Metal manufacturing encompasses a wide range of methods that are used to alter the condition of metallic materials. Metal processing is most often performed for two main purposes: to shape the metal, such as in metal spinning and metal stamping, or to alter the state of the metal’s surface, such as in galvanization or coating. Of these two purposes, metal forming is more common, and it includes processes like metal injection molding, metal casting, metal extrusion and more. In addition, there are many processes that are more unique and specialized. For instance, there are material specific processes like aluminum extrusion or processes that specifically form sheet metal. Although there is a wide variety of metal manufacturing processes, some of the most common methods of metal processing for industrial applications include electroless nickel plating, metal etching, roll forming, water jet cutting, die casting, forging and metal stamping.
Aluminum extrusions are typically fabricated by forcing aluminum cylinders through a die, shaping the aluminum into many forms like profiles, channels, and tubing. Aluminum is one of the most commonly extruded materials because of its impressive strength-to-weight ratio, rust resistance, and temperature resistance. Due to their strength, aluminum extrusions are perfectly suited for structural applications as well as many other functions in the construction and automotive industries. These items are also simple to manufacture and are completely recyclable which makes them a cost effective and reusable solution.
Broaching is a cost-effective, precision metal removal service that can cut almost any material, though broaching technicians most often use softer metals. The purpose of broaching is to cut the external (flat, round or contoured) surface or internal part of a shape or form, like an internal spline, a gear, a sprocket, a keyway, a slot or surface serrations. Broaching is performed in a broaching job shop.
Most products made through broaching are intended for use within the industrial sector. Examples include: gears, fastener threading, fastener heads, pulleys, sprockets, wrenches and bushings. As noted, a variety of materials may be broached. The common list consists of copper, aluminum and brass, with some steel grades, plastic and wood.
CNC machining is a manufacturing process that utilizes specialized computer programs to instruct the automated design and production of high precision parts for a number of industries. An acronym, CNC stands for computer numerical control. This refers to a broad range of CNC manufacturing processes utilized throughout the production process to create small or large volumes of identical precision parts quickly and efficiently.
Expanded metal includes all metallic elements or alloys that have undergone a specific machining process in which a sheet or coil is simultaneously cut and drawn to provide an open grid like pattern. An economic alternative to perforated metals, the production of expanded metal sheets results in no waste material as it is slit rather than punched. Fewer raw materials are needed as well because each component can be stretched to as much as ten times its original length.
Laser cutting is a low-distortion hot cutting process that most commonly uses a CO2 laser for the cutting of material, which is usually metal. "Laser" is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The beam of the laser is an extremely focused radiation of a wavelength, meaning the beam will not dissipate like conventional light beams.
Laser cutters are frequently controlled through precision programs. These precision programs, which direct the laser cutting process with minimal human intervention, get the information they need from CNC systems that use CAD designs to input machining details. In addition, technicians may partner an “assist gas,” like nitrogen or carbon dioxide, with laser cutting, in order to ready newly cut surfaces for painting or corrosion resistance coating. CO2 laser cutting, for example, is a gas assist laser cutting technique, and it is considered the most powerful wave laser in the world today.
Metal etching, also referred to as metal engraving, is the process of creating grooves, fine lines or impressed designs on metal parts or sheets. There are a number of different methods with which to achieve the desired pattern or finish on a metal part; the most common of these methods are mechanical or chemical machining or acid etching.
Today, metal etchings are most commonly done using chemical or mechanical machining or acid etching. Other techniques include photo etching, also called photofabrication, stamping, water-jet cutting, laser engraving, electro discharge machining (EDM) and mechanical milling. Laser etching, or engraving, is favored for its ability to create very fine, clean lines on surfaces with little need touchups. EDM achieves exceptionally close tolerances by exposing the metal part to streams of corrosive electromagnetic discharge. After etching, manufacturers can smooth or polish away any imperfections, burrs or marks.
Metal fabricators are companies that process metals into usable products. Fabrication is a blanket term used in reference to a wide range of metalworking processes. Some of the most common fabrication processes include metal bending, metal welding, stamping, punching and many other metal forming processes.
