The need for metal fabrication services stretches across all sectors of industry and commerce. Consumer markets are also saturated with fabricated metal products. The most basic hand tools and the most complicated electronics feature fabricated metal products. A given office building makes use of fabricated metal furniture, shelving, HVAC components like ductwork and grating, desktop paper trays and a host of other products. Industrial operations require stamped metal racks for product storage, bent metal hoods for fluorescent lighting and welded stairwell railings. Domestic utilities like kitchenware, scissors, animal cages, bed frames and appliances can all be products of metal fabrication processes. Primary metal forming processes like extrusion and casting create the metal materials from which metal fabrications are produced. Without fabrication, many of these unprocessed metal parts would not be useful. Extruded aluminum vehicle trim, for example, would have no use if it was not bent into the correct shape and fastened to a vehicle door. A cast engine block would also be useless unless fitted with fabricated parts and attached to a vehicle. Because unprocessed metals are used to create so many different things, many fabrication methods are necessary to process them.
Welding is one of the most important metal fabrication methods. It is used to join metal pieces in so many contexts that welding methods have been developed for applications in outer space and under water. Welding services are essential to the continued maintenance of industrial facilities like power plants, the manufacturing of vehicles, the fabrication of furniture and many other operations and processes. Roll forming, another fabrication method, is a continuous, high volume bending process. Roll formers can take textured, extruded, finished and other kinds of metals and bend them into useful products like channels and trim. Roll forming is particularly important to operations that produce metal sheets and paneling. Another very prominent method of metal bending is press braking, which produces bent metal on a much lower scale than roll forming. Press brakes involve a flat working surface with a specially formed indentation in the shape of the bend to be imparted into the metal. Above the working surface is suspended a pressing tool with an edge that fits perfectly into the indentation in the working surface. A sheet of metal is then placed in between the surface and the pressing tool; when a technician presses the tool into the metal, it forces the metal into the indentation in the working surface.
Since their development in antiquity, some of the most basic metalworking practices have endured and are still in use. Bending, stamping and engraving are, in principle, the same processes they have always been, though the processes have become more effective and efficient as time has passed. As for the future of metalworking, the development of lasers and other advanced machinery that can cut metals without even touching them has made possible levels of precision fabrication that professionals even 20 years ago may never have dreamed. Computer-assisted manufacturing equipment (many varieties of which are known as Computer Numeric Equipment) can fabricate products with virtually no mistakes. Complex designs can be created easily with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and created by computer-assisted equipment with tremendous ease. Despite the surge of developments in metal fabrication technology, some metalworkers temper their enthusiasm for the future of metalworking. As advanced metalworking methods are developed, the possibility that older methods as well as workers will be displaced seems very real; automated production lines can make entire shifts of workers unnecessary. The only certainty about the future of metalworking is that no one can predict its course.
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A steel to which one or more alloying elements-with the exception
of carbon and the commonly accepted amounts of manganese, silicon sulfur
and phosphorus-have been added to attain specific physical properties.
Common alloys include chromium, nickel, molybdenum, etc.
- A nonferrous metal that is commonly used in the creation of light, strong and corrosion-resistant alloys. Aluminum is an element that is primarily found in bauxite.
- A process that involves the heating and cooling of a cold-rolled substrate, making it softer and easier to form.
- The changing of the shape of sheet metal by utilizing pairs of forming rollers in succession. Bending changes the thickness of the metal only at the bend radius, at which point a slight thinning occurs.
- A high-heat, metal-linking method that uses a filler material to make a bond between two metals. The filler is melted to a temperature just below the melting points of the materials being joined.
- A solution of chemicals often applied to various metals in order to inhibit corrosion.
- A manufacturing process that automatically shapes or forms metals or other materials into highly precise parts. CNC machines utilize specialized software in conjunction with CAD/CAM software systems to instruct the tooling to execute the exact movements necessary to create the part.
- A flat-rolled metal sheet whose final thickness was achieved by rolling it at room temperature.
- A chemical film that is applied to a metal prior to the painting process.
- The deterioration of a metal due to a chemical reaction or oxidation. Rust is a common form of corrosion.
- A process in which a metal is penetrated or opened using a sharp edge. Metal sheets are almost always cut from a larger source prior to fabrication.
- The application of a powerful die to a metal blank. Pressure from the stamping device is often applied by a mechanical or hydraulic press.
- The ability of a metal to endure change without fracturing. Hardness and the tensile strength of the metal often determine its ductility.
- A term that encompasses many processes, which are used to shape or mold a metal piece into a desired configuration.
- A metal sheet processed to its absolute thickness by rolling on a specialized hot-rolling machine.
- Eliminating distortions of a rolled sheet by flattening the material.
- The process of applying a powder consisting of solids to a material surface and then heating the powder above its melting point to create a uniform film.
- A process in which sheet metal is continually deformed by passing it through a series of rolls.
- A wide variety of corrosion-resistant steel that contains at least 10% chromium and to which varying amounts of other elements, such as nickel, molybdenum, titanium and niobium, have been added.
- Also referred to as "ultimate strength," it is the maximum amount of stress a material can endure.