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. 


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