The Basics of Metal Fabrication

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Metal fabrication is a modern process in which metals are cut, welded, bent or shaped to create desired forms. While standard manufacturing process offer a wide range of consumer products, a custom component for a specialty project is sometimes needed. Every shop and craftsman is a little different, but the basic metal fabrication processes are similar for most jobs.

The Design Phase

A metal shop will have some capacity to design the final product you need built. The sophistication of this process depends on the needs of the project and the capabilities of the shop. For precision work, a set of computer aided drafting tools may be necessary to create the plans for the finished forms. Less precise methods may rely on just traditional tape measurements and cuts. Some informal design techniques are more ad hoc. A metal worker may just opt to bend, hammer, drill, or cut a piece of metal until it happens to fit the objective.

Material Selection

This has an impact on costs and durability. Some materials are more suitable than others for certain uses. The metal fabrication shop should be able to describe the benefits and drawbacks of different materials.

In addition to metallurgical properties, metal products come in different shapes as well. Tubes, sheets, and billets have different applications depending on your needs. Some are more difficult to use in certain circumstance than others. Shapes may offer different strength or flexibility characteristics. An experienced shop will help you to select the right metal products to get the job done at the lowest possible cost. You can also purchase materials from online retailers such as Online Metals.

Building

There are a lot of skills that come into play during the actual construction processĀ and it’s important to correctly choose and purchase construction equipment that can help you to get the job accurately done. Metal workers need to transform the raw materials into the finished products, and just like in the design phase, the actual processes used depend on the sophistication of the proposed work.

For simple jobs, grinding, cutting, and drilling equipment can create the rough shapes out of existing material. All it takes is standard hand and power tools. For assembly, metal workers may press fit, bolt or weld components together.

More complicated jobs require special tools. To cut precision fittings or surfaces, the tools used to create specific features need to be created. Tool-making is a highly specialized discipline in and of itself. When your job requires duplicating numerous uniquely designed components, expect to pay additional costs for tool-making.
Computerized lathes help to speed up the process of component making. When combined with the computer-generated images from drafting software, these automated metal shaping tools can cut out unique parts sized to your specifications.

Choosing a Metal Fabrication Shop

Look for a shop that offers the best quality work for the most competitive price. Submit requests for quotes to several in your area, and evaluate their responses thoroughly. Consider overall expertise as well as facilities, capacities, and access to raw materials. Sometimes online retailers such as Markertek also offer metal services that can help you custom make wall plates and floor pockets for your equipment.

A shop that charges a little more may actually be less costly in the long run. You may need additional support for your components. Also consider the likelihood that you will want to order more work later on. A shop that has already gone through the design and tool making process will be ready to produce your components when you need them. Plan ahead of time to develop a long-term relationship with your metal fabricators.

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Nick Barnett

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