The metal fabrication industry makes use of various materials and techniques to create high-performing, reliable products for diverse industries and applications. Blanking, cutting, drawing, stamping, bending, hydroforming, roll forming, stamping, and welding are a few of the most popular fabrication techniques, but the best method will depend on the specific application at hand and the end products’ unique requirements and specifications.
Along with fabrication techniques, material selection is also critically important. Steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and other alloys are all commonly used within the industry, each offering unique properties and benefits for different applications. All of these metals are easily available and relatively cost-effective. Other alloys are typically used for more specialized applications.
When selecting from the former group of materials, a number of key factors should be kept in mind to ensure optimal product performance.
The Material Selection Process
Before selecting a material for your fabrication process, take the time to carefully consider the unique requirements of the application and any environmental challenges the product may encounter. Also consider material properties such as ductility, weldability, machinability, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.
- Ductility — How pliable is the material? Are you able to draw it into a wire or form it into different shapes? Aluminum has a low ductility, for instance, whereas stainless steel has high ductility.
- Weldability — How easy is it to solder the metal? In other words, will it require preparation and advanced welding techniques and tools, thereby increasing overall project costs? Steel is easily weldable, while stainless steel has medium weldability.
- Machinability — Machinability refers to the ability to cut materials with a blade. Highly machinable metals can be cut at high speeds. Steel has medium machinability, for instance, while stainless steel has hard machinability.
- Tensile Strength — How much force is required to snap the metal? How strong is the metal you’ve chosen? Stainless steel can handle very high tension. Aluminum cannot.
- Corrosion Resistance — How well a substance can withstand damage caused by oxidization or other chemical reactions.
It’s also important to consider the cost and versatility of the material. How expensive or inexpensive is the material compared to other options? Will it work as well as another material for the specific project being considered? The shape will also come into play. Common geometries for metal applications include flat plates and sheets, flat bars, C channels, angle irons, pipes, round tubes, square/rectangular tubes, I-beams, etc.
Types of Metal Fabrication
During the material selection process, consider how each material will fare under different types of fabrication processes. Machining stainless steel, for example, requires the use of large tools to dissipate heat and chip breakers to deflect debris, plus a machine tool that will reduce vibration. These applications also require consistently sharp cutting edges.
Stainless steel welding, on the other hand, will require different things depending on the category of stainless steel used: austenitic, martensitic, ferritic, or duplex. Many comprehensive resources are available online outlining information on how to weld each type of stainless steel.
Highland Equipment is proud to be a leader in stainless steel fabrication, specializing in the design, fabrication, installation, and servicing of sanitary equipment for a range of different industries, including the food, beverage, dairy, pharmaceutical, brewery and cosmetic sectors.
Our team is well-versed in the intricacies of metal fabrication, and can guide clients throughout each step of the material selection process, ensuring an ideal fit for the specific application at hand. To learn more and discuss your options with an expert, contact the team today.