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 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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