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The Types of Sheet Metal Available

Sheet metal refers to metal formed through a variety of manufacturing processes into flat pieces of varying thickness, ranging from thin foils to thick plates. It commonly finds application in sheet metal fabrication operations to produce products for the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.

Different Types of Sheet Metal

Sheet metal is made from a wide range of metals and metal alloys. Here are some of the most common:

  • Aluminum. Due to its numerous benefits—including its abundant supply, low cost, ease of fabrication, good strength-to-weight ratio, high electrical and thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance, non-toxicity, and high recyclability—aluminum finds application in a variety of sheet metal fabrication operations. Some of the typical for which aluminum sheets are used include automotive parts, electrical devices, and cooking vessels.
  • sheet metal fabricationAluminized steel Aluminized steel is made by coating carbon steel with an aluminum-silicon alloy. This process results in a material that combines the high strength of carbon steel with aluminum’s superior corrosion resistance. Sheets of aluminized steel are used for products intended for high temperature or corrosive environments, such as cooking implements and kitchen appliances.
  • Carbon steel Carbon steel is a steel alloy that contains carbon (up to 2.1%). As the carbon content increases, the resultant material increases in hardness and strength when it undergoes heat treatment operations and decreases in ductility. Carbon steel is used for many products in the industrial and consumer markets.
  • Copper. Compared to aluminum, copper features higher electrical and thermal conductivity. However, it is also more expensive. Typical products made from copper include heat sinks, roofs, rain gutters, and doors.
  • Galvanized steel. As in the case of aluminized steel, galvanized steel is made by coating steel with zinc through hot dipping to make it more corrosion resistant. Sheets of galvanized steel are used for making automobile bodies, water pipes, and many construction elements like fences, roofs, and staircases.
  • Galvalume. When steel is galvanized by an alloy of aluminum, zinc, and traces of silicon, it is called galvalume. The resultant material is more durable and corrosion-resistant than galvanized steel. Due to the material’s superior corrosion resistance, galvalume sheets are used for outdoor applications, such as on roofs that are regularly exposed to weather elements.
  • High strength steel. Military armor plates are made from sheets of high strength steel. The material is made by alloying steel with a variety of elements like carbon, manganese, and copper to improve its hardness.
  • Hot rolled steel. Compared to cold rolled steel, hot rolled steel is much cheaper to manufacture. It is commonly used in structural applications, such as in automotive body parts.
  • Stainless steel. Stainless steel is a steel alloy with at least 11% chromium content and less than 1.2% carbon by weight. The material offers superior corrosion resistance, fire and heat resistance, strength-to-weight ratio, and manufacturability. Kitchen vessels, storage tanks for chemicals, and parts for food processing machinery are some of the common applications of stainless steel sheet metal.
  • Titanium. Titanium has several advantageous metallurgical characteristics that make it suitable for a wide range of industrial applications. Although it is primarily used for its high strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, it also offers high recyclability, durability, and biocompatibility. Typical uses include aviation parts, medical equipment, and construction elements.

Custom Sheet Metal Fabrication at Premier Products of Racine

At Premier Products of Racine, we have over 20 years of experience providing customers with sheet metal fabrication services. We offer a full spectrum of custom fabrication capabilities for a wide range of sheet metals, including aluminum, copper, stainless steel, steel, and high strength alloys. To ensure we deliver high quality finished products, we also provide finishing, manufacturing and packaging design assistance, and inspection services.

To find out more about our sheet metal fabrication capabilities or to partner with us on your next project, contact us or request a quote today.

Custom Sheet Metal Stamping

Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication is an umbrella term that applies to many different types of metalworking processes. Many aspects of our society rely on metal fabrication, as this technique helps create products from fences to I-beams to industrial machinery to aerospace and automotive equipment. 

Here, we’ve assembled a comprehensive overview of the metal fabrication process to help you learn more about some best practices in this field as well as how you can incorporate it into your next metalworking project.

