Ever wonder how metal things are made? Metal fabrication is what you call any process that cuts, shapes, moulds, and forms metal into a final piece of product. So instead of being assembled from bits and pieces, fabrication creates a product from raw or semi-finished materials, such as sheet metal. Here, we’ll explore the six basic sheet metal fabrication techniques, including how they differ and relate to one another. So get ready to find more about sheet metal fabrication!
Each fabrication process typically starts with sheet metal cutting. For every metal cut and discarded, you’ll see the product taking shape little by little. There are several ways to cut metal depending on the thickness and project specification.
A water jet is a metal cutting tool that uses an immensely high-powered stream of water. With high-pressure water channeling through the machine’s narrow nozzle, it can cut through a range of sheet metal thicknesses.
On the other hand, a cutting torch is another powerful tool. But instead of high-pressured water, it uses a hot flame instead. This method can cut any sheet metal that can be oxidized, such as steel sheet metal.
Shearing is another cutting method. It uses two offset blades, similar to large scissors. It’s usually done by holding the sheet metal flat while the top blade is brought down until it punches through the surface, pushing the metal down onto the bottom blade. This tool comes in various sizes, with smaller hand shears that can be used to manually cut smaller and thinner pieces of sheet metal — perfect for smaller projects!
The sawing method makes use of circular saws and band saws to cut the metal sheets that are too thick for shearing, water jets, or torching. This process is longer and more intensive than the other methods, which is why it’s reserved for especially thick material.
Once you’re done cutting the metal, the sheet metal fabrication process typically moves to bending the metal into your desired shape. There are two ways to do this:
Metal braking comprises of having one end of the sheet metal held inside a gate, with the other end is clamped in place with a bar. The metal part held inside the gate gets lifted, while the other end stays put, creating the necessary bends in the metal.
Form bending provides a more hands-on approach to metal bending. The sheet metal is bent over an edge or shape with the help of a hammer.
Welding is the method for joining metal parts together. There are several ways to weld metal together. You can determine which method to use by the thickness, kind of metal, and your welding equipment. Here are the 3 most common ways you can use:
MIG welding is an arc welding method where a continuous wire electrode feeds through the welding gun and into the welding pool. Then, a shielding gas is also fed through the gun to prevent contamination in the weld pool.
The TIG welding method uses an electric arc and an infusible tungsten-based electrode to generate welds. This welding process is perfect for sheet metals up to 8-10mm thick.
Laser welding fuses metal pieces using a high-powered, solid-state laser resonator to melt the metal together. This process will enable you to produce consistent, high-quality welds.
The shrinking metal process smoothes out dents or creates shapes. There are 3 sheet metal shrinking methods you can do:
Heat shrinking uses a torch to heat any dented section of metal. The heat applied causes the metal to overstretch, causing it to shrink once it cools.
Tucking metal uses a planishing hammer and tucking fork to tuck the edges of the sheet metal into place and hammer it down.
A shrinker machine can automate the shrinking process when the hands-on approach is not applicable anymore, perfect for more significant and demanding projects. The equipment uses jaws that grab the sheet metal and force shrink it into the desired shape.
This fabrication technique is the exact opposite of the shrinking method. It stretches the sheet metal to form your desired shape. It requires sheet metal fabrication tools and equipment to achieve; here are a few of the more common ones:
The opposite of the shrinker machine, a stretcher machine has powerful jaws that seize each end of your sheet metal and slowly stretch it to the desired size.
An English wheel is a machine based on the traditional anvil. It stretches metal by pressing it against a lower anvil and upper wheel. This machine can be used to smooth out imperfections and create compound curves.
A hammer and anvil is the hands-on approach to sheet metal stretching. The hammer and anvil are the heavy-duty tools used to repeatedly strike the metal sheet to extend and increase its surface area.
Once you’re done cutting, stretching, shrinking, and welding your metal, the final step to metal fabrication is finishing the metal surface. Ending your project with a finish enables it to last longer and perform better. The three of the most common finishing techniques includes:
Sandblasting involves shooting sand and other abrasive materials against your sheet metal at a high velocity. This process creates a matte texture on your sheet metal, prepping it for a coating.
Buff polishing is done by using a cloth wheel to buff the surface of the metal. It makes the metal surface shine, giving it a more refined and polished look.
Metal plating or coating uses chemical baths to alter your sheet metal’s substrate and improve its corrosion resistance and durability.
Looking for top-rated sheet metal fabrication services in Melbourne? Whether you need simple or architectural sheet metal fabrication, Lightning Laser has got you covered! As one of the leading sheet metal fabricators in Melbourne, we can provide you with a wide variety of metal fabrication services. So book a consultation to get a free quote.