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Metal fabrication is the creation of metal structures by cutting, bending and assembling processes. It is a value-addedprocess involving the creation of machines, parts, and structures from various raw materials.
Typically, a fabrication shop bids on a job, usually based on engineering drawings, and if awarded the contract, builds the product. Large fab shops employ a multitude of value-added processes, including welding, cutting, forming and machining.
As with other manufacturing processes, both human labor and automation are commonly used. A fabricated product may be called a fabrication, and shops specializing in this type of work are called fab shops. The end products of other common types of metalworking, such as machining, metal stamping, forging, and casting, may be similar in shape and function, but those processes are not classified as fabrication.
Fabrication comprises or overlaps with various metalworking specialties:
Standard metal fabrication materials are:
A variety of tools are used to cut raw material. The most common cutting method is shearing.
Special band saws for cutting metal have hardened blades and feed mechanisms for even cutting. Abrasive cut-off saws, also known as chop saws, are similar to miter saws but have a steel-cutting abrasive disks. Cutting torches can cut large sections of steel with little effort.
Burn tables are CNC (computer-operated) cutting torches, usually powered by natural gas. Plasma and laser cutting tables, and water jet cutters, are also common. Plate steel is loaded on the table and the parts are cut out as programmed. The support table consists of a grid of bars that can be replaced when worn. Higher-end burn tables may include CNC punch capability using a carousel of punches and taps. In fabrication of structural steel by plasma and laser cutting, robots move the cutting head in three dimensions around the cut material.
Forming converts flat sheet metal into 3-D partsby applying force without adding or removing material. The force must be great enough to change the metal's initial shape. Forming can be controlled with tools such as punches and dies. Machinery can regulate force magnitude and direction. Machine-based forming can combine forming and welding to produce lengths of fabricated sheeting (e.g. linear grating for water drainage).
Proper design and use of tools with machinery creates a repeatable form that can be used to create products for many industries, including jewelry, aerospace, automotive, construction, civil and architectural.
Machining is a specialized trade of removing material from a block of metal to make it a desired shape. Fab shops generally have some machining capability, using metal lathes, mills, drills, and other portable machining tools. Most solid components, such as gears, bolts, screws and nuts, are machined.
Welding is the main focus of steel fabrication. Formed and machined parts are assembled and tack-welded in place, then rechecked for accuracy. If multiple weldments have been ordered, a fixture may be used to locate parts for welding. A welder then finishes the work according to engineering drawings (for detailed welding) or by their own experience and judgement (if no details are provided).
Special measures may be needed to prevent or correct warping of weldments due to heat. These may include redesigning the piece to require less welding, employing staggered welding, using a stout fixture, covering the weldment in sand as it cools, and post-weld straightening.
Straightening of warped steel weldments is done with an oxyacetylene torch. In this highly specialized work, heat is selectively applied to the steel in a slow, linear sweep, causing the steel to contract in the direction of the sweep as it cools. A highly skilled welder can remove significant warpage this way.
Steel weldments are occasionally annealed in a low-temperature oven to relieve residual stresses. Such weldments, particularly those for engine blocks, may be line-bored after heat treatment.
After the weldment has cooled, seams are usually ground clean, and the assembly can be sandblasted, primed and painted. Any additional manufacturing is then performed, and the finished product is inspected and shipped.
Many fabrication shops offer specialty processes, including :
Metalworking is the process of shaping and reshaping metals to create useful objects, parts, assemblies, and large scale structures. As a term it covers a wide and diverse range of processes, skills, and tools for producing objects on every scale: from huge ships, buildings, and bridges down to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry.
A machinist is a tradesperson or trained professional who not only operates machine tools but also has the knowledge of tooling and materials required to create set ups on machine tools such as milling machines, grinders, lathes, and drilling machines.
Machining is a process in which a material is cut to a desired final shape and size by a controlled material-removal process. The processes that have this common theme are collectively called subtractive manufacturing, in contrast to additive manufacturing, which uses controlled addition of material. Exactly what the "controlled" part of the definition implies can vary, but it usually implies the use of machine tools.
Numerical control is the automated control of machining tools by means of a computer. A CNC machine processes a piece of material to meet specifications by following a coded programmed instruction and without a manual operator directly controlling the machining operation.
Since the mid-20th century, electron-beam technology has provided the basis for a variety of novel and specialized applications in semiconductor manufacturing, microelectromechanical systems, nanoelectromechanical systems, and microscopy.
A bandsaw is a power saw with a long, sharp blade consisting of a continuous band of toothed metal stretched between two or more wheels to cut material. They are used principally in woodworking, metalworking, and lumbering, but may cut a variety of materials. Advantages include uniform cutting action as a result of an evenly distributed tooth load, and the ability to cut irregular or curved shapes like a jigsaw. The minimum radius of a curve is determined by the width of the band and its kerf. Most bandsaws have two wheels rotating in the same plane, one of which is powered, although some may have three or four to distribute the load. The blade itself can come in a variety of sizes and tooth pitches, which enables the machine to be highly versatile and able to cut a wide variety of materials including wood, metal and plastic.
