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Everything You Need To Know About Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication is the backbone of the manufacturing industry, and crucial to daily life as we know it. Billions of products across the globe benefit from metal fabrication, and the versatility, durability and aesthetically pleasing appearance that it offers. Without sheet metal, it would be impossible to create specific parts for vehicles, computers and houses, yet few people understand the different processes and decisions involved. 

At Birmingham Specialties, we have over fifty years of industry experience and so understand the importance of metal fabrication. This is why we have created strong partnerships with firms that offer it as a service, allowing us to provide our own valued customers with a complete manufacturing solution, and why we have created this blog post detailing everything you need to know. If you want to invest in fabrication services or are interested in learning about a crucial element of the manufacturing industry in more detail, then this is the best place to start.

What Is Metal Fabrication?

Metal fabrication is the manufacturing of sheet metal, shaping it into smaller parts of a final product. It is a broad term, as there are many different processes used depending on the desired end-product.

Metalwork has an extensive history, and there is evidence of metal fabrication processes being performed thousands of years ago. Its future, as with that of the wider manufacturing industry, is deeply intertwined with the constant advancements of technology, and the growing demand for skilled labour. 

Sheet Metal Fabrication Uses

Now that you know the answer to “what is metal fabrication?”, the obvious next question to answer is, “what can I do with metal fabrication?”. Sheet metal fabrication has a huge range of applications, and products made using metal fabrication are seen across all industries. 

Aerospace, automotive, construction and consumer are just some of the industries which produce products which require metal fabrication for long-term and/or mass production. This is because metal fabrication creates precise, efficient end-products suitable for mass-production or customisation. Projects can be anything from heavy machinery to textured earrings, demonstrating the high-demand and diversity of the process. 

Benefits Of Metal Fabrication 

The most important thing you need to know about sheet metal fabrication is how it applies to you. Below are the top three benefits of metal fabrication, so that you have a better understanding of why this is a manufacturing process that you should be using. 

Aesthetically Pleasing 

Sheet metal can be manipulated, and given a surface finishing, in order to look visually appealing. This allows your end-product to look good without compromising on functionality or durability. The seamless appearance is a significant contributing factor when choosing your material.  

Versatility

Metal fabrication is incredibly flexible because there are a huge variety of materials to choose from, to which a similarly large range of surface finishes can be applied. Different fabrication processes can also be used to achieve the desired shape and size of the end-product.

Durability.

Metal has a higher tensile strength than most other materials, while also being easy to manipulate. It is also resistant to high temperatures and doesn’t suffer damage when being reshaped. This means that products made of metal can last longer, and withstand extreme conditions. 

Metal Fabrication Process

Now that you know how metal fabrication applies to your industry, and the benefits that you would reap from using it, it could be useful to understand the manufacturing process. The metal fabrication process can be broken down into three main stages: designing, fabricating and assembling. Each is crucial to the manufacture of a finished product that meets your requirements.

Designing 

Design is an essential element of metal fabrication. It allows the manufacturing team to ensure functionality and practicality, as well as pleasing aesthetics. You can approach the metal fabrication service with a completed design or a prototype that the in-house team can adjust as necessary.

The best metal fabrication services use the latest technology throughout the design and manufacture process. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) are crucial in the creation of the most effective pieces of metalwork. CAD and CAM ensure a smooth integration, the highest possible levels of accuracy and the fastest possible delivery of an excellent end-product.

The design stage is when all clarifications will be made so that the finished product meets all of your requirements. All of the finer details are determined, from what type of metal you want to use, to the finishing process you require. It is the best time to make any final requests, and ask any questions you may have.

Fabricating

There are many types of sheet metal fabrication, which you can see below. There are specific metal fabrication tools and machinery for each type, and multiple types can be used within the wider fabrication process for your specific project. 

During this stage, the sheet metal is cut into pre-designed shapes. The best metal fabrication services offer Computer Numerical Control (CNC), which is the automated control of machining tools, as well as the aforementioned CAM. 

Assembling 

During the final stage, the pieces of metal are subjected to the necessary finishing processes. This can help to strengthen the product, remove excess material, increase aesthetics and anything else you may require. 

 

The fabricated pieces are assembled as needed. The end-product is then inspected to ensure that it fulfils the requirements of the design and of you, the client. When it is deemed satisfactory, the next steps can then be taken for packaging and transportation. 

