Quite simply, sheet metal fabrication comprises a variety of industrial processes that we use to turn a variety of metals into sheets of the desired shape and thickness, which then go on to be used in a huge array of end products.
However, it’s really not as simple or straightforward as it sounds. Sheet metal fabrication requires not only a deep understanding of the properties of different metals and their combinations (sometimes called ‘metallurgy’), but also an amazing degree of technical skill, precision, and experience that only comes with practice.
There are many advantages of using sheet metal. From a design perspective, sheet metal is easily adaptable; using sheet metals allows you a lot of room to achieve functionality, so it’s a great solution for many engineering and design elements. From a production perspective, projects using sheet metal are almost infinitely scalable; once you’ve created a prototype as a baseline, sheet metal fabrication allows us to easily reproduce a design on a huge scale. When you factor in large-scale automation processes, literally thousands of items can be produced from sheet metal in a very short space of time, hence why it’s so popular in such a wide range of industries.
In addition, a wide range of finishes can be employed on large amounts of material using sheet metal. Because the process creates large volumes very rapidly, it’s relatively easy to galvanise, plate, powder coat paint massive amounts of material quickly and easily.
Finally, sheet fabrication processes can be applied to practically any metal you can think of. Most commonly, you’ll encounter stainless steel, aluminium and what is known as ‘cold rolled’ and ‘hot rolled’ mild steel. Each of these metals has different properties that lend themselves to different applications. Stainless steel is a low-carbon metal containing chromium, making it resistant to corrosion and very strong, as well as heat-resistant and aesthetically appealing thanks to its bright, easily maintained surface appearance. Aluminium is lightweight, non-magnetic and very versatile, and can be used in many of the same ways as steel. Cold-rolled mild steel allows us to create very precise shapes at room temperature, and again produces a very appealing finish, whereas hot-rolled mild steel is great for producing massive quantities with a relatively low cost; although it perhaps sounds counterintuitive, heating the metal to a high temperature allows it to be shaped and rolled very quickly, so by fabricating large volumes, the overall costs and energy requirements go down during mass production.