Perforated aluminum consists of an aluminum sheet which has been manually or mechanically pierced or punched using CNC (computerized numerical control) technology in order to produce shapes and patterns of various sizes...
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This article takes an in depth look at the uses and applications of perforated steel.
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Perforated steel is a metal working process that punches or stamps patterns into sheets of thin flat rolled steel. The original use for perforated steel was for filtering coal using round holes manually punched into flat sheets of steel. Different perforating processes have developed in the years since its introduction, including rotary pin perforation, die punch perforating, and laser perforating. Perforated steel sheets have moved far beyond their original use and are a major part of industrial processes and architectural design.
Perforated steel is used for structural support, diffusing sound, regulating light, stabilizing railings, and filtering. The strength, durability, and resilience of steel make it the ideal material for shaping perforated sheets. It is versatile enough to be easily configured to meet any pattern or design while still retaining its toughness, stability, and strength.
Although perforating steel involves the punching or puncturing of sheets of metal, it requires careful planning and programming to achieve the right pattern and design. Computer numeric controlled (CNC) equipment is commonly used since it can be easily programmed to pass rapidly over a sheet of thin steel, placing holes with precision and accuracy.
Steel is the most common metal used for perforation because of its tensile strength. The gauge of steel, or thickness, changes in accordance with how the perforated sheets will be used. In most cases, decorative steel sheets are not as resilient as structural supports or handrail supports.
Punching is a common method for shaping and forming perforated steel. It includes the use of a punch press that has a specially designed tool and die set. In order to be able to penetrate steel, punch tools are made of tungsten carbide or hardened steel. The pattern is created by placing the steel sheet between the punch tool and the die. Then, the tool moves downward at great force onto the die to create the perfect pattern. It is a very efficient and cost-effective method.
Perforation is the most demanding action performed on a die, since the amount of force applied is anywhere from a few tons to more than 1000 tons. An important factor in the process is the proper alignment of the press, which cannot be corrected by die set. There are two basic steel perforating punch presses: all across or full width and sectional.
All Across Punch Press – All across punch presses quickly and accurately punch up to 1600 holes per stroke. They are used for large runs at high speeds in material that is 60 inches wide and 0.002 to 0.25 inches thick. Punches have diameters from 0.024 to 2 inches. They may punch up to 600 strokes and thousands of holes per minute.
Section Punch Press – Unlike an all across punch press, a section punch press punches section by section and is used for thicker steel up to 25 mm or one inch thick.The steel sheets are moved along the X and Y axis using CNC programming. The construction of sectional punch presses allows for flexibility of design and several perforation options.
Metal stamping uses a complex tool and die set to create finished pieces in one step, which allows for faster turnaround times and less expensive mass production. The creation of perforated steel sheets using metal stamping is also referred to as punching since using force creates holes in steel sheets.
The three types of steel metal stamping perforation processes are mechanical, hydraulic, and mechanical servo.
Hydraulic Metal Stamping – Hydraulic metal stamping uses pressurized hydraulic fluid to apply the stamping force to the workpiece. It allows for a degree of control of the amount of force that will be applied, which makes the force more consistent. As with punch presses, hydraulic metal stamping machines can apply several thousand tons of force.
Mechanical Metal Stamping – The force for mechanical stamping is created by a flywheel that stores and transfers energy to the punch. Mechanical metal tamping operates faster than hydraulic metal stamping machines and are ideal for large production runs.
Mechanical Servo Metal Stamping – Mechanical servo metal stamping machines have replaced the flywheel of mechanical metal stamping with a high-capacity motor that can produce complex and intricate patterns quickly and efficiently. They have CNC programming that controls the speed, position, and motion of each stroke of the machine. Mechanical servo metal stamping machines are technologically advanced and more expensive than any of the other stamping methods.
A laser perforating machine acts like an electronic pen for cutting complex and intricate patterns into steel metal sheets. They are capable of producing any type of pattern. Laser perforating is a non-contact form of metal perforating where the laser burns small holes in steel accurately and consistently, leaving a reinforced ring around each puncture.
The focused laser beam of a laser perforating machine is incredibly precise, and it’s capable of being adjusted and programmed for any type of perforation. Laser cutting is not designed for large runs and is very costly. The term laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Simulating Emission of Radiation, and it is a process that uses electromagnetic radiation.
A turret punching machine is an automatic punching machine that has upper and lower turrets onto which are loaded a wide variety of punches. The two turrets are rotatable such that they can punch holes of the same size and shape in different positions. A turret punching press has a vertically moving ram to which the turrets are attached. The upper turret is vertically and coaxially aligned with the lower turret so that they may create particular shapes.
