Learning how to choose the right metal for your fabrication project is essential to get your desired results. This is especially important when you must choose from many options with unique properties. Various metals work better for different applications based on their characteristics. Consider the following factors when selecting metal for your fabrication or manufacturing design.
What Metal Product Are You Making and How Will It Be Used?
Before considering which metal to use, it’s essential to understand the product you’re fabricating, especially its purpose. For instance, if you’re creating a structural beam for a building, your choice of metal will differ significantly from a project involving decorative fencing or residential gutters.
You should also think about the environment for the finished product. Will it be exposed to extreme temperatures, moisture, or corrosive substances? These factors will heavily influence your decision.
Understand the Characteristics That Affect Metal Choice
Your choice will involve balancing a variety of properties of different types of metals, including the following:
Ductility is a metal’s ability to deform under stress without fracturing. If your project requires bending or shaping, choose a ductile metal. Gold, platinum, aluminum, and copper have high ductility, which make them ideal for metal fabrication.
Tensile strength is the amount of pulling or stretching a metal can withstand before breaking. If your product will experience high levels of strain, look for metals with high tensile strength and/or good strength-to-weight ratios, depending on the application. Tungsten, steel, and titanium have high tensile strength.
Will your product be exposed to corrosive substances? Consider using corrosion-resistant metals, such as carbon, stainless steel, and aluminum.
If your project involves cutting or welding, consider the metal’s machinability and reaction to heat. Some hard or thick metals, including tungsten, chromium, iron, and titanium, may be difficult to form by cutting or bending. Others may react poorly to extreme temperatures, making them difficult to work with.
Choose a metal known for its weldability, like mild or stainless steel or aluminum. This is especially important if your project’s design requires joining different metal parts together.
For some projects, the metal’s appearance is a critical factor in the project specifications and in the client’s acceptance of the result. If you’re creating a decorative fence or exterior metal cladding, choose a metal that can be easily polished or plated for a shiny finish. Steel, brass, aluminum, silver, gold, and titanium all take polishing well.
Finally, consider the cost of the metal. Some metals, such as copper, are significantly more expensive than others. If your project requires a large amount of material, it may be more cost-effective to choose a more affordable option.
Best Applications for Different Metals Based on the Characteristics Identified Above
Aluminum is a lightweight, ductile, corrosion-resistant metal. It’s common in the aerospace and automotive industries due to its strength-to-weight ratio. However, it can be more expensive than other metals and may not be suitable for high-temperature applications, as it begins to lose strength when it reaches 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Steel is a durable metal with excellent tensile strength. It popular in construction and manufacturing due to its affordability and versatility. However, it may not be the best choice for products requiring corrosion resistance.
Stainless steel is known for corrosion-resistance, durability, and ease of cleaning. It’s common in applications where hygiene is crucial, such as medical equipment or kitchen appliances. However, it can be more expensive than other metals, and its weldability may vary depending on the type.
Copper is a ductile and malleable metal typical in electrical wiring due to its excellent conductivity. Many plumbing systems contain copper pipes due to its corrosion resistance. However, it can be prone to corrosion and may not be suitable for high-stress applications, like load bearing applications and structural beams.
Brass is a versatile metal with many decorative applications due to its attractive appearance. It’s also corrosion-resistant and has good machinability. However, it may not be suitable for products that require high strength or conductivity.
Titanium is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio and excellent corrosion resistance, making it ideal for the aerospace and medical industries. Keep in mind that this metal can be more expensive than other metals and may be difficult to machine.
Magnesium is a lightweight, machinable metal that suits automotive and aerospace applications. However, it can be prone to corrosion and may require special handling due to its flammability.
Can Your Machines Handle the Metal You Want To Use?
As you consider the best metal for your fabrication project, you must be aware of your machines’ abilities. Some metals require specialized equipment or techniques for cutting, shaping, or welding. Others have heat limitations that require you to use a fiber laser cutting machine that produces little to no heat affected zones or burrs. If you don’t have this equipment, maybe it’s time to get it! Mac-Tech can help you select the type of cutting machines that will work best for your products.
Additionally, certain metals, like zinc and copper, can produce hazardous fumes during machining or welding. Work in a well-ventilated area with appropriate fume extractors, and follow your shop’s safety regulations before handling these materials.
Balance All the Factors To Choose the Best Metal for Your Fabrication Project
Choosing the right metal for your fabrication project involves balancing these factors. Consider the following points for your application:
- The product’s purpose
- Environmental factors
- Desired characteristics
- Safety concerns
- Material availability
Talk to the Experts at Mac-Tech
After deciding which metal is best for your fabrication project, the experts at Mac-Tech can identify the machinery you need to get the job done. Whether you’ve got a commission from a new manufacturer or you’re making a new product, we can provide the machines and accessories, like metal dust collectors, to produce high-quality work.
With careful consideration, you can choose the ideal metal for your project and create a high-quality, durable product that meets all your requirements! Take your time, and make an informed decision. Your clients and your team will thank you!