Sheet metal fabrication services providers manufacture components by cutting, bending, rolling, forming, stamping and welding sheet metal.  Components manufactured through sheet metal fabrication services are used in a variety of applications such as enclosures, computer equipment, HVAC components, kitchen and sanitary equipment, machine tools and other industrial applications. Sheet metal fabrication services include a diverse range of processes used to fashion sheet metal into usable products.  These processes may be broken down into three rough categories, cutting, forming, and finishing services.

Techniques Used

Sheet metal cutting services includes a number of techniques used to cut metal into smaller pieces so that it can be molded or formed into components.  Common types of sheet metal cutting involve shearing, electrical discharge machining (EDM), laser cutting, water jet and abrasive cutting.  Shearing uses a specialized machine to cut sheet metal by applying shear stress.  This process is used to cut large sheets of metal into smaller parts. Laser cutting machines use laser light to cut or etch holes or profiles.  Laser cutting machines are very precise programmable pieces of equipment.  Water jets and water abrasive jets rely on highly pressurized water (20,000 - 60,000 psi) flowing through a nozzle or "jewel" approximately 0.010" in diameter.  Advantages include almost no material heating during cutting, low side loads, and ability to achieve complex shapes and tight inside radii. Low fixturing costs and fast setup and programming times make this process very suitable for prototypes or short runs.  It is most widely used for two-dimensional cutting; three-dimensional machining is possible in specialty applications

 

Wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment is used to cut conductive materials using a thin electrode.  The electrode is a thin wire (typically .004"-.012") that follows a programmed path.  The wire does not physically contact the part.  It is charged to a certain level and surrounded by de-ionized water.  A spark is generated that jumps the gap and melts a small amount of material on the part.

Forming Processes

Sheet metal forming processes include those actions used fashion metal into specific shapes or semi-finished pieces.  Common techniques include bending and forming, rolling, stamping, punching, welding, and hardware and fastener creation.  Bending and forming processes are used to shape the sheet metal to its final shape.  In the rolling process, a series of roll stands is used to progressively shape or bend a strip of flat-rolled metal to a desired cross section.  Stamping is the process of impressing surface definition and three-dimensional designs onto materials with pressurized tools and dies.  Punching is the process of punching holes in the sheet metal.  Welding is the joining of metals and metal parts by melting and re-forming a metal bond between materials, with or without additional filler metal.  Hardware and fastener creation is the capability to supply and integrate hardware such as handles, latches and threaded, self-clinching fasteners used to provide threads in sheet metal that is too thin or soft to be tapped.