Sheet Metal is a vital part of our daily life. Many parts and types of equipment using sheet metal are out there in electronics, aerospace, HVAC and almost all the fields. Sheet metal fabrication is the process of converting sheet metal stock into the final sheet metal product for being used in various applications. This process may vary from case to case depending upon the requirement of the design specifications of the final sheet metal product. But there are some general steps in a typical sheet metal fabrication process. I have explained these steps below.
Sheet Metal Fabrication Process Steps
A typical Sheet Metal Fabrication Process involves the following steps:
The very first step in the process of sheet metal fabrication is to create a design of the final product. In case you are manufacturing the product for someone else, the design or a rough design idea will be provided by your client in most cases. This is the case with most of the companies which are manufacturing sheet metal products as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for their clients. Such companies or industries may not consider the designing process as a part of the fabrication process.
In the process of creating the design of a sheet metal product, We have to create a blueprint at first. That blueprint helps in creating a rough design of the final product. On the basis of that rough design, the final design and drawings (indicating all the specifications) are created to be used for manufacturing the final sheet metal product.
Sheet metals are produced in large coils. These coils are then cut to the desired length so as to create the small length rectangular sheets. Further, the manufacturers of these rectangular sheets supply them to the sheet metal fabrication industries for their use.
Blank-cutting is the process of cutting flat sheet metal blank out of the large sheet. This is the second step in the fabrication process. The size of the blank is as per the requirement of the design of the final product.
Shearing Machines are generally used for cutting sheet metal blanks. Laser cutting, plasma cutting, water jet cutting are some more precise and advanced methods for cutting.
After cutting the sheet metal blank of the required size, the step that comes next in the fabrication process is punching.
Punching operation is used to create holes of various shapes and designs in the sheet metal blank. Punching Machines (having punch and die) are generally used to perform this operation. Laser cutting technology can also be used for optimum precision.
Now the next step is bending. Sheet metal is bent at various places and angles as per the requirement of the design specifications. The bends are made in such a sequence that any of the bends may not make any hurdle in the execution of the next bend. The machine which is generally used to perform this task is called Press Brake.
If all of the components of the final sheet metal product have been created by performing the above-mentioned operations, now the next step comes. The next step is the assembly of all of the sheet metal components. Most of the time, welding is performed to assemble the sheet metal parts. In some cases, some other options like riveting, adhesive bonding are also used for assembly. CO2 welding and spot welding are some of the welding options which are used in the assembly of sheet metal parts.
After assembly of sheet metal parts, the final product is sent for the finishing process. Finishing is performed to provide a required appearance and other physical properties as per the requirements. It may be a simple cleaning. It may also include some other processes like coating, painting, galvanizing, etc. Some special heat treatments may also be performed to provide some special properties needed for the product to survive in a special working environment.
- Quality Control
After performing all of the steps to produce a sheet metal product, the final product is now checked to ensure the optimum quality. All specifications are verified to match exactly to the given design. If any error is observed, the piece is rejected and sent back for correction. The quality of finishing is also verified. If everything is found OK, the piece is cleared for the next step.
Now comes the last step in the sheet metal fabrication process. The final product is packed and shipped to the client or the place of its use.
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