Metallic material is gaining the attention of manufacturers from various machinery industries worldwide. Manufacturers use metals to manufacture a variety of components and products. Different types of metals are used to manufacture varying components through metal fabrication.
The metal fabrication process is bringing major revolutions by manufacturing products ranging from metallic household products to industrial machinery products.
If you need more knowledge about this exceptional manufacturing process, hold on to this guide. Here is detailed information about the metal fabrication process, main types of metals, metal manufacturing processes, and the surface finishing options advised for the manufactured metallic parts.
What is the Metal Fabrication Process?
Metal fabrication is a process that includes the manufacturing of a specific product using different types of metals. During the process, various specialized techniques are used to manufacture metallic components.
The whole process is done through trained and experienced fabricators. These fabricators work in fabricator shops to manufacture metal products by fabricating metallic raw materials.
They cut, fold, stamp, and bend the raw material according to requirements to form simple to intricate metallic products.
These metallic components are fabricated using different tools or specific machines programmed by computer software. These metallic components vary in size, shape, dimensions, and other features.
Their greater demand is due to their greater strength, durability, versatility, longevity, and other exceptional mechanical properties. They don’t degrade easily and ensure long-term functioning.
You can undoubtedly adopt this fabricated process to manufacture metallic parts for your projects.
Types of Metal Materials:
Metal themselves are classified into two main categories, which are as.
- Soft metals
- Hard metals
As the name suggests, both types of metals vary in their strengths. Hard metals have a greater hardness than soft ones. Let us discuss the brief description of both categories of metals.
Soft metals are those types of metals having less hardness. They are soft, so they can easily undergo fabrication to manufacture various versatile products.
The particles in these metals are not firmly packed as in hard metals, which makes them less firm and malleable. Here are the main properties of soft metals.
- Less hardness & Durability
- Low ductility &strength
- Can easily break, mold, cut, and shape
- Low density
Let us discuss some commonly used soft metals.
Aluminum is a soft metal widely used as raw material in the metal fabrication process to manufacture components like outdoor enclosures, decorative panels, etc. It is perfectly suitable for this process because it’s lightweight. It allows the fabricators to easily undergo its fabrication.
You can cut, stamp, or fold it easily to give it a desired shape or form. Instead of its lightweight, it possesses higher strength, making it a durable metal and allowing easy fabrication handling.
One of its distinguished features is that the leftover aluminum can be recycled once a product is formed, reducing waste. In addition, you can apply a wide range of surface finishing options on fabricated aluminum products.
Copper, reddish-brown metal exhibiting high malleability, is considered a good choice for metal fabrication. It shows excellent electrical and heat conduction, making it perfect for manufacturing various electrical and thermal appliances.
Moreover, it shows high flexibility and elasticity and offers admirable resistance to corrosion.
Titanium is a lightweight, highly malleable soft metal used in metal fabrication. It shows greater resistance against tarnishing and corrosion, making it a good choice for manufacturing corrosion-resistant metallic components.
It is weldable, so you use it to manufacture products that require weldability. After fabrication, you can polish the titanium fabricated product to enhance its aesthetic appearance.
Hard metals have greater hardness because of their tightly packed particles. They are dense metals offering low malleability, flexibility, and ductility.
They have higher strength making them perfect for manufacturing load-bearing products. Its common features are as follows.
- Greater hardness & durability
- Higher ductility & strength
- Do not undergo breakdown easily
- High density.
Here are some hard metals used in metal fabrication.
Steel is a hard metal possessing excellent workability and hardenability, making it a perfect option in metal fabrication.
You can manufacture strong products by fabricating this versatile metal. In addition, it offers greater resistance against corrosion and wear, making it a higher durable metal.
It is a silvery-white hard metal with less flexibility and higher density. It shows greater brittleness, high tensile strength, and melting point, making it suitable for manufacturing various useful products requiring greater strength. It has high melting points.
How Can You Fabricate Metal Parts
A computer-numerical controlled technique used widely for metal fabrications. It uses specialized CNC tools such as a mill and lathe to create metallic components.
Initially, the process begins with creation of a 3D design of the desired metallic part by experienced software engineers. It is done through specialized CAD software.
This process is followed by converting the CAD file design into CNC programs using CAM software. After that, specific CNC machines are set up for fabricating metallic parts.
The metal acts as a workpiece, and CNC machines and tools fabricate it according to information provided by computer programs. The resultant products exhibit greater accuracy, precision, tolerance, and durability instead of greater complexity.
Metals are widely fabricated on an industrial scale through an extrusion process. The metals attain the desired shape after passing through a die. The process starts with creating a metallic part of the required size, called a billet. This billet is then may or may not be preheated according to requirement.
If preheated, then heat treatment is done using hot extrusions. Otherwise, cold metal or billet is used.
