Metal fabrication refers to the manufacturing process of transforming metal sheets into various end products. There are different fabrication techniques that involve cutting, bending, folding, punching, welding, and shaping metals to manufacture tools and components. Assembling and powder-coating the finished object are also included in the process. Fabrication shops – often known as fab shops – work with contractors on a wide range of projects. These shops help to centralize metal-related projects for companies that aim to work with just one fabrication shop to provide all of their solutions. It is the final fabricated products that later get assembled into the desired, functional component. In other words, these fabricated puzzle pieces are put together to form the complete picture.
Quality and precision are imperative in all fabrication areas, which brings us to dedicated fabrication shop equipment. This includes the industrial machines that do all the work before the manufactured pieces move towards the conveyor belts. Products from these types of equipment have a tremendous range of residential, commercial, and industrial applications such as home appliances, electronic gadgets, hospital machines, power industries, etc.
Stages of metal fabrication
The design stage is the primary starting point for metal fabrication, much like all construction and manufacturing processes. It involves using prototypes of the intended product to guide the fabrication techniques. By working closely with the contractors, fabrication shops will often test and upgrade the prototypes before moving on to the actual implementation. There are various computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) prototypes that work as 3D representations of metal objects. This design stage determines the raw material that goes into each equipment, as different types of metal are used according to the contractor’s specifications. The finishing requirements and product functionality are also clarified at this point.
This is the main cutting and shaping stage in which the metal fabricators use the necessary equipment and tools at each step. It is a very machine-specific and project-specific process that requires specialized equipment to transform the sheet metal. This includes laser cutting, welding, rolling, metal shearing, water jet, and press-braking machines – with many other types of metal fabrication equipment. The equipment capability is one crucial aspect to consider by all fabrication shops. It is the factor that determines your investment as a metal fabricator, as your chosen equipment must be able to deliver the project specifications of your contractors. The fabrication machines need to provide value-added solutions and high qualities. They must have the right technical features to take on the project size and ensure that each piece turns out perfect.
Computer programs and technologies allow the equipment to use the design prototypes as fabrication “stencils” to make precise cuts. This stage is where the 3D images receive their first tactile touch in the form of fabricated puzzle pieces ready to be assembled.
Finishing and assembling
The final stages of finishing and assembling the fabricated pieces involve refining them before they get assembled into the end product. These stages mark the checkboxes for the product’s durability, quality, functionality, and precision. The pieces can be powder-coated to improve the finished look, and the assembled product needs to meet the requirements of the contracting company.
Different metal fabrication techniques
The general context of fabrication shops is their custom metal fabrication services. These refer to solutions that are specific to the contractors you are currently working for, and they differ from company to company. Custom fabrication provides various architectural and engineering components that need to be just the right size and shape for their applications. Ranging from appliance parts and computer elements to building frameworks and civil projects, the metal projects can be quite industry-specific with clear-cut requirements. This is what makes metal fabrication a very project-oriented task with a whole spectrum of techniques to deliver the intended results. Some of these techniques are discussed below, and each type relies on specialized fabrication equipment to achieve its goal.
The most basic fabrication technique is cutting a metal sheet to give it a particular shape and size. There are different variations of this technique, including laser cutting, sawing, and shearing to obtain different dimensions and precisions.
This is a technique used in creating metal shapes from mold cavities. Molten metal is poured into the cavity, allowed to cool down, and then removed from the mold as a newly-shaped object. Die casting gives molten metals the desired shape under high pressure, letting them solidify into their new form. It is ideal for the mass production of identical items.
Metal undergoes the process of forging within high heat levels and compressive forces to create the intended metal shape. There are various forging styles and applications, and the metal is heated in a fire source until it becomes red-hot before being hammered into the right structure.
Punching refers to creating holes or stenciled patterns on the metal sheet. The punch press machine punches holes onto the metal, and the residue scrap – known as the scrap slug – gets recycled for future use. It is a repetitive process that punches holes throughout the expected length.
Metal extrusion is an important technique for creating a wide range of cylindrical products such as wires, rods, and metal pipes. Metal billets are pushed through specific cross-sectional dies that produce the elongated and compressed version on the other end.
Fabrication shops fold or bend metals at various angles. The metal sheets or rods are clamped in place before being pressed and folded under high pressures. The resulting pieces often get welded and assembled into larger components.
This fabrication technique gives metal pieces their shape and structure by using a rotating tool. The process works by chipping away the metallic fragments until the final shape is obtained. There are different ways to do this, and they all focus on cutting down metal into a new form.