What Is Metal Fabrication?

Manufacturers use metal fabrication to construct machines, structures, and other products from raw metal sources. The metal fabrication process can involve many processes, such as

  •       Cutting
  •       Welding
  •       Burning
  •       Machining
  •       Forming
  •       Assembly

Successful manufacturing firms combine the above steps to efficiently create a wide variety of finished products, which range from:

  •       Heavy equipment and machinery
  •       Hand railings
  •       Hand tools
  •       Cutlery and utensils
  •       Hardware
  •       Springs and wires
  •       Screws, nuts, and bolts
  •       Forged or stamped items

Complicated projects that source from multiple vendors are often simplified by relying on one-stop-shop metal fabricators. Centralizing and streamlining your metal fabrication operations will save you time and money, and doing so often prevents the kinds of miscommunication that lead to expensive mistakes.

Metal fabrication can work with a wide range of raw materials, such as:

  • Expanded metal: Expanded metal benefits applications that require grated panels rather than solid panels. To create expanded metal, manufacturers shear metal sheets in patterns that form diamond-shaped holes along the surface. The leftover mesh-like metal can still effectively hold the workpiece together while creating a permeable end product that is lighter and more cost-efficient than solid metal sheets. Common applications for expanded metal include protective barriers for machines that require ventilation as well as fences and screen doors such as those found in gated communities.
  • Sectional metal: Sectional metal manufacturers build prefabricated metal pieces that are specifically designed for standardized assembly. These types of metal generally go on to form important framing and structural components in the construction industry. Common sectional metal pieces include I-beams, Z-shapes, bars, and rods.
  • Flat metal: Flat metal pieces come in a wide variety of sizes and thicknesses, but most types of flat metal conform to one of three basic categories. Leaf metal, also known as foil metal, is the thinnest type of flat metal. Sheet metal, the most common type of flat metal, is usually less than 6 mm thick. Plate metal is the thickest kind of flat metal, and generally has a thickness of greater than 0.25”.
  • Welding wire: Welding wires are metal strands that are usually bunched together to form thicker metal cords. Welding wire is typically sold on spools. This material is primarily used to hold two metal workpieces together during welding operations.
  • Fittings and castings: Fittings and castings are small, standard-built metal components used to fasten or hold larger pieces of equipment together.

What Is the Sheet Metal Fabrication Process?

Sheet metal fabrication is a specialized manufacturing process that converts metal sheets into workable components for desired end products or into the end products themselves. The sheet metal fabrication process involves four main phases:

  1.     Creating rough drawings for blueprint drafts
  2.     Finalizing the blueprints by means of in-depth analysis and calculations
  3.     Fabricating the workpiece according to the drawings
  4.     Finishing the fabricated product for commercial viability

Manufacturers can employ a wide variety of fabricating operations during the third and fourth phases of the metalworking process. Sheet metal fabrication operations include the following processes:

  • Assembly: Assembly operations weld, bind, or use adhesives to join metals together and bend them in the form of a crimped seam. One of the most common ways to perform metal assembly operations is riveting, which joins parts using metal pieces called rivets. Manufacturers also sometimes use spot welding, which welds overlapping metal pieces at strategic points to securely join them together.
  • Bending: The bending process involves machining, folding, or stamping to shape metals into the desired end shapes. Manufacturers use a number of different tools to create U-bends, V-bends, or customized bends according to customer specifications.
  • Edge conditioning: Edge conditioning refers to any finishing process that produces uniform, smoothed-out edges. For example, many industries use skiving operations to a machine and produce smooth edges by implementing burr removal processes.
  • Forming: Forming operations mold or form sheet metal into the client’s desired shape. Similar to bending operations, metal forming processes include machining, folding, or stamping actions.
  • Punching: To perform metal punching, manufacturers place a sheet metal workpiece under a die and use drills to punch holes through the workpiece. Punching operations tend to fall into one of two categories. The more common process punches holes through a workpiece to fasten latches or other parts onto the sheet metal at a later time. Other times, manufacturers used a specialized punching process called blanking to remove prescribed areas from larger metal sheets to form smaller bit parts. 
  • Rolling: Rolling, or roll forming, is a continuous bending operation in which metal sheets or other metal configurations pass through forming rolls that shape the metal according to client specifications.
  • Shearing: Shearing operations make large or long cuts to workpieces by horizontally feeding them through a cutting machine. In another type of shearing, machining tools perform vertical cuts along with the sheet. Although manufacturers frequently use shearing to complete edge-trimming operations, this process can be performed anywhere along with the metal sheet.
  • Welding: Welding is by far the most commonly used sheet metal fabrication process. 

