Metal Fabrication is the process of shaping metal material into a finished & useable product
Fabrication begins with partially finished products or raw material to create a final product. To determine which fabrication processes to choose, it depends on the content and desired outcome. Stock and custom products both use fabrication as well. Popular metals and their alloys are used to create custom metal fabricated products. The most common types of metals include steel, brass, aluminum, copper, nickel, iron, and more. To begin a new product, fabricators start with stock metal components such as sheet metal and other similar parts. Fabrication shops are specialized fabricators that use various metals, equipment, and contractors to get a project finished. Fab shops complete projects by drafting, planning the project, and performing multiple fabrication processes. Also, the option of providing a finish at the end may be available.
To get a better understanding of what metal fabrication is, we will list and describe the different types of processes. Then, we will explain how to choose a fabricator and seek professional assistance.
Depending on the purpose of a project and its materials, the chosen fabrication process must be the right fit for the end product. In metal fabrication, there are eleven types, with some products requiring more than one fabrication method. The most common types of fabrication processes are:
Commonly used for mass production, this metal fabrication process starts with a custom mold. Molten metal is dispensed into the mold, then cools, forming into the custom shape, also called permanent mold casting. Die-casting is also an option, which fabricators use for high-speed applications.
Semi-casting is available as a permanent mold casting can be difficult to remove products from the molds. Semi-casting is more manageable, expandable, and less expensive to remove.
Sand-casting is a final process that uses sand to mold patterns, appropriate for the liquid metal. It’s a slower process, yet economical, suitable for larger metal projects.
This fabrication process cuts metal pieces into smaller sections. It’s the first phase in lengthy fabrications or the only process. Various methods are used, such as waterjet cutting, plasma arc cutting, power scissors, and laser cutting. Computer cutters, manual, and power tools are used to cut the metal.
Die-cutting is an option that slices metal using a die. Also, flatbed die-cutting is useful for thicker metals and uses a die to carve shapes. Last but not least, rotary die-cutting uses a cylinder-shaped die to cut the metal.
When metal is stretched and put into a shaped die, its considered drawing, forcing the metal into a thin shape. Fabricators perform this process at room temperature, known as cold drawing. However, to reduce force, heated metals work too. When a product has more depth than its radius, it’s considered deep drawing. Common shapes include a cylinder or cube.
The handling of metal to bend or fold is called folding. The most frequent machinery used to manipulate sheet metal is the break press and the folder. Hammering is also an option to bend sheet metal.
Forging is known as an old method of fabrication, using compression to manipulate metal. The different types of forging include cold, warm, and hot. Cold forging happens at room temperature. Warm forging is between room temperature and near the melting point. Hot forging occurs if the metal is at a melting point.
When sheet metal forces its way through an open or closed die, it’s called extrusion. The main objective is to get a cavity, or hollow shape, similar to a pipe. It’s common for long pieces or continuous pieces of short parts. Cold extrusion occurs when the process takes place at room temperature, which strengthens the product. Hot extrusion is the same as cold extrusion, except the temperature is much higher.
Shaping the metal by removing excessive metal material around a product is called machining. There are three types of machining: drilling, milling, and turning. Drilling creates holes by cutting into the material. Milling removes material until the product you want starts to form. Turning creates different shapes, such as cylinders.
Punching sheet metal entails turrets on a punch press forcibly hitting into a die, creating holes. Punch presses are mechanical, manual or done with a computer.
Cutting by using two tools, providing an extended, straight segment is called shearing. There is an upper blade and a lower blade. The upper blade pushes down the metal on the lower blade, breaking it into smaller pieces. Shearing is ideal for uniquely shaped pieces and small materials.
Just as the name suggests, stamping is the process that’s similar to punching. Except, it indents the sheet metal, which is ideal for letters, shapes, and images. There are two types of stamping machines, mechanical and hydraulic. For specific shapes, the sheet metal must be a quarter-inch thick.
Probably the most popular metal fabrication process to date, welding joins multiple pieces of metal together through pressurized heat.
It’s essential to choose the right custom metal fabricator to ensure efficiency, save time, and money. Find a fabricator that has the experience, the right tools, resources, and materials to bring your project to life.
Still wondering about which type of metal will work best for your next job? We offer a large and diverse steel & aluminum inventory coupled with an extensive array of in house metal processing equipment that allows us to service customers on an unparalleled level. For questions or information on our products and services call us today at 978-658-1121 or contact us directly on our site.