A definition of sheet steel
A common misconception is that sheet metal can be used to refer to any large, flat piece of metal. Contrary to popular belief, there are generally three classifications used for metal in a flat form – foil or leaf, sheet and plate. The term foil or leaf is used to refer to extremely thin sheets of metal, as in the familiar gold leaf or aluminium kitchen foil. These are fragile and can be manipulated by hand. They lack any structural strength and have a limited range of applications.
Sheet metal generally refers anything that is thicker than foil up to a thickness of 6mm and is one of the most widely used raw materials due its relative strength and flexibility to be used for a variety of applications, along with the relative ease with which it can be worked. Although a number of different metals are commonly produced in sheet form, sheet steel is by far the most important and plays a central role in modern industry.
Finally, plate metal refers to anything over 6mm. Such metal is much more substantial in terms of weight and significantly harder to work with. It is typically used in applications such as ship building and construction, often in a structural role.
Common sheet metal forming processes
There are a number of sheet metal forming processes, some of which are used more than others. Among the most commonly used processes are:
Once done entirely by hand, cutting is an important sheet metal forming process that is now usually controlled by Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and uses either laser cutting technology or multi tool punch presses. The process involves 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. The best results are obtained by CNC laser cutters, which are both fast and accurate.
Bending or Folding
A relatively modern approach to sheet metal processing that was introduced in the 1970’s. Sheet metal folding makes use of a press break to apply sufficient force to fold metal to a high degree of accuracy without compromising the strength. Because of the manner in which metal is folded, the metal retains its shape and does not ‘spring back’, a term historically used to describe the tendency of metal to try to return to its original shape. Modern sheet metal folding is fast and cost effective, making it a popular method of production for many applications.
Sheet metal punching is a metal fabrication process that is extremely commonly used and plays an essential role in modern manufacturing. The process involves forcing a tool known as a punch die through the sheet metal workpiece, resulting in the formation of a hole by a process known as shearing. The process also results in the production of scrap metal pieces from the punching which are known as slugs. The slugs are often collected and recycled.
Here at Hitherbest in Telford, we are industry leaders in sheet metal forming, with an impressive 35 years of expertise and a highly trained team of experts at your disposal. Our commitment to quality and service is demonstrated by our BSI-accredited status which represents British sheet metal manufacturing at its best.
Whether you are looking for an outsourced manufacturing partner for a new project, as a secondary supplier to provide additional capacity or looking to make a switch from your existing manufacturer, nobody is better placed than Hitherbest to ensure that production runs smoothly from the outset.