Sheet metal manufacturing refers to the process of creating machines and structures using sheet metals. Since it involves a large number of people and a wide range of complicated processes, it can often be confusing for beginners. For this reason, you can use this article as a guide on the basics of sheet metal types and fabrication processes.

What Are the Types of Sheet Metals?

Sheet metal comes in many different forms, each with a corresponding unique purpose. Here are some popular metal forms used to make sheet metal:

  • Aluminum: It is a lightweight and soft metal. Since it is ideal for lower temperatures, it is used in aerospace and cooling applications. It’s also recognizable in the kitchen through products such as kitchen utensils, foils, and cans.
  • Brass: This lightweight and corrosion-resistant metal is known for its positive acoustic qualities. It is usually used for parts, fittings, and other applications that encounter low friction.
  • Bronze: Like brass, bronze is corrosion-resistant but has low metal-on-metal friction and a higher melting point. This makes it ideal for nautical and industrial applications, including bushings and bearings.
  • Copper: This metal conducts heat and electricity well. Because it is malleable, ductile, and electrically conductive, it is used in electrical equipment, like motors and wiring.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is a low-density structural metal. It is usually alloyed with aluminum, which produces magnesium-aluminum alloys that are strong and lightweight and can be used in rockets, missiles, and airplanes.

What Are the Sheet Metal Fabrication Processes?

Steel starts out as sheet form that eventually gets rolled down into coils. The sheet metal fabrication process involves the following steps:

  1. Designing: Creating a product design is the first step in sheet metal fabrication. It requires building a pattern indicating all the specifications to help establish a rough configuration of the finished product. 
  2. Blank-Cutting: True to its name, blank-cutting is the process of blank cutting of sheet metal. It uses shearing devices and other advanced cutting methods, like plasma cutting, waterjet cutting, and laser cutting. 
  3. Punching: After cutting the sheet metal to the appropriate scale, it undergoes the punching process. This refers to building holes in different sizes and styles in blank sheet metal. This manufacturing method uses punching devices as well as laser cutting equipment for maximum precision.
  4. Bending: Next, the sheet metal is bent at different angles and positions based on the product criteria requirements. Most of this process is done on a press brake. The bend is formed when the sheet metal is pushed into the vee and the sides of the blank move up.
  5. Assembly: The next step is to assemble all sheet metal parts through welding, riveting, or adhesive bonding. Each piece to be installed is held with clams or fixturing, and then tack welds are used to hold everything together.
  6. Finishing: Finally, the finished product is submitted for finishing once all sheet metal pieces are assembled. This step ranges from cleaning, polishing, printing, galvanizing, to carving, depending on the requirements. It can also involve painting and coating to prevent corrosion and achieve the preferred finished appearance.

Conclusion

Every sheet metal fabrication goes through different stages to cut them into varying shapes and sizes and bind smaller components. Since every manufacturing process is different, there aren’t any shortcuts to creating a high-quality finished product. Whether your line of business is in construction, manufacturing, or welding, the only way to get the metal supply and create the product you need is to partner with a steel company that knows everything about this entire process.

KGS Steel, Inc. is a full-line structural steel distributor that has been serving Bessemer, Alabama and Nashville, Tennessee since 1985. Request a steel quote or check out our brochure to learn more about our steel service centers, products, and capabilities!