Metal fabrication shops are a key feature of the American industrial landscape — the metal parts, structures, and equipment they create support countless other industries, from manufacturing to retail to food service.

In some cases, an off-the-shelf or standard issue metal component is exactly what a customer needs. In other cases, off-the-shelf parts aren’t enough for a particular application. Many metal fabrication companies offer custom design, engineering, and manufacturing services to provide customers with the materials they need.

For projects large and small, expert metal machinists have developed a variety of manufacturing processes to bend, cut, shape, and transform sheet metal into useful parts.

Bending and forming

Utilizing press brakes, custom stamping machines, and specially crafted dies, metal fabricators can create metal components with specialized processes such as:

  • Bending, including custom services such as rotary or elastomer bending
  • Coining
  • Press and roll forming
  • Stamping
  • Drawing and deep drawing
  • Bottoming
  • Folding
  • Punching

Cutting and joining

To utilize sheet metal, it generally must be cut. Some cuts are simple trims; others are precision processes that create particular components from a coil or sheet of raw material. These cut parts can be finished on their own, or connected to other parts with the use of a joining process.

Some of the processes a metal fabricator may provide include:

  • Shearing
  • Sawing
  • Joining
  • Laser cutting
  • Water jet cutting
  • Welding, including TIG and MIG
  • Riveting
  • Brazing

Once a sheet of metal has been crafted into a component, it can be polished, deburred, or custom finished with paint, powder coatings, silk screening, or other unique surface treatments.

Material Selection

Even before the necessary manufacturing process for a custom project is chosen, material choice is an important first step for a project. A careful material choice can optimize performance, final cost, and efficient production for any piece of custom metalwork. Plus, it can help narrow down the search for the best sheet metal fabrication company.

Sheet metal materials can offer vastly different properties, such as:

  • Weight Even different alloys of the same material, such as steel, can offer very different weight to performance ratios.
  • Strength Some strong materials offer machining setbacks, such as brittleness. Additional strength can also be added to otherwise weaker materials with processes such as heat treatment.
  • Resistance Water, weather, and chemical resistance all vary vastly, even in the same material family. Will your material require a specialty finish, or will it perform on its own?
  • Flexibility Especially for bending and forming processes, the tensile strength and rigidity of a metal play a major role in its manufacture.
  • Surface Quality Some materials are naturally attractive, strong, or smoothly processed. Some are more amenable to joining or accepting custom finishes.

Most specialty manufacturers will offer a full array of processing services to accommodate your unique material choice, all with their own process qualities, finishing options, and unique results. Deep drawing, specialty stamping, precision water jet cutting, and other custom services can be just what a project needs.

It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to offer deep expertise, an arsenal of equipment, and the ability to custom order or stock a wide selection of metals. They often employ materials and process experts, available for consultation on custom projects.

For more information on custom metal fabrication or the benefits of working with a specialty metal fabricator, contact the team at PMI today.