How to fabricate sheet metal: a step-by-step guide
Discover how to fabricate sheet metal with our step-by-step guide, going from designing it, right through to finishing the final product.
Sheet metal fabrication is something we’re experts in. We’ve been perfecting the craft for more than 27 years, and we have an experienced team who know exactly how to fabricate sheet metal.
In this step-by-step guide, we’ll take you through the main processes of sheet metal fabrication, including designing the product, as well as cutting, welding, bending & forming, and finishing the metal.
Before we start discussing the manufacturing process, when learning how to fabricate sheet metal, it’s important to note that the first step is designing your product.
When you work with a sheet metal fabrication company on a bespoke product, such as CSM, the first step is to discuss the product you need. Bespoke solutions will always require a design stage, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach with custom products.
An experienced design team should be able to draw up ideas and sketches and develop them using high-tech Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.
Sheet metal fabrication has its own criteria when it comes to designing the product. Some factors that need to be considered, for example, include the bend radius when it comes to bending the metal (more on this later!), the tolerance of the metal, and any tabs or notches that a component may have.
Once you’re happy with the design of your product, you can move onto the next stage: cutting the metal.
Step 2: Cutting
Cutting sheet metal is the next step, and it allows you to get your sheet metal to the right workable size. There are multiple ways to cut sheet metal; from laser cutting metal through to using a guillotine to achieve your desired cut. More traditionally tin snips are used to cut sheet metal.
Tin snips are similar in shape and size to a pair of scissors – and they work in a similar way too! You hold them with your hands and cut along the metal, as you would with scissors and paper. There are three different types of tin snips – one for cutting straight lines, one for cutting left, and one for cutting right.
An expert sheet metal fabricator will use the three tin snips to precisely cut the sheet metal down to the right shape and size.
For thicker pieces of sheet metal, an electric saw can also be used.
Step 3: Forming the shape: bending or rolling
When knowing how to fabricate sheet metal, it’s important to note that the process will change depending on the product you’re making.
When forming the shape, there are two main different methods to do this. It’s the job of the specialist sheet metal fabricator to select the appropriate technique to manufacture the product most appropriately.
Rolling is one forming technique and is typically chosen when a curved shape is required from the final product. Cones, cylinders, and radiused panels are just some examples of products that would require sheet metal rolling. Discover more about the process of producing metal cones in our blog about it here.
It’s a process where the sheet metal is passed through a series of calibrated rollers until the desired curve is achieved.
Bending, also known as folding in the sheet metal fabrication industry, is the second popular metal forming technique. It varies from rolling because instead of creating a curved shape – bending is used to create an angular shape.
Bending sheet metal works by applying force onto the material, causing it to bend at the desired angle. Bending typically creates either a “V” or a “U” shape, and there are numerous ways to bend sheet metal, including using a press brake or by hand.
Learn more about sheet metal folding in our blog highlighting five key basics about the process.
Step 4: Welding
The next step in knowing how to fabricate sheet metal is welding.
Welding is the process of exposing metal to such high heat that two components melt and then join to form a bond as they cool. The bond made between metals when welded together is incredibly hard to break.
There are four main types of welding, including Metal Inert Gas (MIG), Metal Active Gas (MAG) welding, Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG), and gas welding and brazing.
Welding is a crucial part of the sheet metal fabrication step-by-step process because it allows your multiple metal components to be fused together to start building your product.
No sheet metal fabricated product is complete until it’s been finished – anyone who knows how to fabricate sheet metal will tell you that!
Finishing the product will vary depending on the desired outcome of the final piece. For a decorative wine rack made from stainless steel, for example, the finishing choice may be to buff polish the product to give it a lovely shine.
Or, for a warehouse piece where durability is crucial, a hot blackening finish may be used. This is a heated process which makes the surface highly durable.
Much like the technique choice for forming the metal shape, the technique used to finish the metal will be a choice for the metalworker to make.
When working with sheet metal fabrication companies, it’s important that you choose one who has an experienced team. This is because multiple choices throughout the step-by-step process are made by the fabricator, and without sufficient knowledge and experience, your product may not be manufactured appropriately.
Knowing how to fabricate sheet metal isn’t just as easy as learning these five steps. It takes years of experience and industry knowledge to be able to expertly fabricate sheet metal into a desired product.
Here at CSM, we have both this knowledge and experience in delivering bespoke and high-quality products using sheet metal fabrication.
Want to know how our years of experience can create your custom product? Contact us today