The ubiquity of fabricated metal products attests to the vital role sheet metal fabricators play in today’s world. They participate in mass production as well as the fabrication of custom metal parts for individual businesses. This article provides a brief and detailed look into the work of the sheet metal fabricator.
What Is the Difference Between Metal Fabrication and Sheet Metal Manufacturing?
Metal fabrication refers to the construction of metal products or structures typically used in the construction, transport and mining industries. The process involves bending, cutting, welding and finishing metal parts. The material used is what differentiates metal fabrication and sheet metal manufacturing.
Metal fabrication generally starts with the processing of basic raw materials, such as copper, aluminum and stainless steel. These materials are typically thick and large. Metal fabricators may create metal structures and products like metal frameworks, machinery shells and metal parts. They may also create finished products made of metal.
On the other hand, precision sheet metal manufacturing refers to the process in which sheet metal manufacturers create high-quality metal products out of flat metal sheets through punching, cutting, welding, folding, bending and assembly. The process involves laser cutting flat metal sheets, punching shapes into them and folding them to transform them into thin metal products. The finished products of sheet metal manufacturing including
- Exercise equipment
- Off-road vehicle parts
- Stairwell railing
A wide variety of multipurpose machines are available to perform several processes within a unified setup.
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What Are the Steps Involved in Metal and Sheet Metal Fabrication?
Metal fabrication involves several processes, most notably:
- Drawing the final products to visualize them before they start machining the metal
- Cutting, sawing, shearing, laser cutting, milling, etc.
- Bending the metal into the desired shape
- Assembling metal parts by welding, riveting, fastening, etc.
These processes involve the use of hand-held or automated tools and equipment, such as
- Metal cutting saws
- Sheet metal rolling equipment
- Deburring and bevelling tools
- Throat-less shear
- Angle grinder
- Drill bits
- Wire cutters
What Skills Do You Need To Be a Metal Fabricator?
You need mechanical and math skills to be a metal fabricator. These include
- Physical strength
- Attention to detail
- Operating specialty tools and equipment/machinery
- Taking precise measurements
- Hand-eye coordination
- Situational awareness in the workplace
These skills enable you to do your job competently and safely.
What Are the Duties of a Sheet Metal Worker?
A sheet metal worker handles sheet metal products used in the construction industry. They may be self-employed or work for a construction contractor or subcontractor. Their duties include:
- Fabricating, assembling, installing or repairing metal products for construction purposes, such as roofing or HVAC
- Measuring, marking and laying out sheet metal
- Operating equipment such as CNC machines for milling machines, routers and lathes
- Welding sheet metal
- Polishing rough surfaces, joints and seams
- Interpreting work specifications and sketches
A sheet metal worker’s duties depend on their specialties, such as design for manufacturing or on-site installation and repair.
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What Does a Metal Fabricator Do?
A metal fabricator assembles metal products. This can be anything from the shells or frameworks for equipment/machinery to metal parts for structures like bridges or buildings. Highly skilled metal fabricators are craftsmen who prepare, shape, cut and weld metal. They work with various tools and equipment, including shears, blowtorches, nail sets, gauges, vices, saws, etc. to bring blueprints to life.
Some metal fabricators are qualified to program and operate robotic equipment, such as CNC machines. Metal fabricators usually work in industrial settings where they must use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and goggles, to be safe from numerous occupational hazards.
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