Fabrication processes can be done with almost any metal, but steel remains one of the most popular because of its versatility, durability and overall cost efficiency. Steel fabrication processes include bending, cutting and assembling the metal into structures such as house frames, hand rails, stairs, construction equipment, auto parts and much more. These processes are typically done in a fabrication shop and are completed using the aid of engineering drawings. Large shops can employ more than one process, such as welding and machining, while smaller shops may only concentrate on one process such as cutting. The most common steel fabrication processes include the following:
The raw material, in this case steel, must be cut to size. This can be done using a variety of tools, including torching and sawing. The type of tool used will largely depend on the size of the raw materials you're working with. For example, large sections of steel can be cut via a torch with little effort. Water jet cutters are also commonly used to cut steel. A newer method of cutting structural steel uses plasma and laser; robots move the cutting head in three dimensions around the raw material to be cut.
Forming and bending is the process of material deformation and is typically applied to metals, including steel. The raw material is formed by applying force to an object. The force must be great enough that the original shape is changed to form the desired new shape. The forming and bending process can be controlled with tools such as dies or punches. Modern fabrication shops commonly use press brakes to air-bend or coin the metal sheets into form. Programming software allows for seamless and efficient press brakes, making the formation and bending process easier.
Once the steel has been cut and formed to shape, it needs to cool. The cooling time will vary depending on the size and object it was formed into. Once it has cooled, it is sand blasted, primed and then painted. Additional manufacturing instructions are then completed if needed. The finished product is given a final inspection, and upon passing, it is shipped to the customer.
Assembling is done by a variety of methods, including welding, riveting, binding with adhesives, or further bending via a crimped seam.
Steel fabrication processes have come a long way with the introduction of technology and software. There is no doubt, however, that skill, patience and tenacity are needed when working with raw materials with the intent of crafting something valuable, such as equipment or hand rails for buildings.