A Guide to Cutting, Bending, and Other Options for Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal welding
Jack Lie CNC machining expert

Specialize in CNC milling , CNC turning, 3D printing, urethane casting, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting,


Fabricating components out of sheet metal is a good process for prototyping and production. It may be used to make sturdy, functional pieces like panels, mounts, and enclosures.

On the other hand, unlike other production methods, sheet metal manufacture consists of several separate processes, all of which control the sheet metal in their unique ways. As part of these many operations, the sheet metal may be cut, shaped, or joined together in several distinct configurations.

This overview examines the primary processes involved in the manufacturing of sheet metal. It explains both how they function and the purposes they serve.

What Is Sheet Metal Fabrication?

Fabricating objects and structures out of flat metal sheets is what we mean when we talk about sheet metal fabrication. Creating various components and pieces from multiple sheet metals is often the end goal of the processes used to treat sheet metal. Because of this, it is beneficial to conceive of this metal forming procedure not as a special manufacturing process but rather as a collection of different techniques for forming.

These processes often collaborate to generate the necessary component successfully. Cutting, bending, stamping, punching, welding, and finishing are the fundamental processes involved in manufacturing sheet metal products. In a little while, we shall get into the specifics of each of these methods.

Manufacturing using sheet metal may be applied to various types of metal. Components consisting of aluminum, steel & stainless steel, copper, and brass are just some of the sheet metal products manufactured at our facility. Because of the prevalence of the manufacturing process, it is quite improbable that you will go about your day without interacting with a sheet metal-produced product. You may locate these things almost everywhere. They can take the form of large household appliances or more minute components like brackets or casings.

Sheet Metal Fabrication Processes

Sheet Metal Fabrication: Cutting

Cutting the sheet metal is one of the three primary techniques that may be done to manipulate it. In this respect, sheet metal fabrication may be considered a subtractive production process (like CNC machining) since useful pieces can be manufactured by simply removing portions of the material.

Sheet metal may be cut by manufacturers utilizing many pieces of equipment, some of which are exclusive to the sheet metal fabrication industry.

Laser cutting

Laser cutting is quickly becoming one of the most popular options for slicing through sheet metal. A strong laser that a lens or mirror has amplified is at the heart of a laser cutter. Although it is a sophisticated and energy-efficient machine, it is best suited for working with thin to medium gauges of sheet metal. However, it may have difficulty penetrating the hardest materials.

Laser Cutting

Water jet cutting

Another method for cutting sheet metal is the water jet cutting procedure. A high-pressure stream of water that has been combined with an abrasive material is used in the water jet cutting process. This fabricating sheet metal employs this technology to cut through the metal. Since water jet cutters do not produce heat, they are especially beneficial for cutting sheet metals with a low melting point. It is because the heat might cause the metal to distort unnaturally.

Waterjet Cutting

Plasma cutting

Plasma cutting is a third method that may be used to cut sheet metal. Plasma cutters work by producing an electrical channel of ionized gas, which results in the formation of a jet of hot plasma that is capable of readily through even thick gauges of sheet metal. Plasma cutters are advantageous because of their speed, power, and inexpensive initial investment, yet, their accuracy is inferior to that of laser and water jet cutters.

Plasma Cutting

These three cutting equipment are adaptable for usage with various materials in addition to sheet metals; nonetheless, some processes are used exclusively for the manufacturing of sheet metal.

By employing a punch and die, for instance, the act of punching, which is also frequently referred to as piercing, makes it possible to generate accurate holes in sheet metal. After positioning the sheet metal between the two segments, the punch will push its way through the sheet metal and into the die. During punching, the round bits of removed material are punched and put into the trash. However, these circular pieces of material may also be employed as new workpieces referred to as blanking.

Sheet Metal Fabrication: Deformation

Sheet metal deformation is another important subcategory of metalworking. Multiple methods that do not involve cutting into the metal sheet are included in this category of procedures.

Bending

Sheet metal bending is a major deformation method. A sheet metal manufacturer may bend metal up to 120 degrees to create V forms, U shapes, and channels using an equipment called a brake. Sheet metal with a thinner gauge is less hassle to work with while bending. Decambering is a procedure that allows manufacturers of sheet metal to reverse the cambering process, eliminating the horizontal bend in sheet metal strips.

Stamping

Stamping is a kind of deformation that may be considered separately. Stamping is similar to punching in that a tool and die used to create a depression in the material. However, in this case, the material is not removed. Curling, drawing, embossing, chamfering, and hemming are just a few of the many applications of stamping.

Spinning

Spinning is a procedure for fabricating sheet metal that differs from other deformation methods. It employs a lathe to spin the sheet metal. At the same time, it is being pushed against a tool. The technique, which may produce rounded sheet metal components such as cones, cylinders, and the like, is visually reminiscent of CNC turning or perhaps even pottery spinning.

Wheeling and rolling

Less frequent sheet metal deformation techniques involve wheeling, which creates complex curves in sheet metal. On the other hand, it also includes rolling, in which sheet metal is passed between a pair of rollers to lower its thickness and enhance thickness uniformity.

Expanding

Certain processes fall somewhere in between cutting and deformation. For instance, the method of expanding sheet metal includes cutting several slots in the metal and then opening the sheet up like an accordion.

Sheet metal fabrication: Assembly

Cutting and deforming sheet metal are both forms of sheet metal forming that may be done. A third approach is an assembly, which may be accomplished via the use of standard fasteners or through alternative techniques.

Even though it is not often regarded as a fabrication process, assembling diverse components of sheet metal parts utilizing fasteners such as bolts, screws, and rivets is a crucial aspect of the entire manufacturing process. Punching is one of the numerous procedures used to manufacture sheet metal. It can be done specifically to form holes for rivets and other fasteners.

Welding is another method that may be used to put together components made of sheet metal. This method involves applying heat to the joint between the two parts to melt a portion of the metal in that area. The two pieces’ molten metals melded together to create a robust connection once they were heated. Weldability is a strength shared by many common sheet metals, such as stainless steel and aluminum. However, some welding techniques, such as arc, electron beam, resistance, and others, may be superior for joining certain metals.

Sheet metal welding

Select the Right Sheet Metal Fabrication Processes

Suppose you have previously developed sheet metal components. In that case, there is a good probability that you have a good knowledge of the fabrication methods that will be utilized to actualize the design. Several CAD utilities, such as Autodesk Fusion 360 and Dassault Systemes Solidworks, enable users to generate features analogous to simple sheet metal production operations, such as bending and stamping.

If you are looking for a reliable supplier for sheet metal fabrication, you can always count on Runsom. To help global product developers, designers, and manufacturers grasp more chances in the market, we try our best to shorten the cycle time and ensure on-time delivery so as to speed up their product launch – whether it’s a one-off prototype or 1,000 production parts.

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