Basic metal fabrication involves the forming, shaping, or joining of metal. Typically, this happens through deforming or removing some portions of the raw material.
To many, metal fabrication may seem like a simple one or two step process. But the fact of the matter is, it’s much more detailed and comprehensive than simply pulling metal pieces off the inventory shelf. Here we’ll explore different aspects of metal fabrication to help you be more informed the next time you need to rely on the services of a fabricator:
- Fabrication Involves More Than One Step: For most jobs, metal fabrication involves several steps before the process is complete. Generally speaking, metal fabrication can involve any of the following: cutting or shearing, forming, machining, and welding. It’s the careful planning and execution of these important steps that ultimately determine lead time, so be sure to keep that in mind whenever you need a job completed in a hurry.
- It Requires Several Types of Equipment: There are just as many pieces of equipment in the shop as there are fabrication processes. On any given a job, a metal fabricator might use a table saw, press brake, lathe, or grinder. Since each job is different, the equipment used for that job will also be different.
- There are Limitations to the Process: It’s easy to think that a metal fabricator can customize a piece at the drop of a hat. But the truth is, like any other process, metal fabrication has its limitations. Oftentimes shop equipment, materials, and access to certain processes pose limitations. For example, a shop may perform all the main metal fab operations but need to send parts out for special finishes. Or, a fabricator may find that design specifications simply won’t jive with the requested material. In a case like this, an alternative material or fabrication method may be necessary.
- Not All Materials are Created Equal: A lot of careful planning goes into the fabrication process. Metal fabricators are not only responsible for getting the job done but also for knowing which fabrication techniques work best. And a big part of that is understanding the material. While all metal may seem to be the same or similar to the untrained eye, each one has its own unique properties that need to be addressed. Think tensile strength, formability, and weldability. So, not all metals can be fabricated the same way. For instance, aluminum has a lower melting point than stainless steel so it’s typically a much more versatile material to work with.
- It Often Involves Secondary Processes: While cutting, forming, and assembling are major components of metal fabrication, there are also secondary processes that need to take place before a job is complete. These can include anodizing, galvanizing, deburring, sandblasting, plating, and finishing.
Really, what this all means for you and your project is that it’s a good idea to be informed about what your metal fabricator of choice can accomplish in-house. So, ask lots of questions and find out how other customers fared when using that shop. The more you know, the more confident you can be that you’ve chosen the right fabricator.