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Which Metal Fabrication Process Is Right for Your Part?

With total revenues averaging $33 billion per year, it’s safe to say the metal manufacturing industry is massive. So, it’s no wonder there are so many different metal fabrication methods to consider. 

This article will cover a few of them, give a brief overview of the metal fabrication process, and where to best seek these services.

The Bottom Line Upfront

Precision Waterjet Concepts and Aitkin Iron Works have united to create Elemet Manufacturing.

Putting their expertise together has allowed them the opportunity to provide the best, up-to-date services and craftmanship possible.

These include:

  • CNC machining,
  • CNC milling,
  • threading,
  • turning,
  • welding,
  • painting,
  • 5-axis waterjet cutting, and more. 

Elemet Manufacturing Inc. (EMI) is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company, creating high-quality, accurate, dependable parts. Highly-skilled manufacturing and fabrication employees do this by exceeding industry quality standards. 

EMI cares about what the customer wants and will strive to work with you every step of the way to ensure that you receive the products you need. For more info, contact EMI today.

collage of metal fabrication processes including waterjet cutting, welding, and CNC machining

Types of Metal Fabrication

Determining the right metal fabrication for you hinges on several factors, including the purpose of the product, the geometry of the piece, and the materials used in its crafting. 

Standard metal fabrication projects include:

  • Welding
  • Casting
  • Folding
  • Cutting
  • Forging
  • Punching
  • Machining
  • Extrusion
  • Shearing 
  • Stamping 

The following paragraphs look at a few of these processes so you can get an idea of what is most suitable for your needs.

Welding 

Welding is when you join two or more pieces of metal together through a combination of pressure and heat. This is a popular method of metal fabrication because metal pieces can be of any size or shape. 

There are four main types of welding processes: 

  • MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas): This type of welding is popular in the automotive industry. It can provide a strong weld even for a very thin piece of metal. 
  • SMAW Welding (Shielded Metal Arc Welding) is popular because it requires the simplest equipment and is versatile. 
  • TIG Welding (Tungsten Inert Gas) is a popular choice for pipe welding. It’s suitable for thin materials and is popular in the aviation and aerospace industry. 
  • FCAW (Flux Cored Arc Welding) is the best choice when welding contaminated, rusty or dirty metals.

Casting

Casting is the process of molten metal poured into a die or mold and allowed to cool and harden into the desired shape.

This particular metal fabrication method is ideal for mass-produced parts as the molds are reusable for identical results.

The types of casting include:

  • Die Casting forces liquid metal into a die, and pressure keeps it in place until it hardens. 
  • Permanent Mold casting creates stronger castings than die castings by pouring liquid metal into a mold. The downside is that the finished products can prove challenging to remove. 
  • Semi-permanent mold casting makes a good alternative. These molds are more manageable and cost less to remove as they have expendable cores. 
  • Sand Casting is created by pressing a pattern into a fine mixture of sand. This makes a mold into which you pour liquid metal. This method is the most economical casting form, but it is generally slow. 

punch and die metal fabrication process bending sheet metal

Folding

The folding process involves manipulating metal to bend at an angle. The most common method uses a brake press which creates creases in the metal by pinching it. 

The metal is held between a die and punch and forced to crease by the punch pressure. Folding is also achievable by hammering the metal until it bends to the desired angle or using a folding machine.

This machine has a flat surface on which the material is placed, clamping bars to hold it in place, and a front panel that lifts upwards forces the material to bend. This process is usually used when shaping sheet metal. 

Cutting

Cutting is a popular form of metal fabrication for fashioning metal into smaller sections. Traditional methods involved sawing the metal, while modern techniques include waterjet cutting, laser cutting, and power scissors. 

Cutting tools range from manual power tools to CNC equipment (Computer Numerical Control). CNC equipment can control a range of complex machines such as lathes, grinders, and turning mills. All of which can shape, cut, and create different prototypes and parts. 

Die-cutting is another method. Two examples of die-cutting are rotary die-cutting, which uses a cylindrical die to cut material fed through a press, and flatbed die-cutting. This method is used on thicker metals and uses a die on a press to cut shapes by stamping the die down onto the metal. 

Forging 

Forging is one of the most old-fashioned metal fabrication methods used for centuries, so it’s definitely worth mentioning here. 

Forging requires a compressive force to shape the metal. Hot forging, where you heat the metal to 75 percent of its melting temperature, typically comes to mind with this process. However, cold forging is also possible, where the manufacturing process can occur at room temperature.

gloved hand pushing a green start button of a piece of manufacturing equipment

Are You Ready To Kickstart Your Metal Fabrication Process?

The above was a brief overview of just a few of the methods used for metal fabrication. 

If your business needs waterjet cutting, CNC machining, or other manufacturing services, EMI offers many options and will find the ones that work best with your requirements. Contact us today for more information about Elemet’s metal fabrication process capabilities.

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