One of the most useful features of sheet metal is its ability to be shaped to suit almost any purpose. We often use this space to talk about the finished results of this process (kitchen worktops or stylish architectural features, for example). But we do get a lot of customers interested in the process of sheet metal fabrication as well, so we thought we’d outline some of the most common techniques we might use here in the workshop. Having a basic understanding of these can also be useful in helping you determine the kind of finish you would like.
Most sheet metal fabrication involves forming the metal in one way or another. This might mean bending, rolling or stretching the metal to the required shape. There are several ways of forming metal, but here are three of the most common processes.
This process is most commonly used when the desired outcome is a smooth curved surface to
the metal. Cylinders, cones and rounded architectural features are all made using roll forming techniques. The process involves passing the metal through a series of rolls. Each roll bends the metal a tiny bit more, until the desired width and curvature has been achieved. It’s actually quite an impressive process to see in action!
Bending and Folding
Bending is a cost-effective method for shaping sheet metal into the design that you require. The most common bending technique is to use a press brake. This 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 metre’s 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.
Punching and Stamping
If your finish requires holes, or a textured finish, punching or stamping might well be a part of the fabrication process. Punching is used when you want to make a hole in the metal of varying shape and size, and is achieved by applying pressure on either side of the material with a punch and a die. Also forms such as louvres for ventilation are punched / stamped.
Stamping is a very similar process to punching and can use the same equipment as punching, the only difference being that an indentation rather than a hole is created. This can help form attractive textured effects or dished shapes.
How many ways are there to cut a piece of metal? More than you might think! 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 a number of 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.
Another common sheet metal fabrication process is welding – joining two pieces of metal together. There are several different types of welding. Two of the most common techniques are:
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) a high quality welding technique where most metals can be joined to a high standard.
MIG (Metal Inert Gas) generally used for welding mild steel and cost effective for heavy
So, there you have it – a little glimpse of what’s going on in our workshop as we build the many different sheet metal projects for our customers. If you require sheet metal fabrication for any purpose, or have any other metalwork projects in mind, get in touch today to discuss them with our team.