With our experience and expertise in these various processes, we’re here to help you complete your next project and make any idea a reality. Today, we give you a peek inside our shop and what we do each day.
Here are 5 things you need to know about custom metal fabrication.
#1 The Gist of What We Do at the Cadet Steel Shop
Metal fabrication uses manual tools alongside machines to create metal objects or structures by bending, cutting and assembling various raw materials, eventually reaching the desired product design. Metal fabrication shops concentrate on metal preparation and assembly, and while machine shops also cut metal, they are more concerned with machining of parts.
#2 What We Can Create with Custom Metal Fabrication
Metal fabrication is used to create everything from stairway railings and construction equipment parts to the housing for delicate electronic components.
Plate metal, formed and expanded metal, sectional metal, flat metal, tube stock, welding wire/welding rod and castings are among the available raw materials that are used in metal fabrication.
Here are a couple of examples showing how these raw metals can be utilized:
- Expanded metal stretches or expands resulting in grate-like metal ideal for outdoor furniture, fencing, screen doors, architectural details and safety guarding on machinery to avoid contact with hot surfaces.
- For construction and engineering application, metal fabricators often use sectional metals such as the I-beam, Z shape, hollow structural section (HSS), bar and rod.
#3 A Lot Goes into the Metal Fabrication Process
The process starts with sketches that are drawn up and engineered for the specific idea in mind and then presented to a metal fabrication company.
Metal experts look over the facts and measurements to determine if it is feasible and decide what materials will be needed. Once everyone is on the same page in regards to design, costs, and execution, fabrication work can begin.
- Cutting, one of the first steps in the whole metal fabrication process, is performed by sawing, shearing or chiseling using manual tools or machines, lasers, plasma jets and other equipment.
- Bending is achieved by hammering with manual tools or machines, and even CNC controlled press brake techniques.
- Welding the components together with adhesives, fasteners, riveting or a crimped seam brings the final product to life.
- After the weldment has cooled, it is sandblasted, primed and painted. Any additional desires specified by the customer are then completed.
- The finished product is inspected and shipped to its final destination.
#4 Custom Metal Fabrication is More than Cutting & Welding
If you know about metal fabrication, you might also know that there are other techniques such as brazing, punching, forging, and spinning to help achieve the final product.
Depending on the services available from your metal fabrication shop, specialty processes can also be implemented. These include casting, chipping, powder coating, powder metallurgy, and welding, electrical and hydraulic.
One of the most interesting specialty options is casting, a custom metal fabrication process that involves forcing liquid metal into a mold, then allowing it to cool and harden into the desired shape. Because of its flexibility, casting is an ideal choice for applications that require complex geometries and designs.
Raw materials used in the casting process include molten metal, epoxies, concrete, and clay, and the most common metals used in the casting process are aluminum, copper, gold, magnesium, steel, silver, iron, and stainless steel to name a few.
#5 Metal Fabrication Has Come a Long Way Over the Years
So now a little bit of ancient history. Custom metal fabrication spans the centuries and is one of the oldest skills known to man.
Ancient civilizations knew of seven metals: iron, tin, lead, copper, mercury, silver and gold. An interesting side note, these seven metals were paired with the seven celestial bodies as well.
Metalworking techniques like forming, cutting and joining became common practice as metalsmiths became more prominent members of society. Soon metals became a political material, influencing the rise and fall of civilizations as it was used as a symbol of the elite and in crafting weapons of war. Think swords and other fighting implements.
In 1485, Leonardo da Vinci drew a preliminary sketch of a rolling mill, and in 1501 his ideas were used, one to roll gold sheets into a structured thickness for coins and the other to cut previously formed sheets into strips. In 1590, da Vinci’s press was brought to life using two heavy cylinders to press different types of metals and furthered the evolution of modern minting techniques.
By the 1700s, the Industrial Revolution dramatically increased production of sheet metal through the use of the production line and the hydraulic press, and fast forward to 2011 when the sheet metal industry in the United States alone is worth an approximate $20.5 billion.
Now that you know about custom metal fabrication, you can see that it has changed over the centuries. It’s now a mix of both art and science, requiring deep knowledge of the raw materials and various processes that go into creating the final product.