Sheet Metal Fabrication Services

Sheet metal fabrication is the act of forming, shaping, & joining metal together to build and or repair a tangible part. The processes can be classified as cold, warm & hot working depending on the temperature at which the material is processed. Most of the objects around us such as paper clips, computers, bolts, nails, automobile parts, parts used for instruments and machinery & countless other products are transformed by metal fabrication processes such as bending, punching, drilling, etc

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Detailed Description for Sheet Metal Fabrication Services

Metal fabrication includes several processes of manufacturing metal components by changing the raw metal material using various tools. The processes can be classified as cold, warm and hot working depending on the temperature at which the material is processed. Most of the objects around us such as paper clips, computers, bolts, nails, automobile parts, parts used for instruments and machinery and countless other products are transformed by metal fabrication processes such as bending, punching, drilling, turning, grinding, threading etc. The factors influencing the process included the type of material being machined, the rate of production, the desired geometry, and other physical requirements of the part.

 Fabrication can be divided into the following categories. 

Metal Forming

Bending: During bending, the workpiece is bent to form flanges, contours, curls, seams, corrugations and other geometries by means of applying force through hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical machines. 

Shearing

Conventional shearing: Shearing is a metal cutting process through which flat surfaces cut using a scissors-like action, usually in straight lines.

Turret Punching: Turret Punching creates shapes in sheet material by successively punching a series of basic shapes. Edges are cut by the shearing action of a punch and die.

Material Removal

Sawing: Sawing is a type of cutting in which the cutting tool is a blade that has a series of  teeth, with each tooth removing a small amount of material. Sawing is typically used to shape raw material to the approximate size of the part, prior to additional processes. 

Tapping: Tapping produces internal threads in the workpiece. This involves use of a tool with multiple cutting teeth.

Boring: Boring produces circular internal profiles in hollow workpiece or on a hole made by drilling or another process.

Turning: Turning rotates the workpiece about its axis while applying cutting tools to create a desired shape.

Drilling: Drilling produces holes in a workpiece using a fluted cutting tool.

Milling: Milling removes small chips using a rotating cutter that moves in three axiis. 

Grinding: Grinding is a chip removal process in which the cutting tool is an abrasive grain wheel. Different types of grinding include Surface grinding, Cylindrical grinding, Internal grinding and Centerless grinding.

Advanced Methods

Laser Cutting: Laser cutting involves focusing a beam of high density energy on the surface of the workpiece. The beam evaporates portions of the workpiece in a controlled manner.

Electro Discharge Machining: Electro discharge machining is based on erosion of metal by spark discharges. This process can be used for machining any material which is an electrical conductor. 

Wire EDM: The wire EDM or Electro Discharge Machining produces part shapes by cutting a metal work piece with a continuously moving wire by means of rapid, repetitive spark discharges. This process is used to cut thin and thick metal and is often used to make punches, tools and dies from hard metals. 

Waterjet Cutting: In this process, the force of a water jet is used to cut material. The water jet acts like a saw and cuts a narrow kerf in the workpiece. Most of metals, plastics, fabrics, wood products, rubber, insulating material, leather, brick and composite materials can be cut using the waterjet process.

 

                

There are numerous types of metal fabrication processes used to transform raw metal materials into useful parts and components by using various metal working tools and fabrication machinery. Some of the more frequently used processes include:

 

·         Stamping: The metal is pressed in between a stamp die to create a raised section of the metal.

·         Punching: A punching tool is used to punch holes in the metal to create the desired part or component.

·         Cutting: Various cutting methods are used to cut the metal to the right size.

·         Folding: Sometimes the metal needs to be bent at a specific angle, and folding is used to achieve this result.

·         Machining: Machining processes carefully remove metal and reshape it into the end product and involve using drills, CNC lathes, and other such machinery.

·         Welding: This process involves heating two pieces of metal together.

·         Shearing: Shearing is creating one long single cut on metal sheets to cut it to the correct size.

 

Different Categories of Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication shops perform three different categories of fabrication depending upon the finished product.

·         Commercial: Commercial fabrication is producing parts and components to be used in finished goods purchased by consumers, such as appliances and automobiles.

·         Industrial: Industrial fabrication is producing finished pieces used to build equipment used in other manufacturing industries, like band saws and Ironworker Piranha machines.

·         Structural: Structural fabrication is creating metal components used to build structures, from skyscrapers to manufacturing production plants.

The most common and important tools, machines, and techniques for the fabrication are as follows:-.

Metal Shaping

 Metal Shaping or forming can only change metal in four ways. You can bend, cut, shrink and stretch metal to form it. Below are the common tools and techniques to perform these tasks.

Bending Metal

Form Bending- This is the simplest way to bend metal. In this method you are bending the metal over an edge or shape that is located under the metal. For instance you can push a flat piece of metal over the edge of a table (with your hands) to make a bend. You could also use a hammer and shaping dolly to bend the metal around the shape that is desired.

