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What’s the Sheet Metal Fabrication Process?

Published by Lucy Thurston on

Sheet metal fabrication is the process of providing flat sheets of metal with structure, with the intention of turning them into a product. There are various different processes when it comes to fabrication, and selecting the correct one comes down to which metal is being used and the desired final shape. 

Rapid Metals is among the leading sheet metal companies in the UK where you can buy galvanised steel sheets, as well as other sheet metals. These products are ideal for all manner of metal projects, so look no further for sheet metal manufacturing companies. 

With this being said, what does the sheet metal fabrication process actually entail?

Types of Sheet Metal Fabrication Materials 

There are multiple kinds of sheet metal that are available for fabrication; however, the primary metals include copper, bronze, magnesium, aluminium, and steel. 

Copper is both malleable and soft and is ideal for conducting electricity and heat. 

Bronze has a low melting point and is particularly ductile. 

Magnesium is ideal for structures that require stiffness due to its low density, strength, and minimal weight. Similarly, it’s especially shiny, meaning that it’s also aesthetically pleasing.

Aluminium is both strong and lightweight, too. 

Steel, in all its forms, from galvanised steel sheet metal to stainless steel, is extremely robust. Additionally, it’s both resistant to corrosion and is particularly ductile.

Types of Metal Fabrication Processes

As there are many types of metal suitable for fabrication, there are also various forms of metal fabrication. Typically, they can be divided into three categories: cutting, forming, and assembly. Below are the most commonly used techniques. 

Laser Cutting

Although expanding is an effective means of opening space in metal objects, this method does come with some pitfalls. For example, a piece of metal may be mistakenly stretched to the wrong size. Alternatively, you may require a complicated shape that can’t be achieved by simply expanding the metal. This is where laser cutting comes in.

Laser cutting machines allow you to create any shape in a completely smooth and stress-free manner. The minimal physical stress means that laser cutting is often the chosen cutting solution because the sheet metal is stronger overall as a result. Cutting galvanised steel sheets couldn’t be easier with this method.

Bending

Bending is considered to be among the most effective and easiest forms of fabrication. Typically, the metal is hammered across a metal grate or mould to create an angle. The level of technology used during this process will affect the precision of the angle.

In order to create round or angle bends, 3D hubs and dies are normally used. This is because 3D hubs are capable of folding metals up to a thickness of six millimetres, with a bend angle tolerance of one degree. The high pressure that’s applied with 3D hubs allows you to create bends of any angle simply and efficiently. With this being said, bending isn’t usually the sole form of fabrication and is normally implemented alongside other techniques, such as cutting.

Resistance Welding

This process entails force being exerted to create a current that passes through the metal in order to weld it together. The greatest advantage of this form of fabrication is that it requires no other materials to form a joint. As a result, this process is among the most cost-effective solutions. 

Expanding Metal

As a rule of thumb, opening a space in a metal object is achieved by cutting holes via a laser/CNC punch, or through the use of a wire mesh. Although, metal coils or sheet metal can also be put through an expanding machine to achieve the same result. 

The expanding process refers to the metal being stretched out before a “knife” is introduced to cut a variety of symmetrical shapes. Usually, these shapes include squares, hexagons, and diamonds. These shapes are formed due to the metal stretching around the “knife” of the expansion machine, meaning no metal is wasted in the process.

Generally speaking, expanded metal is stronger than woven wire mesh of the same thickness, more lightweight than solid metal sheets, and less material is lost than cutting with a punch or laser. 

Shrinking

Typically, shrinking is administered to reduce the size of sheet metal and remove any imperfections. This is achieved by applying heat to an overstretched piece of metal. As it cools, it’ll shrink to size. 

Despite this, this isn’t the sole method of shrinking; metal can also be “tucked” with a hammer or other handheld tool. Consequently, the surface area is reduced and round shapes or unique edging can be formed. 

Stretching

Any technique that involves sheet metal being flattened or hammered to thin it out and increase the surface area can be described as stretching. Oftentimes, this is administered to form the metal beyond the limitations of normal bending or add an outline to the material. 

As with shrinking, stretching is also a means of removing imperfections from a metal as it helps to smooth out the area, reducing the appearance of dents and other defects. Each of these methods affects the molecular structure of the finished object. 

Shop Sheet Metal with Rapid Metals

If you’re looking to buy galvanised steel sheets or other forms of sheet metal, look no further than Rapid Metals. As galvanised sheet steel suppliers, we can cater to all your sheet metal needs. For further advice and guidance regarding galvanised sheet steel costs or how to find a sheet metal shop near me, please get in touch

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