Month: September 2021

Custom Metal Fabrication Techniques: Which Ones Increase Overall Value?

One word can sum up what the difference is between standard metal fabrication and custom fabrication, and that word is value.  While you may associate “costly” with “custom”, that isn’t necessarily always the case when you are looking at the future value of a project.  

Custom fabrication starts with an inspection of the project to determine the correct materials and the method that should be used to manufacture the custom design at the lowest possible cost. The expectation of custom metal fabrication is to produce more high-quality and reliable results that will provide value in the long run.

If you have a project coming up that will require metal fabrication, you’re going to want the best value for your money. So which is better and most cost-effective? We’re going to list the different types of custom metal fabrication techniques and give you an idea of which techniques increase the overall value of your project.

Establishing Design Intent

Having a solid, thorough plan is necessary to reaching the desired result of adding value to your project. A full-service fabricator will be able to take an engineering drawing or a standard industrial plan and create a design that has been detailed to achieve your desired result, no matter the complexity of the fabrication.  

During this part of the process, the fabricator may find it necessary to test and refine plans to ensure that the project design meets all necessary industry regulations and requirements. They will also identify the materials that will be required for the final project.

Every custom fabrication could begin with Pro Nest, MTC Shape Cutting, or AutoCad files. It could even start with a basic hand-drawn plan. Having the right engineering expertise can ensure that your project has met every possible specification that can add value before the actual fabrication begins.

Some custom metal fabrication projects that would be ideal for this process include:

  • Feed tanks, grain tanks, hoppers, and silos that could include the metering of dry solids

  • Liquid food storage that has the capability of quality control

  • Custom wrap-around spiral staircases with crossover platforms that allow for storage unit access at different heights

Metal Cutting & Forming

Before metal cutting begins, the fabricator has to decide which method should be used based on the type of metal and its thickness. For example, laser cutting is a highly effective method if the necessary metals consist of light metal or heavy steel plates that demand precise tolerances.

Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines may be used if the fabrication includes intricate steel metal shapes as they provide remarkable precision. And plasma tables may be used on thick metal plates when it is necessary to carve circular holes or elaborate shapes out of the plate.

Sawing may be the appropriate method if large beams are required to serve as the final backbone for structural steel projects. And the most cost-effective way to cut out simple shapes would be the use of plate shears.

If the metal requires plate and angle rolling, punching, or bending, the fabricator may choose from multiple types of machines. It’s essential to make sure to use the right machinery to achieve the desired result. 

Equipment that may be used to form the metal may include:

  • Mechanical and CNC hydraulic press brakes

  • Plate and rolling machines

  • CNC punching or beam punches

  • Multi-function ironworkers used to bend, punch, and sheer the metal

The success of metal forming depends on the selection of the correct machines to perform the task. It is likely that, by hiring a full-service metal fabricator, they have the necessary equipment in-house, which will save time and money.

Custom Welding And Assembling Techniques

Custom welding and assembly techniques can guarantee that the metal fabrications meet industry-specific standards. A custom fabricator that works with a quality control (QC) program will more likely meet industry requirements which will add value to your project.

Your metal fabricator should test all assemblies and subassemblies together to ensure the final project functions as expected. As part of a structured QC program, the assembly process should also be documented and photographed.

Before deciding to partner with a metal fabricator, you should request documentation showing the certifications of welders. The credentials should include:

  • The compliance to the standards of the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB)

  • Welding Procedure Specifications (WPS) conforming to ASME Section 9 practices that conform to the API-650 standard

  • Qualifications to weld structural steel based on the American Welding Society AWS D1.1.

When shipping fabricated components, they should ship in the most complete form that is possible. For example, large assemblies should ship with larger fabrications so that workers can complete assemblies quickly on-site. Shipping components this way will help to drastically reduce both labor expenses as well as project timelines.

Finishing

Finishing is the final stage in the process. Finishing is extremely important because it extends the life of the custom metal fabrication pieces. It also ensures that the pieces resist chemicals, tarnishing, and corrosion.

Adding to the look and durability of your project using the proper finishing techniques can add a ton of value. Finishing techniques that may be used include:

  • Metal bead blasting or another surface prep that will allow paint or another coating to adhere to the surface of the metal.

  • Custom painting and drying in controlled paint booths, which expedites the time it takes the paint to dry and also ensures that it hardens properly.

  • Hot-dip galvanizing that is used to coat every inch of the custom fabricated piece to prevent moisture which could compromise the structure’s integrity.

  • Metal powder coating provides a decorative finishing.

Finishing techniques such as the ones listed above can reduce the labor costs on the project, but can also increase your return on investment. It can also provide stability and increase the visibility of metal parts. The expected use of the product determines the finish.

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Why is Metal Finishing Important for the Finished Product?

We all know how important first impressions are, and this goes for metal fabrications as well. It’s important that your product is not only functional but that it is visually appealing and free of sharp edges and any defects or deformities. Metal finishing does just that.

