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Sheet Metal Fabrication Explained

August 2017

In the broadest sense, sheet metal fabrication refers to the process of creating metal structures using various techniques including cutting, bending and assembly.

A fabrication shop takes the raw material – most often sheet steel – and uses processes to create parts and structures that may be either final products or components of a larger assembly. In addition, welding materials are often used, along with other fittings if required. Although there is an increasing amount of automation in today’s processes, quality results rely on experienced and skilled staff, such as the team here at Hitherbest.

 

Basic fabrication processes

Sheet metal fabrication generally consists of three key processes – cutting, bending and assembling. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

 

Cutting – this is the process of taking the raw material in the form of sheet steel and cutting it into the basic shape that will then be folded to create a three-dimensional structure in the next stage. There are a number of different ways to cut sheet metal, however the best results are obtained by CNC hydrolic punches, which are both fast and accurate.

 

Bending – Once the shape has been cut out of the sheet metal, it can be folded to create the intended form. This is not unlike constructing a cardboard box from a flattened pack – although it requires specialist machines and expert knowledge to accomplish successfully! Bending may be done automatically or manually and various machines may be used, most commonly the press-brake. Just like with cutting, CNC plays an important role in modern methods.

 

Assembling – Assembling refers to the process of joining the pieces together and may use a single technique or a variety of techniques depending on various requirements such as stress levels, water tightness, etc. Common assembling techniques include welding, crimping (where the metal is held together by further bending) riveting and threaded fasteners.

 

A speciality in its own right

A common misconception is to assume that sheet metal fabrication applies to any processing of sheet metal – this is not in fact true. The definition of fabrication specifically applies to the three processes described above. Other seemingly similar processes such as machining and stamping will often be used as part of the same manufacturing process, but do not belong to the classification of fabrication. Metal fabrication is a highly skilled area that requires high levels of specialisation.

 

Finishing

Once the final product or component has been created through the fabrication process, it will often require finishing. The nature of the finish will depend on product specification and factors such as its intended use. Common finishing techniques include machining, which results in a smooth, clean finish to the metal and powder coating, which results in a durable finish that offers many options for colours and effects.

 

Hitherbest of Telford have over 35 years of experience in sheet metal fabrication and are proud to operate some of the most efficient and accurate machines within the industry, ensuring that the finished product presented to you is of the highest quality and consistency.

By teaming up with our excellent operators and programming engineers, you can be sure that your product is optimised before it evens starts the manufacturing process, meaning we can provide you with the most accurate representations of your designs within both a competitive time frame and price window.

For more information about our sheet metal fabrication services, call us on 01952 632100 or click here to contact us online.

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