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At Customised Sheet Metal, we’ve been crafting bespoke sheet metal products for almost 30 years, so we know a thing or two about the industry and the processes involved – which is why we’ve created this ultimate guide to sheet metal fabrication.
In this blog, you’ll find everything you need to know about sheet metal and the various fabrication processes involved in creating products from sheet metal.
Sheet metal, as used by sheet metal workers is pretty much what it says on the tin – a thin, flat sheet of metal. As far as metal goes, sheet metal is quite a versatile form, and so is commonly used for metalworking processes. It can be shaped to form everything from intricate automotive parts and large structural components, to everyday objects and more.
The thickness of sheet metal can vary; with thin sheets up to 3mm thick, and thicker pieces considered to be structural or plate steel as used by platers of Boiler Makers. There are several metals that can be made into sheet metal, including but not limited to:
To put it simply, sheet metal fabrication is the process of creating products from sheet metal. There are several methods that can be used to fabricate sheet metal, which often involves high-tech machinery to cut, bend and form the metal into any desired shape – we’ll go into these processes later.
In terms of how the process works from conception to production, draftsmen will adapt the preliminary designs and plans into technical drawings ready for production using computer-aided design applications. From these designs, a 3D graphic simulation of the final product will be created so it’s clear how the final construction will come together.
The 3D CAD files are then converted into machine code, which controls a machine to precisely cut and form the sheets into the final part.
Sheet metal fabrication can be used for a variety of uses, so asking this question is very similar to asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’ – there’s no single answer. Whether you’re looking to create architectural products, or to produce something functional and practical, the process of sheet metal fabrication can provide you with the perfect product.
For more information about how sheet metal fabrication can be used, why not take a look at our case studies? You can see for yourself the type of products we’ve produced for our valued customers.
What does sheet metal fabrication involve?
As mentioned above, the process of sheet metal fabrication involves the use of machines that are operated by skilled engineers. These engineers often work to a detailed plan that is based on specifications provided by the customer – which is exactly what we do here at CSM. We create, design and produce bespoke sheet metal items based on your budget and requirements to ensure that you receive the perfect metal product.
Here are some of the processes used to manipulate sheet metal:
Most sheet metal fabrication involves forming the metal in one way or another. The process of forming metal involves fashioning metal parts and objects through mechanical deformation. In other words, the metal is reshaped without changing its size or volume. This might mean bending, rolling or stretching the metal to the required shape.
The process of bending metal involves changing the shape of a piece of metal without affecting its volume. Using specialist machinery, metal is often bent into one of three shapes: a V shape, a U shape, or a channel shape.
The most common bending technique is to use a press brake, which forces the metal between a knife edge top tool and a vee shaped bottom tool to shape the material to the required angle over lengths up to 10 metres long.
As well as being one of the most cost-effective methods of sheet metal fabrication, the technique of bending metal is also highly versatile. Anything from small fixings such as brackets, to much larger pieces such as shipping containers can be created by bending techniques.
This process is mostly used when the desired outcome is a smooth curved surface to the metal. For example, shapes such as cylinders, cones and rounded architectural features should ideally be made using roll forming techniques.
The process involves passing the metal through a series of rolls until the desired width and curvature has been achieved. It’s an impressive process to see in action!
If your finish requires holes or a textured finish, punching could be the ideal fabrication process. Punching is used when you want to make a hole in the metal of varying shape and size. It is achieved by applying pressure on either side of the material with a punch and a die.
This metal forming process produces raised or sunken designs in sheet material by passing a sheet of metal between rolls of the desired pattern. At CSM, using our wealth of experience in this field, we can weld and polish the edges of the desired shapes, creating a high-quality finish.
In days gone by, all metal cutting would have been done by a specialised saw. While effective enough, this can sometimes leave rough or imperfect edges. Luckily, these days there are several cutting techniques that can work the metal into the desired shape. Laser cutting and plasma torches are used when precision is of the utmost importance, while high-powered water jets can also be used. The technique used will depend on the finish required and the project budget.
Tooling mould is often unique in its design, requiring a metal fabrication company to design the equipment from scratch. Using equipment such as 5-axis CNC machinery, experts produce components with complex and intricate geometry.
At CSM, our Haas VM-6 mould maker machining centre is a 5-axis machine, which has three linear axes (X, Y and Z) and two rotational axes (A and B) that work together to achieve complex surface machining. The machine works by moving the cutting tool across the linear axes as well as rotating on the A and B axes to approach the workpiece from any direction. Using industry leading software, we create efficient and optimised tool paths to reduce machining time and therefore cost, proving a high-quality product on time and within your budget.
A patina finish is a thin layer that forms on the surface of brass, copper, bronze and other similar metals as a result of oxidation or through age and exposure of the metal. As a result, the metal will present an aged and rustic look that is both stylish and fashionable – particularly for bar tops, bar fronts, splashbacks and decorative wall panels.
What products can be made with sheet metal fabrication?
Again, we say, ‘how long is a piece of string?’ The answer to this question is quite vast! There are so many products that can be made from metal fabrication for a variety of industries and purposes.
Environmentally friendly is a phrase so commonly used nowadays, that almost everything you look to purchase – this question is raised. Here at CSM, we ensure that we source only the best quality metal, materials and all our sheet metal is environmentally friendly. We follow the best practices alongside our suppliers to ensure that the environmental impact of sheet metal is kept to a minimum, including using recyclable materials.
Do you have a project in mind?
If you have a project in mind, get in touch with the CSM team today. We’d be happy to talk to you about your requirements and provide you with a no-obligation quote.