Sheet Metal Fabrication: What Is It And How It Works?

Right before opting to work with a new manufacturing process or method, it’s imperative to understand the fundamentals of the new process and its technology – what is it and how it works. The following article will cover the core essentials of sheet metal fabrication, shedding light on this highly utilized metal production technique with endless applications across nearly all industries.

What Is Sheet Metal Fabrication? 

Sheet metal fabrication is an umbrella expression for many metal manufacturing processes that use sheet metal to build different structures. Just look around you. Even though most people are never able to notice it, a great majority of the products and components that we take for granted have some aspect of precision sheet metal fabrication in them. 

These metal goods all start as a metal or alloy stock from regular paper clips to complex aerospace parts and all other types of finished products and components in between. Afterward, the sheet metal fabrication machines cut, drill, punch, bend, remove and shape this metal workpiece into the desired end form.

Sheet metal fabrication is a rather complicated process and usually involves many different professionals. Knowledgeable sheet metal fabricators use their mastery in various fabrication processes and experience to select the clients’ preferred material, the rate of production, the coveted geometry, and other physical requirements of the component or product and create an optimized and cost-efficient manufacturing process.

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Businesses across a broad spectrum of industries, products, and service offerings require the properties of this authentic metal manufacturing process. The economic operators highly dependent on sheet metal fabrication processes include aerospace and automotive corporations, railroad containers, rail fabricators, food and beverage giant companies, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers, petrochemical companies, utilities, and waste management businesses, and many more. 

How Does Sheet Metal Fabrication Work? 

Sheet metal fabricators have many options available to create components and end products to exact specifications and optimize and accelerate the production phases. At times they have to combine different processes with building a complicated piece. 

Generally, the sheet metal manufacturing process covers two primary categories: the removal process and the deformation process. The metal material removal process may consist of different techniques and methods to remove some of the sheet metal material from the existing workpiece. These techniques and procedures include:

  • Cutting The Metal Sheet 

The primary way of cutting the metal sheet is by cutting it with aviation snips. It is usually one of the primary tools seasoned fabricators use to trim the sheet metal material. Power-scissors are another way to cut the material more quickly and with less manual effort from the operator. 

Laser beam technology and mechanical saw blades also help in removing large chunks of metal material from giant metal workpieces. Finally, laser cutting is extraordinarily useful for cutting stainless steel, carbon steel, and titanium.

  • Punching The Metal Sheet 

The punch-and-die tools work in a very similar manner compared to a pair of scissors. The tool uses a specific amount of pressure to create a hole in the material and remove the scrap. The punch creates holes and cut-outs of various sizes and shapes, and the most frequent punched holes are usually geometric shapes like squares, rectangles, and circles.

  • Machining 

Sheet metal fabricators can also remove excess material from the metal workpiece through machining. It can be done on a lathe or by rotating the material against a machining cutting tool. Another option here is to use another cutting machine with a rotating tool like a drill.

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  • Stamping The Metal Sheet 

Stamping is very similar to punching, but instead of cutting, the die makes an elevated portion of the raw material without any penetration.

  • Blanking And Shearing 

Blanking is when the operator removes a piece of material from the more massive sheet and the desired part. In general, fabricators blank multiple pieces in a single operation. This fabrication technique is usually utilized to make jewelry and clocks, and watch components.

With shearing, the operator combines two tools to make an extended cut on the metal workpiece. One tool is located above the piece, and the other one is positioned well below the material to create and apply pressure.

  • Nibbling 

Nibbling is a material removal process by cutting a contour by creating multiple overlapping notches in the workpiece, which allows the process operator to form elaborate shapes. The punch comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including rectangular and oblong punches, which minimize waste compared to a round punch.

The metal deformation or metal forming process employs force to a sheet metal workpiece to alter its geometry rather than remove any materials. These metal forming methods and techniques which modify the piece to achieve a particular design include:

  • Bending 

A good part of the sheet metal components requires bending. Most manufacturers use a brake press machine, and this machine usually contains an upper tool called the punch and a lower tool called the die. 

Bend tooling can operate either manually or automatically. This technique takes a flat sheet of sheet metal material and deforms or bends it to meet the desired design characteristics. Plus, a brake press and the addition of CNC stops can specify the angle of the bend to perfection.  

  • Spinning 

Occasionally referred to as spin forming, this sheet metal fabrication technique uses spin forming to create cylindrical components by rotating a blank (a fragment cut from the sheet metal workpiece) while applying force to one side. Spinning is used in producing a wide variety of end products like cookware, hubcaps, satellite dishes, and many musical instruments.

  • Deep Drawing 

Frequently used to fabricate ductile metals like aluminum, brass, and copper, the deep drawing technique stretches the sheet metal into the desired component or end product shape. The deep drawing process starts with a tool placing downward pressure on the sheet metal material. 

Afterward, the tensile force applied to the metal causes it to deform into a cup-like shape. This metal fabrication technique is widely used to produce cups, sinks, pots, cans, fuel tanks, and parts of automotive bodies. 

  • Roll Forming 

This procedure contours the sheet metal material over a progressive series of bending activities as the metal material proceeds through a set of roll stations. While the machine forces the metal workpiece through the roller dies, the metal bends and deforms. Roll forming requires the use of a lubricant to minimize the friction and decrease tool wear.

Final Words 

Now that we’ve highlighted what sheet metal fabrication is and how the process works, we hope you have a clearer picture of one of the most used manufacturing practices nowadays. In case you have an upcoming project that needs some sheet metal fabrications, don’t hesitate to consult with a reliable sheet metal fabrication service and manufacture your design in an effective and cost-efficient manner with the appropriate sheet metal fabrication technique.

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