Metal fabrication is the ability to shape metal raw materials into machinery, tools and structural components, and is vital to the modern world. From cars to computer cases, bridges to hand tools, fabrication is involved in the creation of almost all products involving metal.
In this guide, we’ll go through the processes commonly used in metal fabrication, offered at our many locations, allowing you to save time and money on transport, wastage and labor costs.
There are hundreds of different methods and techniques used to fabricate parts, but here is a run-down of the most commonly used terms.
Cutting or Production cutting.
This is generally used to describe the cutting to length of long materials such as beams, box sections and pipe. Cut to length services can be extremely handy as our locations use the latest sawing technology to ensure square and accurate cuts every time.
Miter cutting is a variation of production cutting, many industrial saws have the facility to cut long materials at an angle other than 90 degrees, useful for miter joints, angle bracings and much more.
Shearing is similar to cutting with longer materials but is used on sheet metal, and is done with a guillotine. Shearing is an extremely fast way to cut basic shapes from sheet metal. Some limitations include not being able to cut complex shapes, holes or notches.
Making holes in sections, beams and other materials is essential for assembly, even when parts are destined to be welded, holes are often needed for handling, attaching bracketry and various other requirements. Drilling requires machinery of the right capacity and accurate, sharp tooling.
Wherever possible, hole punching is preferable to drilling as it is much faster and more efficient. It is completed using a large hydraulic press and two hardened steel tools. Whilst it can be used on thicker materials, it is not recommended for some structural applications, so be sure to check with your engineer.
Bending is a vital part of any fabrication process, allowing faster construction of various items such as sheet metal covers, brackets, enclosures and more. For more information on the benefits of sheet metal bending, read our guide here.
Notching is a technique commonly used in construction and allied heavy industries, where two pieces of beam or column are to be connected or interact with one another. One or both of the flanges are cut away to allow easier joining.
Laser, Water and Flame Cutting
These three processes are all related in that they cut shaped parts from flat sheets or plates of material. However, they differ in cost, accuracy and speed.
Laser cutting is the most commonly used process of the three, offering great accuracy and speed, at a reasonable cost, in most metallic materials. Accuracy to 0.01” is easily achieved in every thickness up to 1”.
Flame cutting is an older technique that cannot hold the same tolerances as laser cutting, but can cut much thicker parts economically, up to and above 200mm thick on some machines. The tech needed to run flame cutting machines is much cheaper and as such the price of the process is relatively low.
Waterjet cutting is the most expensive and accurate process, holding tolerances of 0.005”. It can cut almost any material, but costs much more than laser and flame cutting, due to the expense of the consumables and slow process speed.
Why use Metal Supermarkets Fabrication Services?
Whilst all of these processes above could be done in-house or on site, it’s almost always more cost and time effective to have a specialist provider like Metal Supermarkets process them for you, whether the quantities are high or low.
Processes such as laser cutting and production cutting of sheet parts are operated continuously in many locations, meaning fast turnaround and no downtime adding unnecessary setup costs to your project.
One location handling all your cutting, drilling and notching services also means the materials can be delivered straight to the site, saving on transport and storage costs.
To get started, select your material, shape or process from our website: MetalSupermarkets.com
Metal Supermarkets is the world’s largest small-quantity metal supplier with over 100 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, Canada, and United Kingdom. We are metal experts and have been providing quality customer service and products since 1985.
Visit one of our 100+ locations across North America today.