts of our daily lives and life as we know it would not be the same without this process. There is a lot to learn about metal fabrication. This article focuses on the process of metal fabrication. Read on to learn more.

What Is Metal Fabrication

Before we get down to what the metal fabrication process is, it’s important that we explain to you what metal fabrication is first. This way, you will find it easier to have an in-depth understanding of the process.

Metal fabrication is simply the process of creating sheet metal in order to make it completely conform to desired specific shapes. Metal fabrication takes place through folding, cutting, welding, shaping and stamping. Metal fabricators typically use metal sheet that measures a ¼ inch or less depending on the project. This thickness is preferred because the metal at this thickness is pliable, which means that manipulating it to different shapes is easier.

Metal fabricators are skilled specialists who are trained to manipulate and cut metal with precision of a surgeon. Most manufacturing operations that operate on a massive scale usually have their own metal fabrication team.

Metal fabrications are outsourced by many jobs to machine shops. There are machine shops everywhere not only in the United State, but also in all other parts of the world. These shops usually operate by simply crafting schematics to bid on various jobs for various companies. While the beginning face might look somehow similar across industries, the work can always vary extensively, from computers to building materials to medical.

Metal fabrication is a highly skilled process and it requires careful planning and great strategy before the real work begins. The metal fabrication process is not just about taking drill bits to sheet metals. There is bidding, engineering, clear communication with clients, material ordering, adjustments and material sourcing. There are many other parts that may go into metal fabrication process. They include the following:

  • Plate metal
  • Hardware
  • Castings
  • Fittings
  • Formed metal
  • Expanded metal
  • Welding wire

Yes, these parts often vary based on the job. A machine shop or metal fabrication shop basically begins with a gathering of a range of metals before transforming them accordingly into the structures that are tightly built. These structures form the parts and parcel of our daily lives.

How the Process of Metal Fabrication Starts

The process of metal fabrication begins with an idea, which is characteristically born from necessity that involves a specifically-shaped piece of metal appropriate for some specific task. For instance, a technology company be in need of a machined aluminum casing for the new gadget that they have just started manufacturing. The engineers of such a company design the part before sending it out to various different machine shops to request for a price quotation. After receiving the designed part, the machine shops will analyze the schematic and calculate the production cost and how long it will take them to make the designed part. The shops then reply to the tech company with both lead time and cost.

After receiving the reply with the lead time and cost from several machine shops, the tech company will then pick their most preferred machine shop that they would want to work with. After the machine shop has won the bid to manufacture the design part, it will then include the order in their line and start ordering the appropriate materials needed to get the job done. The materials may consist of metal rods, metal bars, sheet metal and more. The team assigned to work on building the designed part will then start working on the task immediately the parts arrive provided the job is in the shop’s queue.

The time a machine shop may take to complete the fabrication process and have the part ready depends majorly on the demand of that particular machine shop and the complexity of the part. In more often than not, fabrication shops usually offer assistance also in design especially for the custom parts that need unique processes to be completed. Highly skilled machinists who have plenty of experience can practically produce almost any design or shape.

Metal Fabrication Process; What It Is

The real metal fabrication process starts with choosing the appropriate method. This usually varies with not only the geometry of the pat, but also with what it is actually made of and the kind of usage it is going to get.

There are very many choices of for various metal fabrication process. Here are some of the examples:

  • Cutting

Cutting is the primary and most essential process in any metal fabrication exercise. Metal fabricators can accomplish the process of cutting through chopping, chiseling, shearing, waterjet cutting and laser cutting. What makes cutting a fundamental process is that it is what turns a piece of sheet metal into the required piece of desired shape and size. Waterjet and laser cutting consist of the leading technologies available today for cutting sheet metals with precision.

  • Casting

This is another important process in the metal fabrication. A mold is formed by a die. After that, the metal fabricator then goes ahead and pours into it the molten metal. This metal is then left for enough time to cool down. When it is completely cooled, it turns into solid. After the die is removed, the part remains.

  • Forging

Forging is the process that allows for the bending and shaping the metal into required shape. The raw material is compressed by a piece of high-pressure machinery. This allows the metal fabricator to easily bend the metal and shape it accordingly. When metal sheet is compressed in this way, it becomes flexible and easy to manipulate.

  • Drawing

Drawing is one of the most important processes of metal fabrication. It pulls liquid metal into clear tapered die. It uses tensile force to accomplish this.

  • Punching

Pre-designed patterns are punched by turrets into the metal. The reason for punching pre-designed patterns is usually for utility. Besides, it can also be for decorative purposes to achieve a specific kind of aesthetic piece.

  • Drilling

Drilling process is done using a drill, which cuts holes accordingly into the metal. The holes are cut using circular bits.

  • Milling

Milling is another common choice for metal fabrication process. A milling process bores holes into the metal sheet. The perforations can be circular or non circular depending on the nature of the piece of equipment.

  • Extrusion

This is where by a ram is used to force billets through the die. This process is used to form cylindrical parts. Among the cylindrical parts formed by extrusion process include electrical wires and pipes. Any metal fabrication process that results into cylindrical appliances, tools or pieces of equipment includes extrusion process.

  • Turning

The fabricator takes a piece of metal into a spinning platform. This allows the technician to cut the piece of metal radially while it is spinning. The cutting is done using an appropriate tool.

The processes mentioned above are initial processes that form the larger part of metal fabrication process. The initial process is supposed to turn out the require piece, which in most cases, will still need a secondary finishing process. The secondary process finishing process can be some form of assembling task in case there are two or more parts of resulting pieces are supposed to be joined together. Besides assembly, the resulting parts may also require deburring, adhesive application, grinding, bolting, riveting or painting.

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