 Metal Brake- A metal brake is the most common way to make clean, precise bends in metal. A metal brake works by placing the metal on a flat, gated surface and then clamping a flat bar on top of the metal and lifting the gated portion to bend the metal to the desired angle. Most metal brakes can make bends to just over 90 degrees.

 

Cutting Metal

Hand Shears- Using hand shears or “aviation snips” is a manual, way to cut metal that’s necessary no matter how many large tools you have. Snips or hand shears are one of the first tools you should purchase when entering the world of metal fabrication.

Power Shears- Power shears are best described as power “scissors” for cutting metal. They allow you to cut sheet metal more quickly and with less manual effort. There are many different types of power shears ranging from pneumatic shears and electric shears. Most power shears aren’t able to cut intricate shapes or tight corners. Some specialized throatless power shears or “nibblers” on the market can cut tighter radii. Most power shears do waste some material when cutting (determined by the spacing of the stationary jaws).

 

Throatless Shears- This is another type of mechanical cutting or “shearing” of metal. They’re often times described by a well-known style of these shears called the “Beverly Shear”. These are designed to allow you to cut metal in straight lines or shapes and radii in sheet metal with no marring of the cut edge. They are hand operated and use a hinged blade that swings down and cuts the metal that’s lying on a stationary adjacent blade. Throatless shears waste no material when cutting. These are a must have for anyone making more than a few cuts in steel.

Angle Grinder- They simply spin the attached disc or wheel at a fast rate of speed for removing material in a quick manner. Thin cutting discs are available for cutting metal. These are noisy and messy, but they will get the job done.

Plasma Cutter- Plasma cutting can be as aggressive and powerful or delicate as you want if setup properly. A properly adjusted plasma cutter can cut sheet metal quickly with extreme accuracy and minimal clean up. These are extremely helpful if you need to make long straight cuts that may be difficult to handle alone on a throatless shear.

 

Shrinking Metal

 Tucking Metal- Tucking metal is one of the earliest methods of shrinking metal. This method includes bunching of the metal together by forcing it between a crevice with a spade hammer or by folding the metal over at the edges with a homemade tucking fork. This method is one that has been used to form some of the earliest most valuable sports cars. A good hammer and a wooden stump with cleverly placed cuts and crevices formed can work wonders!

Shrinker- A shrinker is a lever-operated tool (hand or foot) that has moving textured jaws that grasp sheet metal from the top and the bottom and force it together tightly. This method is much more precise than tucking with a hammer and form, but moves the metal much slower. The shrinker leaves minimal marring on the metal, most of which can be removed or smoothed out with a sanding disc or file.

Heat Shrinking- This is a method that takes a lot of practice. The basic idea is that you heat a overstretched area (with a torch) almost red hot and then as the area cools it shrinks. The type or amount of stretched metal or damage will determine how you shrink or smooth the area out.  You may need to hammer and dolly the area or quench the area with a wet rag or compressed air to get the desired shrink. Alternatively there are shrinking discs on the market that are attached to an angle grinder that use friction to create the heat. These are a bit more precise and avoid using a torch/flame to heat and shrink the metal.

Stretching Metal

Hammer and Dolly- This is the most basic way to stretch metal. With this method you firmly hold an object behind the metal and hit the other side with a hammer. This forces the metal to be compressed and ultimately stretch. Metal can also be stretched in a similar method by using a sandbag and plastic mallets to quickly stretch metal and make shapes.

Stretcher- The opposite of the shrinker mentioned above. This is a mechanically operated tool that puts the metal between two flat textured jaws and pulls the metal apart slowly each time the lever or foot pedal is pressed. The shrinker and stretcher together are must have items for anyone doing sheet metal fabrication.

 

Metal Fusion

The last important method of sheet metal fabrication is fusing small panels together to produce larger complex parts. The most common type of metal fusion is welding. The most common methods of welding during sheet metal fabrication are listed below.

Oxy Acetylene Welding – This type of welding is the oldest method, but it’s still used by many today. Oxy Acetylene welding uses tanks of Oxygen and Acetylene that are mixed together with an adjustable torch to create a precise, controlled flame that a piece of metal can be heated with. While heating the base metal you add a filler rod that joins the metal together. This method does take a lot of practice to master, but the welds produced are the softest and most pliable. Oxy Acetylene welds are the easiest to planish (smooth out) with a hammer and dolly to get the weld joint as flat as possible.

TIG Welding- This type of welding is the most desired by professionals in the sheet metal fabrication industry. It uses a “torch” that has a non-consumable electrode that creates a small, precise electric arc that melts the base metal. You can then join the metal together by adding filler rod to the puddle of molten metal with your other hand. TIG welds are the second softest weld but are the most difficult to master. TIG welding is more precise than Oxy Acetylene welding and most modern fabricators prefer it.

 MIG Welding- This method uses a motor to feed the filler wire through the tip of the MIG gun. The wire then completes the circuit when it touches the base metal and melts the wire into the weld joint, fusing the metal together. MIG welding creates sparks and requires more cleanup than the other methods above.


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