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An Introduction To Metal Fabrication

Projects produced by metal fabrication surround us in our everyday lives, from simple things like grills or hand railings to heavy equipment and large machinery. Cutlery, hand tools, nuts and bolts, springs, wires, screws, and many architectural products are prime examples.

Manufacturers use metal fabrication to shape iron, steel, copper, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, bronze, or any other workable metal. The only requirement is that the chosen metal needs to have the ability to change its configuration, shape, or thickness.

Elemet Manufacturing, Inc. (EMI) can handle production runs ranging from one prototype through large amounts. Our metal fabrication process consists of bending, cutting, and assembling building structures according to your specifications as an end-to-end fabrication provider. EMI works on your project from start to finish.

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Defining Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication is a manufacturing process that forms the metal into finished parts or end-products.

We convert metals into many different structures through the use of metal fabrication techniques. The techniques in the metal fabrication process can vary but normally include:

  • cutting,
  • welding,
  • burning,
  • machining,
  • forming,
  • and assembling into the required end-product.

Many metal fabricators use sheet metal for this type of manufacturing. The sheet metal can be up to 0.25 inches thick.

Fabricators convert this sheet metal into tools or other products. They cut, fold, or shape metal to create finished pieces.

Manufacturers use metal fabrication to mass-produce. But it can also be used for different-sized runs of customized fabricated metal pieces. These projects typically include the customized design and fabrication of metal parts to fit a business’s needs.

For metal fabrication, both human labor and robotic automation are necessary. Shops specializing in this type of metalwork are called fabrication shops or “fab shops.”

Most metal fabrication is carried out in these shops by experts. These experts are well-versed in welding, ironwork, blacksmithy, and other complementary professions. You will also find people who are well-versed in cutting or punching, press machine operators, lathe operators, welders, assemblers, solderers, and brazers.

Metal fabricators have learned to constantly change production lines as customer needs ask for various products that suit their specific business requirements.

All The Things That Make Up Metal Fabrication

Fabricated metal pieces are commonplace. However, few lay people understand how the fabrication process works. We will explain.

Many people only think of welding when they hear the term “metal fabrication.” But welding is only one process that metal fabricators use. Welding involves joining two metal pieces together with molten metal. Welding techniques are constantly evolving.

Most industrial metal fabrication will involve cutting. Originally, metal fabricators used saws for this process. Modern fabrication shops, however, use waterjets, plasma, and laser cutting methods. The choice will depend both on the complexity of the cutting and the cost of the cutting.

Any parts that need to be bent will need the folding process. Most fabrication shops use brake presses that are either manually, hydraulically or motor-driven. Some forms and shapes are mass-produced with metal dies.

The machining process involves removing metal from raw metal to form specific shapes. Manufacturers use drills, lathes, and other cutting machines for this purpose.

Another process often used in metal fabrication before assembly or metal forming is punching. Dies are extensively used in punching.

Stamping is a process very similar to punching. However, it may not require the cutting of the metal, whereas punching does.

Shearing is a process that requires cutting the metal down to the required size. The process is often carried out on sheet metal.

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Walking Through The Steps Of Metal Fabrication

Though most metal fabrication projects indeed focus on cutting and shaping metal, several sub-processes are typically involved in a successful manufacturing project.

The entire metal fabrication process starts with a design and ends with a finished and functional part.

Here’s a short breakdown of the three main steps in a typical fabrication project:

First, designing the project. 

The first (and likely most important) step is the design of the part/end-product. Some businesses come to us with a completed design. But some come to us with a prototype. In either case, we work with our customers to refine and test the design before starting a large run.

Many metal fabricators use computer-aided design programs (CAD) during the manufacturing process. Using CAD programs, we can develop a 3D prototype of an object before beginning work with the metal.

This phase helps to ensure that the end-product will function as required.

We’ll also work with our customers during this initial design process to clarify which types of metal to use and any required finishing process.

Second, building the part.

The second step encompasses the actual building process. During this building phase, a metal fabricator cuts and shapes each of the design phase components.

There’s a wide range of tools and expertise used in these projects. We often employ CNC (computer numerical controls) tools to ensure that each piece is cut exactly to the design specifications. These CNC tools extract a computer program of the exact commands and specifications used to create a piece.

Third, assembling & finishing the project.

The last step in metal fabrication is finishing and assembling the pieces into the final end-product. This finishing step strengthens the product and ensures that it’s ready for its intended use.

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The Benefits Of Using A Metal Fabrication Shop

The main benefit of using a metal fabrication shop is the centralization of these metal fabrication processes, which often perform in parallel via multiple vendors.

A one-stop metal fabrication shop helps contractors limit their need to work with multiple vendors to complete complicated projects.

EMI can handle production runs ranging from one prototype through large amounts. Our metal fabrication process consists of bending, cutting, and assembling building structures according to your specifications as an end-to-end fabrication provider. EMI works on your project from start to finish.

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