Stamping refers to leaving an imprint on the metal sheets. Patterns, letters, images, and shapes are stamped onto the metal, so that – unlike punching a hole – the sheet receives a mark. This fabrication technique is popular in the production of coins.
The process of welding joins separate metal pieces together under heat and pressure. The soldered parts are first melted and then fused together in different ways, with a filler added to complete the welding.
Fabrication shop equipment
As a metal fabricator, your fabrication shop is more likely to win contractor bids if it is well-equipped to handle most or all kinds of metal projects. If your shop has all the necessary equipment to accomplish what a potential contractor is looking for, then this will save you the need to outsource your work to other vendors. The entire project can be completed at your shop, and companies prefer such one-stop solutions for their metallic goals. Armed with an extensive portfolio to back up your expertise, you have a better chance of working with potential, long-term contractors. They might want to rehire you in the future and enlist your shop’s services to streamline their projects. The basic fabrication techniques were discussed above, and here are some of the essential fabrication shop equipment tools that do all the magic.
These machines are designed for bending metals, and they are available in varying dimensions and capabilities. The bending process relies on high-performance torque that stabilizes and aligns the fabrication shop equipment securely on the workbench. Press brakes are quite sturdy and bend the metal inputs to the required degree using the machine’s specific tonnage capability. Aluminum, steel, and brass are common metal types for the workpiece material. A press brake can be hydraulic, mechanical, pneumatic, and electric in its application.
Ironworker machines are quite versatile in their manufacturing processes of shearing, notching, and punching the metal sheets. It is generally equipped with dedicated workstations such as a punch worktable with gauges, die holders for quick punches, a support table with indicator lines, adjustable clamps for secured shearing, and the shear blades themselves.
Mechanical and hydraulic plate roll machines help in rolling a flat metal sheet into cylinders. Variable axis machines are designed for better efficiency during the rolling process. Different capabilities of the plate rolls tackle medium and thicker plates for creating various cylindrical end products.
These industrial-scale machines are ideal for structural steel fabrication contexts. They are used to bend the metal into tubes, beams, pipes, etc. Precise bending levels are achieved through precision bearings and top-quality hydraulic and electrical features as well as superior torque.
Miter band saws, semi-automatic, and fully-automatic band saw equipment are designed for the fabrication technique of cutting metal packs into equal lengths. The automatic, precision-based process often makes use of programmable cutting and metal feed to automate the whole fabrication stage. There is improved production and efficiency with automated techniques for handling large-scale projects in the shop.
Waterjets make a highly cost-effective addition to all fabrication shops. A combination of water and abrasive material is employed to cut all kinds of metal raw materials, including stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, brass, and also a variety of other non-metals like glass and ceramics. High pressure pumps direct the pressurized streams of water through a nozzle. When combined with the abrasive additions, the process makes clean cuts on the metal sheets.
Laser cutting systems
Fabrication techniques that focus on cutting, welding, surface treatment, and marking aspects commonly use lasers to drive their processes. High precision is imperative for cutting industrial-scale metal parts that later get integrated into the automobile, aerospace, medical, electrical, and technological applications. Laser-operated fabrication shop equipment employs thermal energy to burn, melt, or vaporize the workpiece material.
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technologies are implemented to automate the whole fabrication process through a computer. A programming code helps fabricate the metal by guiding the laser machine to follow predetermined specifications. As a result, the laser head moves over the metal workpiece to cut the specified shape without human intervention.
These machines are used to cut electrically conductive metals like steel, aluminum, and copper. A jet of ionized gas moves back and forth between the cutting head and the metal workpiece, creating an electric channel. These systems make quick and precise cuts within several industrial applications that need repeated cutting throughout the metal batches. They also make an affordable option for transforming recycled objects into metal creations.
Every fabrication facility uses shear fabrication shop equipment as its most trivial machinery to cut metals. Shears are used to cut sheet metals depending on the machine’s capability to tackle metal thickness. The capabilities range between the smallest gauge levels for the thinnest metal up to higher gauges that handle 1-inch thick metal sheets. Shearing is a widespread fabrication technique used in several aspects of this metal industry. When a fabrication shop places an order for restocking its metal inventory, the pieces arrive as metal sheets that were produced by a shearing equipment as well.
This metalworking tool creates compound curves from metal sheets. The metal gets contoured during the fabrication process and is widely used in aircraft and automobile industries. Repeated movements between the English wheel parts follow a stretching and rolling stage. This enables the curved contour effect on the metal.