Types Of Sheet Metal Fabrication

As mentioned above, the fabricating stage is a huge category which encompasses a large range of metal fabrication processes. The right choice for you and your project depends on your desired end-product. The following are different types of sheet metal fabrication which you may encounter:

Bending

Bending is a deformation process, which means the sheet metal is manipulated rather than cut. Manufacturers use a brake machine to bend the metal into V shapes and U shapes or to remove horizontal bends. 

Casting

Molten metal is poured into a mould in order to take a specific shape. This is one of the oldest forms of metal fabrication and often provides innovative solutions to time-consuming fabrication issues. There are different types of casting, such as permanent mold casting (which can create stronger castings), semi-permanent mold casting (which are easier to remove than the former) and sand casting (which is more economical and suitable for intricate designs). 

Cutting 

Cutting is the process of splitting the metal into smaller sections. It can be carried out using a range of metal fabrication tools, and our examples are not exhaustive. Laser cutting uses a powerful laser; while this is a precise and efficient cutting technique, it can sometimes be difficult to penetrate harder metals. Water jet cutting uses a highly pressurised water and an abrasive substance mixture to cut through metal. Plasma arc cutting sacrifices accuracy for speed and power, using channels of ionised gas. 

Drawing

The tensile force pulls metal through a tapered die, which stretches the material and makes it thinner. Performed at room temperature, it is known as cold drawing, however, it can be heated to reduce forces.

Folding

Folding is when metal is manipulated to bend at the desired angle. This can be done using a brake press, a hammer or a folding machine. 

Forging

Compressive force is used to shape the sheet metal. It is one of the oldest forms of metal fabrication, used by blacksmiths for hundreds of years. Cold forging is performed at room temperature, while hot forging is performed at any temperature above room and below recrystallization. 

Extrusion

The sheet metal is forced through an open or closed die, reducing the diameter of the metal, or forced around an open or closed die, forming a cavity in the metal. Although it typically produces a cylindrical end-product, extrusion can be used to create long or semi-continuous pieces. 

Expanding

This process is a combination process, drawing on both cutting and deformation. Multiple slits are made in the metal before it is stretched open.

Machining

A portion of the metal is removed using a machine. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as turning or drilling. Turning requires a lathe to rotate the metal against the tool while drilling forms holes directly through the metal surface. 

Punching

This is the creation of precise holes using a punch and die. The metal is placed between the punch and the die; the punch forces itself through the metal to reach the die. 

Shearing

This process is used when long cuts are required in the sheet metal. There are several ways to achieve this: using a metal-cutting machine, using a cutting tool, or placing the metal on an open cutter. 

Spinning

A lathe is used to rotate metal as it is pressed against a tool. This process is often used to create rounded parts.

Stamping

Another deformation process, stamping uses a hydraulic or mechanical press. It is used to raise parts of the sheet metal without fully penetrating, and so is useful for curling, embossing and hemming. 

Welding

Heat is applied to two pieces of metal, causing the applied section to melt. The melted metal allows the pieces to fuse. Welding works better on certain types of metals, depending on its properties, and is better suited to some projects than others, depending on the use of the final product. 

Finding The Best Metal Fabricator

The best sheet metal fabrication service is one that can provide a high quality, communicative service. They should be accredited, performing to industry standards, and striving to grow and learn. Perhaps most importantly, they should be able to meet, and surpass, all of your requirements. 

To find the right metal fabrication company, you need to do your research. This means that you need to seek out client testimonials, ask relevant questions and use the information we have provided within this blog post to find the best fit for your business goals. 

How Can Birmingham Specialties Help You?

If you are looking for an industry-leading precision engineering company in Birmingham, then look no further than Birmingham Specialties. We have the outsourcing partnerships necessary to satisfy all of your sheet metal fabrication requirements, while providing the expertise and technology needed for surface finishing and next-level engineering and manufacturing. 

We provide a fast, flexible service without compromising on quality. Having two manufacturing facilities means we have the production capability to meet any size requirements you may have. Our investment in CNC manufacturing and the latest CAD and CAM technologies, combined with years of experience, makes us confident that Birmingham Specialties can meet your demands and provide you with an edge over your competitors. 

If this sounds like a service you are interested in, or you would like to discuss your requirements in further detail, then contact us today by phoning +44 121 356 5026 or emailing sales@bhamspec.co.uk. Our friendly team can’t wait to meet you. 

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