Industries such as the computer industry, electric, aerospace, and sporting goods use metal finishing. Metal finishing can increase the lifespan of metal products. Not only does metal finishing protect metal surfaces from corrosion and abrasion, but it also increases the metal’s hardness and eliminates the risk of tarnishing.

If you’re wondering what your options are when it comes to metal finishing, you’re going to want to keep reading. We are going to talk about the importance of metal finishing and what techniques are available to you.

What Is Metal Finishing

Metal finishing is the last step in the fabrication of metal parts. In this process, a coating gets applied to the metal to protect it and give it a specific appearance. Metal finishing also refers to prepping the fabricated parts for coating or just making it look the best it can look.

Metal finishing takes care of tasks such as dressing welds, cleaning up corners, and removing sharp edges. It also smoothes out any imperfections and creates a surface that is ready to be painted.

Appearance is another aspect of metal finishing. It can be brushed for a fashionable look or could be buffed and polished to give a piece a reflective appearance.

Most finishing techniques are done by hand using orbital and belt sanders as well as angle grinders. A metal finisher must be a highly skilled individual because even the slightest mistake during the finishing process could mean having to scrap the job and start over again.

How the Type of the Metal Affects the Finishing Process

The type of metal used in the production of the part is a primary factor when determining which finishing technique to use. For example, you can polish aluminum to a high shine, but it is too pliable to use a grinder. However, stainless polishes well, and since it is a harder metal, you can grind away welds and any other imperfections. It’s important to remember that most metals oxidize quickly, so a protective coating should be applied as soon as possible.

Different Types of Metal Finishing Techniques

The techniques used in metal finishing can vary from highly complex to merely using a buffer. The technique used during the finishing process depends not only on the metal used but also on the intended use of the piece. Let’s learn more about some of the techniques available during the metal finishing process.

#1

Thermal Spraying

Thermal spraying is also known as plasma spray coating. During this process, molten material is applied at a high velocity and cools quickly to form a hard, solid coating. This method provides protection against high temperatures, erosion, corrosion, and wear. And when it is applied correctly, it can change the electrical properties and the appearance of the piece.

#2

Sandblasting

Sandblasting is normally chosen because it removes debris, dirt, and particles that can collect on the surface of the metal during processing. Sandblasting requires no further cleaning, which can save time and money. It is also faster than other methods, which increases efficiency and productivity.

Plastic abrasives, corn cob grit, glass beads, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide are some of the abrasives used during this process. The type of abrasive used will determine the appearance of the finish, which can range from a textured design to a soft satiny finish.

#3

Brushing

The brushing process is performed using an abrasive belt or a fine bristle brush and leaves a non-reflective, dull surface. Brushing removes imperfections from the metal and creates a textured grain leaving a smooth finish. The appearance of the brushed finish varies based on the type of tool used to do the brushing.

#4

Chemical Finishing

Metals can also be washed or dipped in chemicals during the fabrication process. Chemicals used in metal finishing have particular properties configured for specific metals. These chemicals are used during chemical etching to create a matte surface on the metal.

#5

Buffing

Abrasive compounds leave a lustrous finish on metal during buff polishing. The compound gets applied to a buffing wheel, and then the wheel does the finishing. Below you will find different types of buffing used in metal finishing.

  • Cut buffing — Used to get a smooth-lined finish. Cut buffing is a laborious process as it requires extra effort, time, and pressure.
  • Finish buffing — A quicker, easier process that removes fine lines from the metal, creating a bright, polished surface.
  • Buff polishing — Used to smooth surfaces and round out edges.

#6

Metal Grinding

Metal grinding uses attrition, friction, or compression to smooth out a surface. It is used to finish off rough edges, smooth welds, deburr, and create sharp edges. Specific shapes, sizes, and specific features can be made based on the type of grinding method used. Methods of metal grinding include surface, cylindrical, electrochemical, and centerless. If you plan to use grinding in your metal finishing process, it’s important to choose the proper grinding method based on the metal used and the fabricated product.

#7

Metal Plating

During the metal plating process, a metal coating is placed on an object giving it a negative charge when placed in metal salt (with a positive charge). The salt ions are attracted to the negative ions in the material and form a thin metal coating that then adheres to the object. Plating a metal surface has benefits such as making the object more resistant to corrosion, increasing durability, improving surface friction, and giving the object a better appearance. Another advantage of coating the metal is that it protects the surface of the original metal.

#8

Powder Coating

Powder coating is a popular process due to its durability, high quality, efficiency of production, and compliance with environmental regulations. During the powder coating process, a polymer resin, leveling agents, flow modifiers, pigments, and other additives are melted and mixed into a fine powder. The powder is then applied to the metal using an electrostatic spray. After applying the powder, the piece cures in an oven. Powder coating can remove deformities and other defects.

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These are just a few of the different methods that may be used during the metal finishing process. When deciding the metal finishing method to use, you should consider the type of metal used, the cost, and the amount of time it will take to complete fabrication. Taking all of these aspects into consideration will ensure that the final product will meet all of your needs.

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