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The 8 Types of Metal Fabrication and Processing Techniques

Introduction

Ever wondered how metal products and structures get shaped, formed, and treated for end-use distribution? Discover all types of metal fabrication and corresponding techniques. 

Imagining a world without metal fabrication would require picturing a reality where no metal products or structures existed. 

As an ancient trade, metal fabrication has existed since the Stone Age and remains a vital global industry in the UK, with revenues reaching $52.31 billion in 2022

In this piece, discover the types of core metal fabrication and processing techniques, from laser cutting to metal folding and forging.

All metal products and structures first require shaping, forming, and treating before they become end-use. Discover how with types of metal fabrication.

What is Metal Fabrication?

Metal fabrication is the process of producing metal products from raw metal materials.

So, metal fabrication is quite a substantial over-arching term that translates to practically all metal production and can be used to create anything from hand tools and screws to entire ships and skyscrapers. As a process, metal fabrication involves two core principles:

1. The primary manufacturing process – Transforming raw metal materials into basic primary metal products.

2. The secondary manufacturing process – Taking the primary manufactured products as semi-complete metal products and finishing them for end-usability.

From such a vast and extensive discipline that’s existed for centuries, as you can imagine, there are multiple types of metal fabrication techniques and processes serving various purposes and requirements.

Here are the 8 types of metal fabrication:

1. Metal Folding

Metal folding is the stage during metal fabrication where we bend or fold metal into a pre-set shape or angle. Also referred to as forming (Not to be confused with formwork), metal folding is achieved with automated press brake machinery.

The automated press brake machine applies a powerful tensile force to bend metal materials into the required shape. You get multiple press brake machine types with automated options suitable for dealing with higher production volumes.

Within metal folding, there are six core techniques:

  • Air bending
  • Bottoming
  • Coining
  • Folding
  • Wiping bending
  • Rotary bending

Each metal folding technique suits specific production requirements.

2. Metal Forging

Metal forging is the process of fabricating metal through compression. As an ancient skill, metal forging has been performed by blacksmiths for thousands of years. Today, metal forging remains a global industry and includes two core processing techniques:

Hot Forging
Cold Forging

Both hot and cold forging have various advantages and disadvantages over the other. Cold forging increases strength, while hot forging can create more complex shapes.

At Barton International, we also include drop forging. This forging process is where the upper die or hammer is literary dropped onto the metal material. The force of the blow is made more powerful with augmented gravity by increasing the height.

3. Metal Stamping

Metal stamping is a fabrication process that involves making shapes, letters, and images through indentation. You place the sheet metal material into a stamping press where a specific tool forms the desired shape into the metal. The sheet metal is either black (cold) or in coil form before being stamped with force.

There is a range of metal stamping techniques known as:

  • Punching
  • Blanking
  • Embossing
  • Coining
  • Bending
  • Flanging

The metal stamping process has advanced into CNC (computer numerical control), where fabricated parts can be designed using CAD (computer-aided design) software. CNC metal stamping is a cost-effective solution compared to traditional metal forging techniques.

Due to not having to use heat to manipulate the metal material, metal stamping provides a cost-effective fabrication alternative.

4. Metal Punching

Metal punching is a fabrication process that involves punching holes into metal materials. Punch presses consist of turrets that hit the metal through a die. Like metal stamping, metal punching has also advanced with CNC capabilities.

5. Metal Casting

Considered the most suitable fabrication process for mass-produced products due to using the same mould repeatedly, metal casting is achieved with two core processes:

Permanent Mould Casting
Expendable Mould Casting

Both permanent and expendable mould casting is available in four techniques:

– Gravity
– Slush
– Low-pressure
– Vacuum

Expendable mould casting is more suitable for low volumes or single-use fabrication applications and a cheaper option at the price of less accuracy.

6. Metal Laser Cutting

Metal laser cutting is a precise and versatile fabrication method for cutting intricate shapes. Through a thermal separation process, the laser cuts through metal via a CNC machine with CAD technology.

Laser-cutting technology has been applied in the manufacturing industry for over 50 years. However, the power required for the thermal conductivity of metals means laser-cutting technology for metal fabrication has existed for the past 30 years.

7. Metal Welding

Another traditional metal fabrication method is welding, where two or more metal pieces are adjoined through a mixture of heat and pressure. No matter the shape or size, various pieces of metal can be conjoined. This makes welding a suitable solution for industrial-scale fabrication projects.

Extremely high heat fuses metal components in a variety of welding methods, including:

– Gas flame
– Electric arc
– Laser
– Electron beam
– Friction
– Ultrasound

In projects without additional filler materials, welding metal consists of the same composition as the primary metal material.

8. Metal Extrusion

Metal extrusion is a fabrication technique that involves forcing metal between an open and closed die before the material is reduced within the cross-section to form a cavity.

Typically, the result creates a cylindrical shape suitable for piping or wiring. The metal extrusion process involves lubricating the billet after heating sufficiently before loading it into the die press. Around 15,000 tons of pressure is forced upon the billet to create the desired extrusion shape. 

The last stage requires stretching the metal before cutting it to the desired shape.

Discover the Best Metal Fabrication Technique for Your Business

At Barton International, we’ve designed, manufactured, and supplied metal fabrication products for numerous industries across telecommunications & broadband, public utilities, civil engineering, transport and EV charging infrastructure. 

With over 100 years of experience, our primary focus on supply chain management of metal fabrications means we produce reliable, cost-effective, and quality-assured metal fabrication products. 

So, if you’re searching for metal fabrication solutions, get in touch today.

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