Manufacturers use many types of welding methods to join metal parts at desired junctures. For instance, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding creates welds using tungsten electrodes, and metal inert gas (MIG) welding uses a filler metal wire to maintain the electric arc for the weld.

Welding wire used to keep two pieces joined together during the welding process can come from a number of different metal sources and can operate in a wide variety of thicknesses.

Metals Used for Sheet Metal Fabrication

Manufacturers source sheet metal fabrication workpieces from a wide range of raw and processed metals. Some of the most common metals used for fabrication include:

  • Aluminum
  • Aluminized metal
  • Carbon steel
  • Cold-rolled steel
  • Copper
  • Galvanized steel
  • Galvalume
  • High-strength steel
  • Hot-rolled steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium

Custom Metal Fabrication by Premier Products of Racine, Inc.

Established in 1999, Premier Products of Racine, Inc., is a full-service custom roll-forming company with a reputation for providing high-quality products at reasonable prices. Operating from our 210,000+ square feet of manufacturing space in southeastern Wisconsin, we provide a comprehensive range of metal fabrication services, including:

  • Custom roll forming
  • Press braking
  • Welding
  • Riveting
  • Assembly
  • Finishing
  • Custom packaging

We ensure that all our fabrication processes strictly adhere to ANSI, ASTM, DOT, and Mil-Spec standards. Our facility is equipped to handle both small and large order volumes. Whether you need a single prototype piece or a high-volume production run, we’re well equipped to find a solution that will fit your requirements.

Our expert engineers bring years of experience in design-for-manufacture techniques, and we work with all common CAD file formats. Moreover, our precise Ready Bend tooling capabilities enable us to manufacture parts to extremely tight tolerances.

At Premier Products of Racine, Inc., we take pride in our quick turnaround times, fair pricing, and high customer satisfaction.

If you’d like to learn more about how our sheet metal fabrication services can benefit your company, reach out to us here for a free quote.

The Process Behind Roll-Formed Steel

The Process Behind Roll Formed Steel

Roll-formed steel is a manufacturing process used to shape metal, including steel. During the roll-forming process, a series of rollers shapes and flattens steel stock.

This process works on many kinds of metals, including aluminum and copper, but it’s especially useful for shaping steel into complex configurations. Due to the costs associated with creating the tools for roll forming, this type of steel is most economically produced in larger volumes.

The Difference Between Hot and Cold-Formed Steel Sections

Most types of steel come in either hot-rolled or cold-formed varieties. These terms refer to the temperature at which metalworkers form the steel. Whereas all steel must go through hot-rolling processes to achieve the desired grades, cold forming occurs after the steel completes hot rolling. Hot-rolled and cold-formed steel go on to have different applications after they finish processing. Below, we describe some of the finer points of each process.

Hot-Rolled Steel

Process behind roll formed steel

During hot rolling, workers heat untreated steel to above 1,700°F, which is its recrystallization temperature. Steel becomes very malleable at these temperature levels, and this pliability enables the roll forming process. 

Because hot-rolled steel involves shorter processing times than cold-formed steel, it’s cheaper to produce. This technique can also produce larger sizes of steel.

