Among the many products you use on a daily basis, how many of those are metal or have metal parts? Have you ever thought about some of the more intricate parts of the things you use and how those parts are made? If those parts are metal, there are a variety of ways they could be made. Some of the specialty parts are constructed through a process called custom metal fabrication. It’s exactly what it sounds like: making custom pieces of metal. So, how do they form those pieces?
The most common form of custom manufacture is by cutting the metal. Most of the time, a saw is still used to take that raw piece of material and cut it down to the shape needed. Other methods of cutting include laser or plasma cutters, drills and high-powered water jets.
No, they didn’t hire Rocky Balboa. Punching is the process of using a drill to strike the metal through a template or die. The drill must match the shape and size of the template in order for the process to work correctly. The finished product can either be the piece of metal punched out from the larger sheet or the sheet of metal left after the form is punched from its center.
Similar to punching, stamping forms the metal without cutting holes in it. The forms the template makes are raised in the material rather than cut from it.
You’re picturing sheep. You’re not far off the mark. Shearing is cutting a long line through the metal. This is accomplished in one of two ways. Either the material is sent through a machine that cuts a long swath through it or a tool is used to cut a stationary sheet of metal. Sometimes shearing is used as a trimming method.
While machining can be accomplished in one of three ways, it essentially performs the same task: making the final shape appear by removing extra material. Drilling does this by making various-sized circular holes in the metal. A lathe is used to shave off the extra during the process of turning. The most complex form of machining is called milling. This uses multiple blades in a rotating cutting tool to create unique designs or forms in the metal.
Arguably the most complicated method of fabricating metal because of the specialized equipment needed, folding is exactly that: folding a piece of metal into the desired shape and size.
Whichever method they used to form your special metal part, you can be sure that both engineering and skill were a big part of the process.