The cutting process can be challenging, depending on the material and the cutting method. For instance, stainless steel is difficult to cut with a saw blade but cuts easily with laser or waterjet cutting. The main cutting processes include: 2. Forming
Forming, or bending, is a critical step in sheet metal fabrication and is completed with the help of machines like press brakes, rolling machines, coining dies, and other equipment. Hot and cold rolling create curved or cylindrical shapes from sheet metal.
The most challenging aspect of forming is knowing how to bend the material to achieve the desired angle or shape. Since sheet metal tends to spring back to its original shape, trained operators must know how to "overbend" the metal to allow it to spring back to the correct angle.
Spinning is an obscure sheet metal forming process that employs a lathe to rotate sheet metal as it is pressed against a tool. The deformation process, as it is officially called, looks similar to manual lathe turning, and it is used for creating rounded sheet metal parts such as cones and cylinders.
Stamping combines cutting and forming, using complex dies to produce intricate-shaped parts with fewer operations. 3. Punching
Punching is a method for creating holes in sheet metal. The technique relies on a hardened steel punch and dies that force the holes into the metal and collect the scrap metal from the hole. 4. Welding or Joining
and joining bring all the metal components together to assemble them into the finished product. The welding could be any type, including stick, MIG, TIG
, or laser. Non-welding joining is typically accomplished by either riveting or hardware fasteners.
Sheet metal fabrication is a versatile manufacturing process that can be used to create a wide range of products, from simple brackets to complex machinery. CNC machining, laser cutting, plasma cutting, waterjet cutting, and sheet metal bending are just a few of the techniques that can be used in sheet metal fabrication.
One common material used in sheet metal fabrication is mild steel, which has a relatively low melting point and can be easily formed and welded. Other materials, such as cold-rolled steel and sheet metals of various thicknesses, can also be used depending on the specific application.
Engineering drawings are a critical component of sheet metal fabrication, as they provide a detailed blueprint for the manufacturing process. This includes specifying the dimensions, tolerances, and materials required for each component of the final product.
Plasma cutting and laser cutting are two commonly used techniques in sheet metal fabrication. Plasma cutting uses a plasma cutter to cut through metal, while laser cutting uses a high-powered laser to cut through sheet metal. Both methods produce precise cuts that can be used to create complex shapes and designs.
Sheet metal bending is another important process in sheet metal fabrication, which allows flat pieces of sheet metal to be formed into three-dimensional shapes. Roll forming is another method that can be used to create complex shapes by continuously bending and forming sheet metal.
Injection molding is another manufacturing process that can be used in sheet metal fabrication to create plastic parts that can be integrated with sheet metal components. This process involves melting plastic pellets and injecting them into a mold, which is then cooled and removed from the mold to create the final part.