Metal fabrication is the process by which raw material is turned into a usable part of an assembly process. There are seven common ways by which this can be accomplished and more are being added as technology is improved upon.
- One of the most popular ways to work with raw metal is to cut it. This is typically done with a saw. However, torches, water jets, and lasers can also be used and can result in a more precise cut.
- Often when it comes to sheet metal design, a piece may need to be bent for proper placement. A press brake is the most common method. The brake pinches the metal in order to form a crease. However, this operation can only be performed in very specific cases due to the movement of the part and the possible shape of the dies being used to do so. Additionally, complex shapes can slow down the entire operation and it may be more beneficial to use two different processes, instead. Another option is to use two different pieces fastened together.
- Machining is the process of removing metal from a piece of material usually on a lathe. A lathe is a machine that that rotates the piece being worked on on its axis in order to perform various operations. While the material rotates, it is placed against a cutting tool or some other cutting machine where a rotating tool is moved in a variety of ways against a stationary piece.
- Punching is the act of a placing a hole in the material. The punch and die must be the same shape and size of the desired hole. There are two different reasons for punching to be used. The first is when the main piece of material is kept, as in when holes are added for fasteners. In other cases, the piece that is removed is the desired product. If that is the case, then the process is called blanking.
- If you have ever used a paper cutter that looks like a guillotine, then you know how to shear. It is the same type of process, wherein a long cut is made in a piece of metal.
- The process of stamping is similar to punching. The difference is that the material is not penetrated and a hole is not put in the metal. Instead, the portion that is shaped by the die is raised.
- Another popular process in metal design is the use of welding in order to join two pieces of metal together. The process varies depending upon the types of metal being used.
- Additive technology. The use of 3D printers is becoming more popular as part of the design process that is referred to as additive technology. These printers allow anything to be printed directly on the material being used, be it plastic or metal.
When deciding which process to use, it is best to find the one that will not slow down production and one that will not create overproduction either.