In this next step, you must put this billet in an extrusion press to make it ready to pass through a die. One end of the extrusion press is connected to the die, while the other possesses plungers, which push the metal from the press to the die.
Apply force on the plunger so the billet passes to the die and attains a specific desired shape. Once it gets the required shape, remove it from the extrusion process. This process can produce a wide range of desirable fabricated metallic components.
Pressing is another name referred to for the stamping process. In this process, the metallic workpiece is given a specific desired shape through a machine recognized as a stamping press.
It uses flat sheets of metals that may vary in terms of their shapes and forms, i.e., they can be coiled or blanked. The stamping press possesses dies and tools that convert metals into desirable shapes and forms.
In this first step, you must design the specific tooling to ensure precision and accuracy in your final parts. It is designed through highly advanced CAD or CAM technology. After designing the tooling, pass the metal into the stamping press.
Here, the metallic parts are pressed between the die and are transformed into desired shapes. This process uses various techniques to create different types of metallic parts with varying shapes and features.
The most popular metal stamping techniques include forming, blanking, embossing, punching, piercing, etc.
Forging is a technique of shaping metals and a crucial step in metal manufacturing. It is performed by applying forces with a hammer or other forging tools to achieve the desired parts with specific shapes, sizes, and unique properties.
You choose a material by checking its flexibility, stability, and heat resistance. After material selection, we apply heating to make the material easier to machine and malleable.
Forging provides several advantages for structural integrity, mechanical properties, and strength. You manufacture intricate parts of high quality, which cannot be possible by using other fabrication methods.
Some forging types are closed-die forging, impression-die forging, and open-die forging.
Casting is the most common and cost-effective technique used for metal fabrication. In this process, you can manufacture a desired metal part by putting molten metal into the mold cavity.
This mold is created utilizing various machining processes to ensure that it exactly matches the final mold. You can use different materials, such as plastics and metals, to create it. The creation of the final mold follows it.
After that, take molten metal such as zinc and steel and put it into the mold cavity, and allow it to cool down. Eject it from the mold once it is cooled and attains the desired shape.
After ejection, you can do different surface finishing treatments in ejected parts to give them definite luster.
Metal Injection Molding:
Metal injection molding is used to manufacture complex and intricate metallic components. The first step is to prepare a feedstock by mixing powdered metal and thermoplastic binders.
The binder acts as an additional product and should be removed once injection molding is done. After its preparation, the molten feedstock is injected into the mold to cool down. After cooling, a complex mixture of metal and binder is produced.
In the next step, the depending of the binder and metal is done using specialized water or chemical bath, resulting in their separation. Some particles of binders are still left in part even after debonding, which are then removed through thermal debonding.
During thermal debonding, the parts are placed in a low-temperature oven to evaporate the remaining binder particles. After complete removal, the space between particles of metals increases, reducing the part’s density.
Thus, the parts are kept in a high-temperature furnace to bring the particles closer. It ultimately enhances the density of the metal part. Consequently, a complex fabricated metal part is produced.
Metal 3D Printing:
It is an ideal process for producing low-volume metal parts exhibiting complex geometries.
It is also known as the metal additive manufacturing method. You use this process to build metal layers. We use a 3D printer to create a digital 3D model to make desired metal parts using CAD software.
You must choose the material by considering the final product properties to get what you like. Binder jetting, SLM, and EBM are the most used metal 3D printing technologies. Annealing and stress relief processes can improve the mechanical properties of metal parts and remove residual stress.
Metal 3D printing has its benefits and is mostly used for manufacturing intricate geometries with less material wastage to reduce the project’s overall price. You can achieve metal parts’ final dimensional shape and accuracy by applying post-processing stages such as surface finishing and polishing.
Metal 3D printing is a good choice for fabricating intricate parts with short lead time and less scrap and offers much more possibilities in the metal manufacturing sectors.
Surface Finishing Options for Metal Parts
You can undergo metal fabricated parts through any followings surface finishing treatments.
In this method, you apply a dry powder on the surface of the metal to make a more durable and protective layer of parts. It provides a wide range of textures, finishes, and colors, and you get high abrasion resistance, UV damage, and chemicals.
It is a surface finishing treatment in which a tough metallic surface is converted into a smooth one by fusing dry powder with its surface. The fusing is done through electric charges that allow the powder to combine strictly with the metal surface.
After fusing, the part is placed in a curing oven. Here it is allowed to be baked, and metallic parts with smooth finishing are produced.
Heat treating is the process of heating and cooling metals to change their physical and chemical properties. It is ideal for providing greater toughness and higher quality parts and plays a key role in different fabrication stages.
Polishing is refining a metal surface and using an abrasive material to get a shiny and smooth finish. After polishing and removing any roughness and scratches from the parts’ surface, you get a reflective and smooth look of parts, and you can choose it by considering your desired finish level.
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