What do mining cars that head underground and rockets that shoot into space have in common? They come to life thanks to different types of industrial fabrication.
Our world is built out of pieces that have to fit together precisely and stand without bending to perform. To do this, many processes have developed over time to cut, shape, and mold metal to make parts of all types, including the kitchen sink.
On an industrial scale, these parts start from raw stock metals and take shape to make a new product. Let’s look at some of the more common methods industrial fabricators use to make metal parts.
Industrial Fabrication Types – Cutting
Cutting is one of the most basic fabrication methods and often the first step in a project. While a saw used to be the standard means of cutting metal, these days, you can use plasma torches, lasers, and water jets to make those cuts.
Cutting splits a metal sheet or bar into smaller sections, so they can be finished further into the final product. The process can be very manual or involve computers for fine control.
Die-cutting is a specialized form that uses a press to cut out shapes, much like a cookie-cutter in dough. Digital die-cutting brings computer-controlled lasers and blades to the task to allow for more complex shapes.
The opposite of cutting, welding involves joining two pieces of metal together using a combination of heat and pressure. It’s a flexible form of fabrication because you can join sheets, panels, or bars — anything made of metal.
Different types of welding evolved based on the product’s end-use and what kind of metal is involved. The four primary ones are stick, MIG, TIG, and flux-cored.
Casting works well when you have a part that needs to be mass-produced, and you need each piece to be identical, such as nozzles or bolts. It uses molten metal, which pours into a mold to harden and cool into shape.
You can get complex shapes made at a faster pace this way. Casting allows you to make the part with a single process rather than combining several others to get the same result.
Using a mold also means you can come back later and know the new batch will be identical to the previous one.
Industrial Fabrication Types – Folding
Folding metal isn’t the same as folding clothes. Rather than making a more compact package, you’re looking to bend the metal to an angle. A common example of folded metal would be shelf brackets.
The process normally uses a press brake with a set of dies to pinch the metal. There are limitations to the angle and complexity of the bend because of how much movement the part can tolerate and the shapes of the dies.
You can also go primitive and hammer the metal until it bends. A folder brings more technology to the process, making parts at a much faster clip than a brake.
While bending metal seems like a simple process, it’s more complicated than it seems Many times, it’s easier for industrial steel fabricators to just join two metal panels rather than fold one.
The machining process involves removing material and can be manual or computerized. How it gets removed depends on the specific type of machine you’re using.
A lathe works by rotating the metal and holding the cutter steady, usually to make a cylinder shape. A cutting machine works the opposite way by holding the material stationary and moving the tool or blade around it. An example would be a drill to make holes in the material.
Milling uses multiple points to allow for more detail and can involve moving the metal and the tool simultaneously. It’s more of a finishing step in the fabrication process.
Punching makes a hole through the metal. Most of the time, you use mechanical means, but simple punches can be hand-powered.
The process uses two parts — a punch and a die. The size of the tool restricts the size of the hole you can make.
Punching can make holes to be used by fasteners, and you keep the main piece of material. You can also keep the part you cut out — referred to as blanking — which works well for making shaped metal pieces.
A similar process to punching is stamping, where a die pushes into the metal but doesn’t go all the way through. It creates indentations by raising sections of the part.
Stamping can make shapes, letters, and even images in a metal panel or sheet. It’s good for working with very small parts and is how coins are made.
Shearing makes a single long cut to a piece of metal. It’s often used to trim down the edge of a piece of sheet metal.
The cut can be made by feeding a sheet through a machine with a vertical blade or with straight blades on top and bottom that apply pressure to the cut. The blades can be set to different angles to change the amount of applied force.
Using compressive force on a piece of metal is called forging. Basically, you hit the metal repeatedly until you get the shape you want.
It’s one of the oldest fabrication types — think about a blacksmith beating out a horseshoe — and adds tensile strength to your metal piece. Forging can happen at various temperatures depending on what you’re making and the type of metal you’re using. You can hammer, roll, or press to apply force.
Where to Go for Different Types of Industrial Fabrication
Industrial metal fabrication allows for the creation of tiny keys and huge H beams and builds the world around us. The variety of methods and types make custom industrial fabrication a practical option for making just about anything you need for a building or manufacturing project.
If you’re looking for different types of industrial fabrication services, contact our team here at Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing. With more than 20 years of experience, we have the skill and knowledge to deliver the precision parts you need.