However, hot-rolled steel shrinks as it cools, which means that it solidifies into less precise shapes and sizes. Hot-rolled steel also typically has rougher surfaces than cold-rolled steel. For these reasons, it’s more suitable for non–consumer-facing applications, such as I-beams and railroad tracks.

Cold-Formed Steel

Workers perform cold forming after the completion of the hot-rolling process. Once the steel cools to room temperature, workers anneal or temper the steel depending on its intended application.

  •       Annealing softens steel for cold forming, and it also improves its machinability
  •       Tempering reduces brittleness and improves the steel’s structural stability

Cold-formed steel then undergoes further rolling to shape or thin out the steel. The additional steps involved in cold forming add to the overall production expenses and time.

Unlike hot-rolled steel, cold-formed steel can achieve thicknesses of <0.25”. One of the biggest advantages of cold-formed steel is that it can achieve more precise measurements and tolerances than hot-rolled steel. Because of these capabilities, cold-formed steel works well in applications like metal framing.

Cold-formed steel also has a smoother surface finish than hot-rolled steel, which makes it a more aesthetic choice for consumer-facing applications. Therefore, cold-formed steel comprises many household products, most notably cookware. 

The Steel Roll Forming Process 

During roll forming, the steel passes through a series of paired rollers. These rollers work in tandem to shape and flatten the steel for further processing. The rollers also create their own momentum, pushing the steel on to the next set of rollers.

The roll-forming process allows metalworkers to create uniform and customizable steel parts. This process also allows workers to precisely modify steel pieces with features such as holes, slots, or embossments. Steel roll forming can also produce large quantities of long products.

Custom Roll-Formed Steel Services at Premier Products of Racine

At Premier Products of Racine, we use roll forming to produce all run types, from prototypes to high volumes. We provide custom roll-forming services to industries including:

  • Appliance manufacturing, including grille vanes
  • Office and institutional furniture assembly
  • Liquid hauling tankers, including structural beams
  • Telecommunications
  • Solar technology

Contact us to learn more about our custom roll-forming services. 

 

The Advantages of Roll Forming for Sheet Metal-Based Parts

Roll forming is the process in which sheet metal is sent through a series of rollers which flatten, bend, and shape the sheet metal into the desired profile. Once the required shape has been achieved, the metal can be cleaned, anodized, detailed, and cut into desired lengths. 

Nearly any metal can be roll formed so long as the material possesses properties that enable it to tolerate the roll forming dies without incurring damage. 

Steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, and many other sheet metals can be shaped. 

The process is extremely versatile and capable of creating whatever profile shape is needed.  The process can also cut, punch, or weld in the line as well as emboss, perforate, or any number of finishing processes for the end product.

Advantages of Custom Roll Forming

Advantages of Roll Forming

Roll forming can be used to shape nearly any kind of sheet metal. The method enables strict tolerances and repeatability, making it ideal for the mass production of sheet metal-based components.  The series of roll forming stations enable the continuous production of identical components, providing significant economies of scale for large production runs.

The ability to take on an unlimited supply of stock also gives you consistency across the board, since the variations in the sheet metal will also remain consistent for all stock created. Painted or anodized sheet metal can also be run through the stations without damage. This eliminates inconsistency in paint color and allows for more efficient production of metal components on the whole.

Common Roll Forming Applications/Products

Considering the myriad types of sheet metal stock that can be roll formed, the process is suitable for most parts and products created via the bending of sheet metal. This process addresses the need for mass-produced, interchangeable parts fabricated with a high degree of precision.

Here are just a few examples of items created via roll forming:

  • Door and window hardware
  • Metal fencing
  • Computer casings and components
  • Metal furniture components
  • Rain gutters and house siding
  • Desk drawer slides
  • Steel support framing
  • Metal tubing
  • Construction flashing

Let Us Work for You

If your fabrication, construction, or engineering needs require a plentiful supply of identically formed components from a sheet metal base, roll forming might be exactly what you need to get the job done. With versatility restricted only by the tensile strength, flexibility, and hardness of the metal being sent through the process, roll forming can take an unlimited supply of stock and give you exactly the profile design you need in a fast, efficient, repeatable, and relatively inexpensive process.

