There are many different methods for fabricating metal components. Most metal fabrications require cutting, forming, and assembly. Different tools are used in the cutting processes of sheet metal materials. The right tool needs to be used for a precise cut and high quality final product.
Here are some examples of common metal fabrication methods.
- The basic cutting process uses a single blade to cut the material. Tin snips are commonly used to make thin cuts. They are useful for cutting thin sheets of metal, but not for curved cuts.
- Shearing is similar to using scissors, but uses two blades instead of one. One blade remains stationary while the other blade cuts the metal. The shearing process is most effective on medium-thick materials.
- Blanking and punching are robust hole-punching methods that cuts a cookie-cutter-like pattern in the metal. They both provide accurate cuts. Punching is where the removed piece is scrap but when blanking, the removed piece is the needed piece.
- Plasma cutting is another common sheet metal fabrication process. This technology creates smooth edges and clean cuts on metal of various gauges. This method is also very efficient, allowing you to work with a variety of materials. Plasma cutting is especially useful for mass production. Moreover, this type of cutting is very efficient, and doesn’t produce metal chips. Furthermore, plasma cutting is able to work at room temperature, which eliminates the need to preheat the metal.
- A laser cutter is where a laser beam burns through the material to cut straight lines or straight cuts. Laser cutting produces cut parts at high speed compared to plasma cutting.
- Another type of metal fabrication involves the use of a stretch press. A hydraulic ram raises and lowers the forming die into the sheet metal resting on the press table. Horizontal stretch presses are similar, but instead of lifting the sheet vertically, a stationary press table pulls it horizontally around the die. If you need a complex design that’s both rigid and thin, a stretch press may be the best choice for you.
Cutting Metal Sheets
There are two classifications of tooling used to cut sheet metal parts. Hard tooling uses machines and tools for precision cutting, while soft tooling uses presses and lasers. A hard tooling process, such as forging, can be used for complex shapes and designs. The advantages of soft tooling are that the tools require very little initial tooling costs and allow for maximum design flexibility. This is an excellent method for custom-designed metal products. A sheet metal shop can determine the best way to produce the needed part.
Once the design details have been finalized, a final shop drawing is created. This shop drawing includes detailed calculations, which determine the stress levels placed on the sheet metal during fabrication. Once the final shop drawing has been created, the raw material is then fabricated according to the specifications of the design and budget. Choosing the right material that is compatible with your part design is an important factor. Common metals are steel, aluminum, and stainless steel.
Selecting the Right Metal Sheet
There are a few things to consider when selecting the piece of sheet metal. First, consider the type of environment that the part will be exposed to. Pre-plated metals are best for hostile environments, while galvanized metal won’t work with a welded seam. Secondly, sheet metal thickness is key. Thick metal can make a sheet metal part stronger but it will make it heavier. Depending on end use of the part, heavier isn’t always better. Thicker metal is also difficult to use for intricate designs. Thin sheet metal has a higher gauge and can be used for small pieces.
A variety of finishing processes complete the fabrication process. Once the parts have been fabricated, they will be assembled into finished products. Some fabrication shops offer secondary operations after the parts are assembled. For example, sandblasting involves shooting abrasives against the surface of a component to create a matte finish and smooth rough edges. In some cases, abrasives are used to remove rust and create a shiny finish. These methods are also used to make a part durable by providing a barrier against moisture, heat, and UV rays.
Working with a metal fabrication service will offer the best results for sheet metal parts production. The experts at Fox Valley Stamping will select the best tool for cleaner cuts and a quality finished product. Contact Fox Valley Stamping today!