What Is Metal Fabrication?

Metal fabrication is the art of producing metal structures from basic raw materials. Firms that provide metal fabrication services are known as fab shops, many of which also offer an array of other metalworking services to their clients. A larger industrial metal fabricator offers clients extra value by eliminating the need to locate multiple vendors for very specific tasks. Common fabrication jobs include loose parts, large structural frames, and hand rails. Any product created via metal fabrication may be referred to as a fabrication itself.

The architectural steel fabrication process typically begins with structural steel, sheet metal, and/or any required fasteners. A variety of methods can be employed to create a fabrication, including cutting, bending, and assembling. Cutting is exactly what it sounds like and may be done by sawing, shearing, chiseling, or torching the starting metal. Sometimes, the term machining is used to describe the same processes of removing unwanted material to achieve a desired shape. Numerical Control Cutters, or CNCs, are technologically advanced options that cut metal precisely according to an inputted program. These machines employ lasers, drills, torches, or water jets to actually cut the metal.

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Bending, or forming, is performed by hammering a metal sheet with enough force to change its shape, sometimes using press brakes. CNC machines add a computer’s precision to this technique as well, offering perfectly accurate bend lines every time. This consistency lends itself to applications in the jewelry, aerospace, automotive, construction, and civil engineering Melbourne. These machines are becoming increasingly easy to program, making them more accessible to fab shops.

Assembly takes many forms in a fab shop, including welding, riveting, adhesive bindings, special fasteners, and bending to create a crimped seam. Welding is the most prominent form of assembly for most fab shops. The product of welding is called a weldment, and precautions must sometimes be taken to prevent its degradation in the extreme heat required by the process. These may include redesigning the project so it requires less welding, staggering the welding to prevent the buildup of heat, and covering the weldment in sand to facilitate the cooling process.

Should any warping occur, skilled welders can fix much of the damage by using an oxy-acetylene torch. Heat is carefully applied to the warped metal in a slow, linear sweep, forcing the metal to contract in the direction of the heat flow after cooling. The technique is very effective, but also very difficult to perfect.

Fab shops typically have a significant overlap with other metalworking firms. Both fab shops and machine shops cut metal, for example, but they have different focuses. Machine shops specialize in precise mechanical components for a machine, while fab shops perform the work described above. Nevertheless, it is common for one firm to offer fab shop and machine shop services. Ironworkers frequently employ a fab shop to prepare metal pieces for ultimate assembly at a job site. Many other types of metalworking are simply fabrication going by a different name, including welding, blacksmithing, and boilermaking.

While many of the fab shop’s tasks have been mechanized, they continue to employ a mix of mechanical and manual labor. Individual fab shops may adopt a specialty to better fit their local customer base, such as chipping or powder coating. The above information applies to almost all fab shops, however.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4jqkbKqS0s for more info on Welding.

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