Premier Products has the capability to meet all of your rolling needs.  With a 40,000-square-foot facility and a multi-station system of dies, cutting devices, and finishing machines, your needs can quickly and efficiently.  

Please contact us to see how we help with your roll forming project.

 

5 Popular Sheet Metal Fabrication Techniques

Sheet metal is any type of metal formed into thin, flat, individual pieces, that can then be customized for any number of uses and applications. A variety of materials are regularly used to create sheet metal, including steel, brass, copper, tin, nickel, aluminum, and titanium. Even gold, silver, and platinum can be formed into sheet metal, with platinum sheet metal often utilized as a catalyst.

Custom sheet metal fabrication is a highly technical and involved process that requires a team of skilled professionals to accomplish. Let’s examine who these professionals are and the process they use more closely.

The Fabricating Process

A sheet metal fabricator turns raw material into sheet metal and finishes each piece to the required specifications.

The sheet metal fabrication process usually consists of cutting and burning the sheet metal before it is rolled out and finished. Finishing sheet metal often requires sandblasting, followed by priming and painting of the finished product. The final step is applying any customization details outlined in the customer’s specifications before the sheet metal is inspected and shipped out.

Quality sheet metal fabrication can serve a variety of industries in many indispensable ways, as sheet metal is the starting point for a wide range of other machining processes. Everything from office and institutional furniture, as well as liquid hauling tankers, barbeques, and appliances all,  require sheet metal fabrication at some stage of the manufacturing process. Even cutting-edge tech industries such as telecommunications and solar power generation benefit greatly from sheet metal fabrication.

The Tools of the Trade

sheet metal fabrication techniques

Sheet metal undergoes a range of primary and secondary machining processes to create final products and parts. Which processes the metal will endure will vary based on material type and design specifications.

  • Rolling

Metal sheets are created using either hot-rolling or cold-rolling machines. Hot rolling heats the metal during rolling and is typically used to create incredibly thin sheet metal. Cold-rolling presses metal at room temperature and is used to create thicker sheet metal with increased strength and durability.

  • Cutting

Band saws utilizing customized blades with the ability to feed sheet metal, ensuring an even cut, are widely used in the fabrication process. Also, heavily utilized are chop saws, much like miter saws, which make use of an abrasive disk designed for cutting sheet metal. Equally as important to the process are cutting torches, particularly when it comes to cutting large sections of sheet metal.

  • Bending

Hydraulic breaks are implemented to simplify the fabrication process. These breaks excel in bending the sheet metal at predetermined angles. When forming sheet metal sections into round shapes is required, special rolling machines are utilized.

  • Welding

An integral part of the fabrication process is welding. Once the sheet metal parts are formed, they are tack welded together. A multitude of welding techniques are applicable in sheet metal fabrication and are used to prevent warping and other aesthetic imperfections. This generally involves utilizing a stout fixture, staggering the welding, and dousing the metal with sand as it cools.

  • Straightening

Sometimes a customized straightening process is involved. This is achieved through oxyacetylene torches that apply heat as the sheet metal is straightened in a languid and linear manner. An experienced welder can apply this method to remove even substantial warps in the sheet metal.

Premier Standard in Sheet Metal Fabrication

Premier Products of Racine provides high-quality sheet metal cutting, forming, and finishing services to clients in a wide range of industries. We provide unequaled services and benefits to all industry stakeholders requiring sheet metal fabrication, including:

  • Developed quick-change tooling capabilities
  • Die protection systems for all tooling
  • Existing processes for highly cosmetic parts
  • In-line edge conditioning
  • Ready bend technology for high accuracy

To learn how we can support your sheet metal fabrication needs, contact us or request a quote.