Metal fabrication is a process that creates structures or products by assembling, bending or cutting metal material. Ultimately, this process is value-added because it involves using metal to make durable objects. Metal fabricators usually work with various raw materials such as aluminum, steel, cast metal, expanded metal and sheet metal. In other words, metal fabrication begins with raw materials and ends with a metal structure or part that serves a specific purpose. Next, let’s explore the three phases of the metal fabrication process.
- Design: A metal fabricator draws and measures a design for the desired product.
- Fabrication: Any bending, assembling or cutting takes place here.
- Installation: The finished structure or product is ready for assembly and use.
The Metal Fabrication ProcessThe metal fabrication process typically consists of three critical phases, each of which builds upon the previous one. Let’s explore more.
1. Designing the ProjectDesigning the product or structure you want to end with is the first step in metal fabrication. Some businesses will send metal fabricators a completed design, but sometimes they send a prototype for the metal fabricator to refine and test to ensure it fits with the final product. Usually, this process relies on computer-aided manufacturing or computer-aided design programs to develop a 3D prototype before working with the raw materials of the metal product or structure. This stage of the process is critical in ensuring that all the components of the product or structure will eventually function correctly. For example, a designer will establish the types of metal used during fabrication and the finishing processes they will require. Ultimately, you can think of this stage of the metal fabrication process as the creative phase.
2. Fabricating the PartThe building portion of the process comes next, where a metal fabricator cuts and shapes each of the product’s components designed during the previous phase. This stage typically takes place in a fabrication shop. This phase requires various tools because different processes require specific machines to execute correctly. Some examples of tools a manufacturer might use during this stage include 2D or 3D lasers, roll forming equipment, tube bender, welders, and press brakes, depending on what structure or product they are creating. For this phase, a metal fabricator works extensively with the product’s design to ensure the size, shape, detail and material are on point for the product’s end function.
3. Assembling and Finishing the ProjectThe metal fabrication process ends with assembling and finishing the metal materials into the final product. This stage aims to ensure the final product or structure is ready for its intended purpose. Typical finishing techniques used during this part of the process include deburring, which ensures the material does not have excess material and works as it should, and powder coating, which helps the final product or structure look pleasing to the eye.
Metal Fabrication ApplicationsMetal fabrication has various applications in the industrial, structural and commercial fields.
Industrial Metal FabricationThe process that assembles parts or structures into industrial products is industrial metal fabrication. Typically, these consist of plates or sheet metal. Industrial fabricators usually serve industries including automotive, material handling, water treatment, pollution engineering, alternative energy and aerospace. The items industrial fabricators make for these sectors include large products, such as heavy machine parts, silos and tanks.
Structural Metal FabricationStructural metal fabrication involves creating robust, durable metal parts such as I-beams. The components created by structural metal fabrication are crucial in the construction field, whether the project is residential, industrial or commercial. Most often, structural metal fabricators use steel because of its strength-to-weight ratio. Many construction projects use steel in some form. Many commercial building foundations are steel. Famously, steel forms the foundation of landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and New York City’s Empire State Building. Structural projects often feature metal parts like these.
- Stairs: Many different settings require durable, safe stairs.
- Walkways: In the industrial field, walkways must meet various OSHA standards.
- Framework: Trusses, beams and girders are structural components used to make up a building’s framework.
- Platforms: Decks, ramps, loading bays and storage locations rely on platforms.
- Towers: Towers are custom-made parts that enhance production.