There are about a dozen common metal fabrication processes. When it comes to how to fabricate sheet metal, you’ll likely use more than one process to complete the product. In this article, we will quickly answer “What is metal fabrication” and discuss diverse fabrication services.
What is Metal Fabrication?
Metal fabrication is the process of shaping raw metal materials into a final product or parts. The term covers any manufacturing process that cuts, shapes, or molds metal.
Most common metals used in metal fabrication:
- various grades of steel
Diverse Fabrication Services
Thankfully, most metal fabrication processes are self-explanatory based on their name (as you’ll see in the lists below). Based on your product design, you’ll likely have a good idea of the types of fabrication services you need. But if you’re unsure, no worries! Your metal fabrication shop can direct you.
Now, let’s answer the question “How to fabricate sheet metal.” To make it easier, we have broken the diverse fabrication services into three categories: cutting, shaping, and assembly/finishing.
Sheet Metal Cutting
Cutting is the process of removing material. One of the most common methods is laser cutting. A metal laser cutter uses a powerful laser to slice material and is capable of cutting intricate designs.
Most common methods of sheet metal cutting:
- Metal laser cutting
- Water jet cutting
- Plasma cutting
- Piercing (aka punching)
- Blanking (using punched pieces to make product)
- Perforation (cutting multiple holes)
Sheet Metal Shaping
Shaping is the process of changing the shape or form of sheet metal. There are lots of ways to manipulate sheet metal, from bending to stamping.
Most common metal shaping methods:
- Short Run Metal Stamping
- Long Run Metal Stamping
- Decambering (flattening)
- Spinning (makes cones, cylinders, etc.)
- Wheeling (makes curves)
- Rolling (reduce thickness or make level)
- Expanding (cutting slits and stretching)
- Extrusion (pushed through die to take shape)
Sheet Metal Assembly & Finishing
Some assembly may be required to complete a product. The two most common methods of assembly are fastening and welding. Many machine shops offer metal finishing services as well.
Common methods of assembly:
- Bending & crimped seams
- Fastening with hardware (i.e., nuts, studs, hooks, ties)
- Oxyacetylene welding
- Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding
Common types of metal finishing:
- Galvanizing (prevents rust)
- Glazing (shiny & durable)
- Buffing (smooths surface)
How to Fabricate Sheet Metal
First, you should search for an experienced metal fabrication shop that offers diverse fabrication services. The more you can get done under one roof, the better. Search for capabilities that include metal stamping, laser cutting, fabrication, and welding. In-house tooling is also a big plus!
By finding a one-stop-shop, you will save time and money and have more flexibility.