Plasma is a thermal cutting process that uses an electrical arc to ionize and heat certain gasses to form cutting plasma. The electrical arc is created by a tungsten electrode that uses the steel metal sheet as part of an electrical circuit with the torch using a grounding clamp. The plasma is ionized by the tungsten electrode and becomes superheated.
The speed of plasma removes the metal to form the perforation. The gas used for plasma cutting depends on the type of steel and its thickness. The cutting gas that forms the plasma jet cuts the steel and removes the molten metal and oxide from the cut. Plasma cutting makes high-quality precision cuts quickly and efficiently with a very small kerf.
Water jet cutting for perforating steel uses high pressure water plus an abrasive element such as garnet. The grit sizes are between 50-220 mesh, with 80 mesh being the most common. A typical household water faucet has a water pressure of 60 psi, while water jet cutting has a water pressure of 60,000-90,000 psi, giving it the strength to cut shapes in steel.
The two types of pumps used to create the water pressure are direct drive and intensifier. The difference between the pumps is how they create the water pressure. Direct drive pumps are less expensive and use a crankshaft to move a plunger to create the necessary pressure. Intensifier pumps are more expensive and use a hydraulic ram to create pressure.
Much like a turret punch press, water jet cutters can complete multiple types of cuts in one pass, which significantly lowers the cost and time of cutting especially in regard to complex designs. Water jet cutting can cut through any thickness of steel accurately and efficiently.
Rotary pin perforating uses a cylinder with sharp needles placed along the circumference of the cylinder. As with a printing press or die cutter, steel sheets are fed underneath the rotating roller so the needles cut the desired perforated patterns. It is a continuous process where sheets are automatically fed individually or from a roll. The needles on the cylinder can be heated or cold. Rotary pin perforating using heated pins reinforces the holes of the perforations, which increases the strength of the perforations.
The process of rotary pin perforating quickly and efficiently perforates steel sheets, which cuts down turnaround time. The cylinders rotate at high speeds to rapidly and accurately complete the perforation process.
The perforating process involves driving a tool through steel sheets in rapid succession to create evenly spaced punctures and holes. It can be assumed that the process is simply a matter of properly positioning the steel sheets and forcing the tool or die through.
The full perforating process requires six carefully planned steps, which are: impact, penetration, break, snap through, bottom, and withdrawal. Understanding these six steps is important for the success of the perforating process and includes selecting the correct die, tool steels, and punch clearance.
The point at which a punch makes first contact with a steel sheet is the point of impact where the punch comes to a momentary stop at the backlash of the ram and press as compressive force builds. On contact, the steel sheet bulges out at the point of impact.
The power of the punch rapidly exceeds the strength of the steel sheet and penetrates its surface, cutting into it. At this point, the die clearance bends the slug, which bows out from the force of the punch, creating a vacuum pocket.
The deformed steel sheet is now stretched to the limits of its tensile strength and cracks under the cutting edge of the punch. The result is a break in the created hole and in the diameter of the shape.
The snap through point is when the punch has exceeded the tensile strength of the steel sheet and separates the slug from the hole.
Withdrawal is when the process is completed and the punch is removed from the steel sheet, at which point the next sheet moves into position and the process begins again.
Each of the steps happens quickly and efficiently as the steel moves into the punch position and is penetrated and perforated. Careful engineering and planning are necessary for the completion of each step of the process, such as creating the desired die pattern, programming hole distances, and selecting the proper gauge of steel. All of these factors affect the quality, cost, and delivery of the perforated steel.
The gauge of steel indicates its thickness. As the gauge number increases, the thickness of the steel decreases. Thickness gauges for steel are based on steel with a weight of 41.82 pounds per square foot per inch of thickness. There are few restrictions on the gauges of steel used for the perforating process. The determining factor for the final choice is the function of the perforated steel sheets.
The lightest forms of steel are foils or leaves that are less than 5 mm thick. Sheets of steel that exceed 6 mm are categorized as structural or plate steel, which come in flat sheets or huge rolled coils. The gauge method for defining the thickness of steel is exclusive to the United States and was developed during the industrial revolution in Great Britain. The rest of the world defines thickness using the metric system, with certain countries having their own variations.
The two main grading systems for steel are the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The grading systems for these two organizations concentrate on certain industries, with ASTM grading steel for construction while SAE grades metals for the automotive and aerospace industries.
The name "steel" refers to a group of metals that include carbon steel, steel alloys, and stainless steel, which are all used to produce perforated steel sheets. Carbon steel is defined as having a carbon content of 2% by weight and a limited content of any other metals. Iron and carbon are the basic elements of carbon steel. While stainless steel also has iron and carbon, it varies from carbon steel by having a 10% or more chromium content, which gives it its altered appearance and resistance to rust.