Fabrication equipment buying options
We followed the metal scraps and welding sparks in the wake of the best fabrication shop equipment. Here are some of the top-quality metal fabrication machines with impressive product specifications that will make a helpful guide for your buying choices. It is always important to invest in those machines that can stand up to your project scale, and so this determines the workable budget you should begin with. A fabrication shop that is equipped with state-of-the-art machines is more likely to receive regular projects from contractors who stay in touch for their increasing metal requirements.
KAKA Industrial MMS-2 Multi-Purpose Throatless Sheet Metal Shear, Light Weight, Easy Operation Sheet Metal Cutter
This multipurpose metal shear has a heavy-duty cast-iron structure for durability and stability during metal cutting processes. It is a throatless design that offers better shear flexibility using two rotating blades, giving metal fabricators room to maneuver the workpieces. Stainless steel, mild steel, brass, and aluminum can be cut effortlessly. Weighing around 22 pounds, this metal shear has a maximum cutting capacity of 0.078-Inch. Its maximum shearing thickness is 20 gauge. The overall capability of this valuable fabrication shop equipment allows it to cut through metal like a sheet of paper. The blades are designed to cut various shapes, and the throatless structure also supports working with large metal panels.
Grizzly Industrial G0592-10″ x 18″ 2 HP Metal-Cutting Bandsaw
This industrial metal-cutting bandsaw has an adjustable blade guide and a centralized control panel in the form of bow-mounted controls for simple use. The one-piece base is made of heavy-duty steel, and the swivel base supports variable speed control. This essential fabrication shop equipment features a large cutting capacity, with its swivel base miter-cutting the workpieces from -45 degrees to +60 degrees. The machine has a hydraulic adjustable feed control and an integrated coolant system. The cast iron wheels are fitted with durable ball bearings, and the metal fabricator can use the blade tension gauge to guide the process. The 220 V bandsaw’s motor has 2 HP delivering 1725 RPM. There is also a wash-down hose and a spray gun, along with a quick-release vice. Furthermore, an emergency stop button paired with a magnetic safety switch makes this bandsaw an efficient fabrication shop equipment for your workshop.
Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, Dual Voltage 110V/220V, 1/2 Inch Clean Cut, Brown
This plasma cutter has a pilot arc technology that helps you cut metal without touching the plasma tip. The pilot arc torch makes efficient cuts even on rusted metal to produce ½-inch clean cuts and ¾-inch severance cuts. So, there is minimal metal distortion during each fabrication stage. It is a portable and low-cost option for quality metal-cutting contexts, using compressed air for cutting stainless steel, copper, aluminum, etc. It is compatible with only the “PCS22” or “PCS33” consumable sets from the brand. The pre-installed D-plug and air filter regulator facilitate instant connection with your air compressor. An advanced cooling system ensures a smooth, stable, and long-lasting performance. The plasma cutter operates on dual voltages of 110V/220V and dual frequencies of 50Hz/60Hz.
Manual Nameplate Metal Label Stamping Printer Machine Marking Machine for Metal Different Character Wheels Optional 2/2.5/3/4/5/6 (No.4 Codeword Plate)
This is a manual metal stamping machine with 40 characters and 6 types of chrome steel codeword plates. There are English letters and Arabic numerals to work with by manually turning the codeword plate. It is an alloy-steel rotary plate equipped with a heat-treated dial to allow the metal fabricator to reach the required characters. By mechanically adjusting the stamping machine, the marking position, word spacing, and line spacing can be controlled. The different codeword plate sizes stamp smaller or bigger font widths and heights. The countertop fabrication shop equipment also allows imprinting various small signs as logos, for example.
A final word
Metal fabrication forms the backbone of various everyday applications that rely on metal parts and components. Almost all areas of residential, commercial, and industrial contexts are intertwined with metalworking in one way or another. Automobile bodies and engines and aerospace industries depend on metal fabrication shops to produce their structural chassis, industrial plant components, and machinery parts. Electrical and mechanical home appliances make use of stainless-steel blades and copper wiring to drive everyday home uses. Pneumatic and electric tools that are found in homes as well as in workshops all contain elements that came from a metal fabrication shop.
All electronic gadgets including laptops and smartphones are a result of custom metal fabrication projects that are designed to create company-specific end products to ensure compatibilities. Moreover, it is the fabricated metal that gets assembled into medical equipment for hospital procedures, emergency backup systems, beds and stretchers, etc. This is what makes metal fabrication a valuable industry craft that puts together its pieces into a complete, fabricated jigsaw puzzle.