The history of sheet metal fabrication

An historic overview of the sheet metal fabrication process

You may think that the term ‘sheet metal fabrication’ sounds modern, conjuring up thoughts of advanced manufacturing. However, the practise dates as far back as ancient Egypt, where it was used to craft jewellery. The gold and silver workers of the time found a method by which they could form a fabrication that would serve as a foundation for the technique.

Let’s look back through history and delve further into how sheet metal fabrication developed over the years to become the invaluable manufacturing technique used heavily today.

1400 – 1700

At the beginning of the 15th century, metalworkers began to cease using primordial furnaces to pile layers of charcoal and iron in order to liquefy steel. Noteworthy too is the fact that Leonardo da Vinci first sketched his idea for a rolling mill during this period.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until approximately 100 years later in 1590, that historians noted the first two recorded rolling mills, bringing Da Vinci’s concept to life. One of which was designed with the intention to produce gold sheets that would go on to be used in the creation of coins. The other was used to cut formed sheets into strips.

Inevitably, with this innovation came failure at the beginning of the 17th century. During the period, the practise commonly used was a flawed technique known as puddling.

Puddling involved the heating of cast iron in reverberation furnaces in an effort to liquefy the metal. One of the largest problems with puddling was that almost half of the iron was drawn off the slag due to sand being used for the bed.

The technique of the puddling process was so inefficient that it took until the 1800s to refine it enough to produce even mild steel. Despite puddings clear limitations, the technique was used to create wrought iron that was used in the construction of both the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty!

1700 – 1900

With the birth of the industrial revolution and the increase in demand of sheet metal fabrication, manufacturers were able to develop new inventions like the press brakes and assembly line, increasing the production of higher quality parts.

With such innovation continuing to develop, during the 19th century, steam and aluminium hammers were invented, which led to the start of a new age in iron production. By 1857, the inexpensive process allowed for the mass production of steel from cast iron.

Inevitably, as technology advanced, so did the industry. 1861 saw the merger of multiple unions, including the General Tramping Union of Tinplate Worker. This ultimately led to the founding of the General Union of Braziers and Sheet Metal Workers in the U.K. and Ireland.

The future of sheet metal fabrication

With the sheet metal industry continuing to develop and grow over time, our team at CSM promises to uphold the tradition of quality and innovation that has driven this industry forward over the past 600 + years. Our customers will be able to benefit from the exciting future sheet metal fabrication processes and techniques that will continue to advance and evolve.

Do you have a project you need assistance with? Contact our team today

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