Fabrication – An Overview
Fabrication is the process of transforming materials from simple shapes into finished products. Metal is commonly bought in sheets, bars, wires, tubes, and pipes, but these simple shapes can be modified and combined into more useful shapes by cutting it, shaping it, and joining it.
Metal can be cut in a number of ways. Metal sheets can be cut by shearing them between two hard steel edges much as paper is cut with scissors. Bars can also be sheared, but bars and pipes are often cut with powered saws. These methods are mostly used to cut metal in a straight line, but more complex shapes can be punched out of a sheet by specially made steel tools in a process called stamping. Complex metal shapes can also be cut with a plasma cutter which vaporizes the material with super-heated gas, with a laser cutter which vaporizes the material with a high-powered laser, and with a water jet cutter, which uses a very thin stream of water and abrasive powder to eat away the metal.
Sheets, bars, and pipes can be formed by bending and rolling them in specialized machines. Metal boxes and enclosures are made by bending sheet metal. Sheet metal can be sculpted into more complex shapes by a process called drawing, where it is pressed between two pieces of shaped steel that force it into a new shape. Metal muffin tins and the bodies of most cars are two products that are made by drawing sheet metal. Thin sheet metal can be made into rounded forms by a process called spinning, where it is pushed onto a metal or wooden form as it spins rapidly in a machine. Metal bowls and desk lamp reflectors are both made by spinning.
In most cases, metal parts can be joined mechanically by screws or rivets, but if a strong and rigid connection is needed, welding is the best joining process. Welding uses metal heated until it is liquid to join the two parts. The hot metal heats up the parts being joined so that they melt together. When the metal cools, the parts are permanently joined.
The advantage of fabrication is that it uses stock material shapes, which are readily available and may already have many of the desired features of the final product. This can also be a disadvantage since many parts cannot be easily produced from simple cylinders, bars, and sheets of metal. However, a wide range of components can be fabricated, from shower curtain rings to jewelry to the skins of airplanes.
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Sheet Metal Gaskets
General Sheet Metal
Precision CNC Sheet Metal
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