Plasma cutting is a process that cuts through electrically conductive materials by means of an accelerated jet of hot plasma. Typical materials cut with a plasma torch include steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper, although other conductive metals may be cut as well. Plasma cutting is often used in fabrication shops, automotive repair and restoration, industrial construction, and salvage and scrapping operations. Due to the high speed and precision cuts combined with low cost, plasma cutting sees widespread use from large-scale industrial CNC applications down to small hobbyist shops.
Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, is an arc welding process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area and electrode are protected from oxidation or other atmospheric contamination by an inert shielding gas. A filler metal is normally used, though some welds, known as autogenous welds, or fusion welds do not require it. When helium is used, this is known as heliarc welding. A constant-current welding power supply produces electrical energy, which is conducted across the arc through a column of highly ionized gas and metal vapors known as a plasma. GTAW is most commonly used to weld thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. The process grants the operator greater control over the weld than competing processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding, allowing for stronger, higher quality welds. However, GTAW is comparatively more complex and difficult to master, and furthermore, it is significantly slower than most other welding techniques. A related process, plasma arc welding, uses a slightly different welding torch to create a more focused welding arc and as a result is often automated.
Sheet metal is metal formed by an industrial process into thin, flat pieces. Sheet metal is one of the fundamental forms used in metalworking, and it can be cut and bent into a variety of shapes. Countless everyday objects are fabricated from sheet metal. Thicknesses can vary significantly; extremely thin sheets are considered foil or leaf, and pieces thicker than 6 mm (0.25 in) are considered plate steel or "structural steel".
Knife making is the process of manufacturing a knife by any one or a combination of processes: stock removal, forging to shape, welded lamination or investment cast. Typical metals used come from the carbon steel, tool, or stainless steel families. Primitive knives have been made from bronze, copper, brass, iron, obsidian, and flint.
A machine shop is a room, building, or company where machining, a form of subtractive manufacturing, is done. In a machine shop, machinists use machine tools and cutting tools to make parts, usually of metal or plastic. A machine shop can be a small business or a portion of a factory, whether a toolroom or a production area for manufacturing. The building construction and the layout of the place and equipment vary, and are specific to the shop; for instance, the flooring in one shop may be concrete, or even compacted dirt, and another shop may have asphalt floors. A shop may be air-conditioned or not; but in other shops it may be necessary to maintain a controlled climate. Each shop has its own tools and machinery which differ from other shops in quantity, capability and focus of expertise.
Tool and die makers are a class of machinists in the manufacturing industries. Variations on the name include tool maker,toolmaker, die maker,diemaker, mold maker,moldmaker or tool jig and die-maker, or fitter, depending on which area of concentration or industry an individual works in.
A model maker is a professional craftsperson who creates a three-dimensional representation of a design or concept. Most products in use and in development today first take form as a model. This "model" may be an exacting duplicate (prototype) of the future design or a simple mock-up of the general shape or concept. Many prototype models are used for testing physical properties of the design, others for usability and marketing studies.
Oxy-fuel welding and oxy-fuel cutting are processes that use fuel gases and oxygen to weld or cut metals. French engineers Edmond Fouché and Charles Picard became the first to develop oxygen-acetylene welding in 1903. Pure oxygen, instead of air, is used to increase the flame temperature to allow localized melting of the workpiece material in a room environment. A common propane/air flame burns at about 2,250 K, a propane/oxygen flame burns at about 2,526 K, an oxyhydrogen flame burns at 3,073 K and an acetylene/oxygen flame burns at about 3,773 K.
Digital modeling and fabrication is a design and production process that combines 3D modeling or computing-aided design (CAD) with additive and subtractive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is also known as 3D printing, while subtractive manufacturing may also be referred to as machining, and many other technologies can be exploited to physically produce the designed objects.
Notching is a metal-cutting process used on sheet-metal or thin bar-stock, sometimes on angle sections or tube. A shearing or punching process is used in a press, so as to cut vertically down and perpendicular to the surface, working from the edge of a work-piece. Sometimes the goal is merely the notch itself, but usually this is a precursor to some other process: such as bending a corner in sheet or joining two tubes at a tee joint, notching one to fit closely to the other.
A computer numerical control (CNC) router is a computer-controlled cutting machine which typically mounts a hand-held router as a spindle which is used for cutting various materials, such as wood, composites, aluminium, steel, plastics, glass, and foams. CNC routers can perform the tasks of many carpentry shop machines such as the panel saw, the spindle moulder, and the boring machine. They can also cut joinery such as mortises and tenons.
Guitar manufacturing is the use of machines, tools, and labor in the production of electric and acoustic guitars. This phrase may be in reference to handcrafting guitars using traditional methods or assembly line production in large quantities using modern methods. Guitar manufacturing can also be broken into several categories such as body manufacturing and neck manufacturing, among others. Guitar manufacturing includes the production of alto, classical, tenor, and bass tuned guitars.
Thermacut, Inc is an international corporation which designs, manufactures, and sells replacement torches, guns, consumables, and accessories for the metal cutting and welding industries. The company’s headquarters are located in Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic. The company operates sales warehouses in the United States, Germany, and the Czech Republic along with sales offices located in Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Mexico Great Britain, Russia, China, France, and Brazil.