The manufacturing of diverse metal goods and structures falls under the broad category of metal fabrication. It involves many processes, such as stamping, cutting, bending, and welding.
A metal product must be designed before any of these processes occur. Fabricators typically use CAD software to create designs and models to exact specifications.
Metal fabrication is one of the most essential industries in the modern world. Most things you interact with, from your MacBook to your car, have gone through custom metal fabrication at some point in their lifetime. Various processes and machinery can turn metal into almost any imaginable object at a scale and shape to suit your needs.
Cutting is a crucial part of any metal fabrication project. It can involve various techniques, such as milling, which involves removing material from the workpiece until it takes on the desired shape using rotating multi-point cutting tools. Other types of cutting include shearing, which uses a high downward force to cut the metal, and punching, which creates holes in the metal by pushing it against a die.
Other fabrication processes include extrusion, which rolls the metal into a cylindrical shape to form wires or pipes, and drawing, which pushes the metal through two dies to create thinner pieces with smaller cross-sectional areas. Forging involves shaping through hammering or pressing while the metal is hot, and casting uses a mold to create a single-sided or two-sided imprint.
Almost everything you use in your daily life comes from metal fabrication. Many manufacturing processes, from your computer to your car, turn raw materials into the metal objects you know and love.
Some of the most common metal fabrication processes include cutting, forming, and assembly. Cutting involves using blades, torches, and lasers to cut sheet metal into more manageable pieces for further processing. Forming shapes metal into various shapes and sizes by bending and punching. Punching uses a die to leave holes in sheet metal while drawing involves tensile force to stretch the material.
Machining processes like milling and drilling involve rotating cutters to remove excess material. Forging and casting involve shaping metal by hammering or pressing. Extrusion is a similar process to casting, except the finished piece has a smaller cross-sectional area than the original liquid metal. Assembly is the final step in metal fabrication, assembling all the various parts and pieces into a finished product.
Metal fabrication shapes the blades of windmills that harness the power of the wind to generate electricity, the chassis of automobiles and truck trailers that transport people and goods, and the skeletons of buildings from temporary construction structures to skyscrapers. It is also responsible for the sharp edges on knives, the precision of hand tools, and the sturdy enclosures that house all hardware used to operate computers.
Unlike cutting, which subtracts from the original material, the metal-forming process reshapes it without decreasing its mass. The reshaping is achieved through mechanical processes like compression, bending, stretching, or twisting.
It can be done through sheet metal forming (bending a flat workpiece to a specified angle), pressing, punching, or stamping. Forging, hot forming, and casting are other standard forming methods. Metal forming is considered a value-added process because it makes products and structures that would not be possible without it. It is one of the most widely used manufacturing processes worldwide.
The welding process is what gives metal fabrication its name. It is a high-heat process that melts the base metal and adds filler material to join components. This process is similar to brazing and soldering but differs in using more heat and melts the metal entirely rather than just gluing it.
Some other raw materials used in metal fabrication are shearing, drawing, punching, forming, and hardware installation. Shearing is cutting along straight lines using a blade or other tool. Drawing is stretching the metal to make it thinner. Punching uses a tool to leave holes in the base metal.
Forming is manipulating the metal to bend it to a certain angle. It can be done through a brake press or manually with a hammer. It allows the metal to be shaped into its desired form. Another common forming technique is corner joints, which connect two perpendicular pieces of metal.