Metal fabrication is the building of metal structures by cutting, bending, and assembling processes. The basic process of any fabricated part is designing, building, finishing and assembling. Design conceptualizes, creates, or analyzes an exact part or product characteristics. This can include CAD/CAM if necessary. The next step is building. Building is the actual construction of the metal product. Finally, finishing and assembling is the improvement of product quality through post-fabrication treatments.
Metal fabrication can involve many steps, processes, and operations. Cutting or notching involved adding a cut to the workpiece. Sometimes the notch or cut itself is the goal; however, sometimes the notch is a precursor to other processes such as bending. Cutting/notching includes sawing, shearing, hand-held torches and plasma, laser, punching, and ironworkers. Another process is bending. Bending includes using press brakes, roll forming, pipe and tube bending, and ironworkers. Additionally, grinding or sanding during fabrication prepares material for welding, sometimes including bevels, post-weld grinding, or to improve the appearance of the product. Welding is another process used during metal fabrication. Whether it be TIG, MIG, stick, or spot welding, all are useful to join parts. For more information on welding, check out our article on the topic.
Finishing and Assembling
After a part has been built, additional finishing or assembling might be necessary. Finishing can improve the appearance of or protect metal parts. Sandblasting, glass bead blasting, and electropolishing all improve the surface of the metal. Wet paint, powder coating, plating, including galvanizing, zinc, or anodizing, and passivation all protect the metal from corrosion or degradation. Check out our article on finishing techniques. Assembling can include the addition of rivets, threaded fasteners, or adhesives.
Fabricators use a variety of raw materials to make their products. They use plate metal, sheet metal, as well as bar stock. Bar stock can be flat, round, square, or rectangular. Fabricators also use structural shapes, like angle, channels, and I-beams. Tubes are also available in round, square, and rectangle shapes. Also, welding wire or rod is necessary for joining parts. Finally, casting is another way to quickly get the main shape of a part completed.