With carbon steel, the higher its carbon content, the harder it will be. Unfortunately, as the hardness of carbon steel increases, so does its brittleness. In essence, this means that high carbon steel is harder than low carbon steel but far more brittle. For most perforating projects using carbon steel, the best balance between hardness, ductility, and malleability is found in mild carbon steel.
There are several varieties of alloyed steels, which can contain manganese, phosphorus, silicon, copper, nickel, and molybdenum. Steels can be galvanized in an effort to protect it against rust and corrosion. When it is perforated, it loses its protection against rust and corrosion and will deteriorate when exposed to the elements.
A36 steel, a low carbon steel, is used as a structural plate. It is used in the production of perforated metals due to how easily it can be worked and shaped. A36 is found in a wide variety of applications since it can be easily machined and rolled.
Stainless steel is ideally suited for making perforated sheets due to its high strength-to-weight ratio and lower material thickness. Aside from its excellent appearance, stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and liquids containing chlorides. The flexibility of stainless steel is due to its many grades, each of which has properties and characteristics to fit a select set of applications.
Alloy grade 11 perforated sheets are made using various combinations of alloys to meet the requirements for hardness and strength. Defined as ASTM A387 steel, alloy grade 11 can be designed with different properties regarding conductivity, stress, strength, and thermal conductivity.
The strength and durability of alloy grade 11 perforated steel sheets make it possible to use in a wide assortment of applications, from construction and decorations to industrial filters. Its high level of chromium provides protection against corrosion and oxidation.
Perforated steel is popular and widely used due to its versatile ability to be adjusted and changed by gauge of thickness and aesthetic appeal. Additionally, perforated steel can be configured and shaped with different hole sizes depending on the application. Various designs can be found as structural support for railings or as filters for chemical and petroleum production. In essence, there is a perforated shape to fit any application.
Round hole perforated steel is one of the most common forms of perforated steel. It comes in several diameters, gauges of thickness, and sheet sizes. The holes are punched using a circular die. The final products are lightweight, economical, and customizable for unique sets of requirements. Round hole perforated steel is used for vents, metal screens, diffusers, dryer drums, and architecture.
Square hole perforated steel is used when more open areas are needed. The holes are punched using a square die, or cut in the shape of squares depending on the process used. Hole sizes can vary from less than an inch up to six inches, and they can be placed in straight lines or staggered. Aside from its appealing aesthetic value, square hole perforated steel is used as a security measure for the protection of property.
The slotted die used to produce slot hole perforated steel can vary in width and length and can have either square or rounded ends. Slot holes can be end staggered, side staggered, lined up straight, or formed with uniquely shaped margins. The holes for slotted perforated steel have long straight sides with semicircular or square ends. The design for slot holes makes them difficult to deform and gives them a long service life. Much like square hole perforated steel, slot hole perforated steel offers greater ventilation and more open area.
Hexagonal hole perforated steel is used in the architectural and decorative industries for its unique properties and beautiful appearance. Regardless of its aesthetic appeal, hexagonal hole perforated steel has a sturdy structure, high tensile strength, and toughness. Compared to slot hole perforated steel and square hole perforated steel, hexagonal perforated steel has more open areas for ventilation and air flow. As with the other types of perforated steels, hexagonal comes in a wide variety of hole sizes using both mild carbon steel and various grades of stainless steel.
Triangle hole perforated steel takes longer to produce than the other forms of perforated steel sheets. It has high tensile strength and load bearing ability, and it’s used for architectural applications and as filtering material. Additionally, triangle hole perforated steel is used as sound absorption, noise reduction, and protective material, and can be found in micro porous muffler plates, decorative ceilings, and speaker grilles.
The diamond pattern for perforated steel is popular due to its toughness, resistance to bending, and ability to endure constant use. A common application for diamond perforated steel is as a filtering method for coal storage and mining. The different styles of diamond perforated steel include small diamonds that limit air flow and large diamonds for easy air flow. Low gauge diamond perforated steel may be used as gratings.
Decorative perforated steel sheets have several different designs. They may use a combination of patterns such as triangles in a square, interlocking circles, circles and squares, or diamond and squares. Aside from the combined patterns, decorative perforated steel may have the fleur-de-lis, clover leaves, or multiple holes with blank spots. The numbers and kinds of designs are endless and are as broad and wide as the minds of designers. Unlike round, square, and hexagonal hole patterns, decorative patterns are mainly used for architectural accents and visual aesthetics.
The designs and patterns described above are some of the more common types of steel perforations. Every year, new and innovative designs are perfected and introduced that offer the qualities of perforated steel but in different forms, patterns, shapes, and configurations. The usefulness and adaptability of perforated steel has inspired engineers to develop and create a wide array of designs for this flexible product.