Fabricated metal parts are almost never made from freshly mined, unprocessed metals. Rather, they are usually fabricated from metal materials that were processed in some fashion. The standard metal raw materials used by metal fabricators include plate metal, tube stock, formed and expanded metal, welding wire/welding rod, and casting.
Virtually any metal or metal alloy can be used to create a part or product, but some, like steel, stainless steel or aluminum, are more likely to be used than others. Some of the other metals commonly used in fabrication processes include bronze, brass, and titanium.
Metal stamping is a method of metal forming which utilizes a press to force sheet metal into a tool or die. Many other metal forming processes like bending, drawing, blanking, and cutting can be incorporated into metal stamping. With a variety of different tools and dies, metal stamping can produce a very diverse range of metal products. The metal stamping process is perfect for quickly and efficiently manufacturing large quantities of products at a low cost, and metal stamped parts are repeatable and can attain precision tolerances.
Perforated metals are created in a metal stamping process in which a pattern of holes is blanked out of sheet metal. Many different kinds of metals can be perforated including steel, aluminum, brass, and titanium, and these metals can serve a variety of purposes. They are commonly used in structural, design, and filtration applications. Lightweight perforated metals like aluminum can be used as decorations, while perforated steel is frequently used for architectural support. There are also many different kinds of perforation patterns like staggered and straight patterns, and the holes come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well.
Although specialty screws and fasteners are a common product manufactured by screw machining, also known as Swiss screw machining, other types of turned parts have crucial applications as precision medical tools, automotive tools, laboratory tools, electronics components, appliance components, military parts and many others. Precision turning and machining processes are often required for the construction of such products.
Sheet metal is metal in the form of thin, broad sheets. Sheet metal itself is seldom a finished product; rather, it used to create many different products in the aerospace, automotive, communication, computer, construction, electronics, food processing and storage, military, and pharmaceutical worlds. The process by which sheet metal is formed into usable parts and products is called sheet metal fabrication. It features a variety of fabrication processes, such as bending, drawing, flanging, punching, shearing, spinning, and stretching. All sheet metal fabrication processes seek to create high quality, long-lasting parts and products, while reducing material and labor costs.
Steel service centers are facilities that process and treat various alloys of raw steel and sell the treated steel to manufacturers, who use them to produce any number of steel goods. Manufacturers that request the services of steel service centers include those in the aerospace, automotive manufacturing, construction, electronics, and shipbuilding industries, among others.
Typically, steel service centers manufacture a variety of premade shapes, such as steel beams, steel strip, steel tubing, and I beams, as well as a myriad of pre-production treatment processes. In fact, approximately 70% of all steel purchased by steel service centers receives some sort of pre-production processing. Servicers perform services like steel galvanization, steel aluminization, hot rolling, and cold rolling.
Tube fabrication, or pipe fabrication, uses a variety of techniques to shape, bend, enlarge and cut tubes of all sizes and metals into parts, components and consumer products. Tubes are used to serve many functions: containment, support, transportation, protection etc. While tube fabricators are not generally involved in forming raw metal materials into tubes, tube fabrication services are an essential part of the process of tube or pipe manufacturing.
Equipment such as swaging machines, mold bending, hydraulic tube benders, and CNC mandrel bending machines are used extensively by trained engineers in the processes of tube cutting, flaring, swaging, and bending. Each of these processes are applied to ensure the fortitude of the tubing and the prevention of material diffusion.
Water jet cutting is a volume reduction process used to create new shapes and machine existing shapes. Hydro cutting offers manufacturers and fabricators an alternative to resource-intensive hot-cutting processes like laser and plasma cutting. Water jet cutters are capable of precisely cutting intricate shapes out of metal and plastics as well as some glass and ceramic materials.
Customers of waterjet cutting services and waterjet cut products include those in the aerospace, automotive, communications, food processing, and industrial equipment manufacturing industries, as well as lumberyard workers and artists. Waterjet cutting services are popular with these customers and others because, unlike conventional cutting processes like blade cutting, they do not create burrs or other imperfections. Also, because waterjet cutting does not use heat, but is rather a cold-cutting process, it does not put products at risk for warping from friction, discoloration, or other related damage.