Perforated steel has been used for years as a decorative and safety material by architects as support for stairways and railings as well as protection and heat control for openings and windows. It is used in offices as dividers, screens, and decorations to separate workspaces and provide highlights.
A very common use for perforated steel is as a method for controlling light and shade. It can be used like a wire screen as a barrier or as a method for redirecting light and softening harsh direct light. In addition, the use of perforated metals can assist in lowering the cost of air conditioning and heating.
Depending on the style of perforated steel sheets, they can enhance air flow and provide constant cooler air, or restrict air flow in order to trap heat.
The original use of all perforated materials has been as an added touch to enhance the appearance of a space and create a sense of comfort and peacefulness. This particular use goes back thousands of years to ancient times before the use of perforated metals. In the middle ages, soft metals were perforated by hand as parts of armor and protection during battles.
Since the first industrial revolution, perforated steel has slowly developed beyond its use as a decorative material and advanced into the realm of structural material and methods for filtration. It still maintains its place as a decorative highlight but with a more practical use as structural support.
Outdoor and patio furniture is commonly made of perforated steel since it does not retain water and can easily have any moisture wiped away. When it is used as outdoor furniture, it is normally powder- or paint-coated and used as tabletops and chair seats and backs.
The two categories of perforated steel baskets include decorative baskets used as aesthetic centerpieces and industrial baskets for parts and equipment transport. Decorative baskets are made of lightweight steel and can be coated or painted depending on how they are displayed. They are ideal for indoor or outdoor use and can contain plants, designs, works of art, or ornamental items. The strength of steel makes decorative baskets durable and long-lasting.
Industrial perforated baskets are made of mild steel and designed to withstand the rigors of manufacturing processes. They have round, hexagonal, diamond, or square holes with perforated sides and bottoms. Depending on their use, they may be equipped with a handle such that they can be placed on overhead conveyors.
Perforated steel diffusers are used for building air flow control or as light diffusers. They are part of ceiling and roofing panels with hole configurations to diffuse or allow the passage of light or air. Depending on where they are used, they can be decorative or practical control methods.
One of the most important uses for perforated steel sheets is as protective guards and shields for heavy duty machinery. They prevent operators from entering restricted portions of machines and keep chips, access metals, and other materials from being thrown into a work area. The strength and resilience of steel makes perforated machine guards a highly effective and useful tool.
Since perforated steel is pliable, ductile, and machinable, it can be adapted, changed, and configured to fit the needs of any set of requirements. This aspect of perforated steel is one of the main reasons for its use. Regardless of the conditions or environment, perforated steel can be adjusted to fit any set of circumstances, from high heat and extreme weather to solvent and toxic situations.
The margin on perforated steel refers to the distance from the edge of a perforated sheet to the perforation, which is parallel to the edge of the sheet. There are several patterns for perforated steel margins that are determined by the type of perforation and its design or shape. When designing perforated steel sheets, margins are carefully considered since they can lead to buckling, distortions, and deformations. Margins are determined by the die layout and the thickness of the steel.
Intermediate margins are located inside the perforated sheet. They are areas or sections that are unperforated to create a particular design or pattern.
Selective area margins are a design consideration where there are unpenetrated portions of the perforated sheet. These portions or sections may be placed for accent purposes, design enhancements, or aesthetic reasons and are seen in structural and decorative perforated steel. Selective area margins can take any shape, design, form, or size and do not follow a set pattern. In many ways, they are a form of artistic liberty and creativity.
When a steel perforation continues up to the edge of the material but does not penetrate or go over the edge, it is referred to as a safe side margin.
The no margin design is normally used when sheets of perforated steel are going to be fitted together to give the impression of a single long piece. In the manufacture of no margin perforated sheets, the perforation holes go over the edge of the material without a solid edge.
The three forms of end patterns are unfinished, finished, and symmetrical, with finished end patterns being difficult to process and expensive. Of the three end patterns, unfinished is the most common and workable.
Finished End Pattern – With finished end patterns, the end of the sheet is uniform and complete matching the arrangement of the other perforations. The end perforation is solid and completes the pattern.
Unfinished End Pattern – The end pattern for unfinished steel perforations appears to be rough, incomplete, and not solid. The perforations are not arranged according to the rest of the perforated sheet.
Symmetrical End Pattern – With symmetrical end patterns, the pattern at both ends of the sheet are the same with the same starting and ending rows.
The last part of the perforated steel process is the selection of various options that will enhance the use of the perforated material and include countersunk holes, mounting holes, notching, corner design, and corrugation, which is used to increase the strength of corrugated perforated steel.
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