Metal fabrication is the building of metal structures by cutting, bending, and assembling processes:
Cutting is done by sawing, shearing, or chiseling (all with manual and powered variants); Torching with hand-held torches (such as oxy-fuel torches or plasma torches); And via numerical control (CNC) cutters (using a laser, mill bits, torch, or water jet).
Bending is done by hammering (manual or powered) or via press brakes and similar tools. Modern metal fabricators utilize press brakes to either coin or air-bend metal sheet into form. CNC-controlled backgauges utilized hard stops to position cut parts in order to place bend lines in the correct position. Off-line programing software now makes programing the CNC-controlled press brakes seamless and very efficient.
Assembling (joining of the pieces) is done by welding, binding with adhesives, riveting, threaded fasteners, or even yet more bending in the form of a crimped seam. Structural steel and sheet metal are the usual starting materials for fabrication, along with the welding wire, flux, and fasteners that will join the cut pieces. As with other manufacturing processes, both human labor and automation are commonly used. The product resulting from fabrication may be called a fabrication. Shops that specialize in this type of metal work are called fab shops. The end products of other common types of metalworking, such as machining, metal stamping, forging, and casting, may be similar in shape and function, but those processes are not classified as fabrication.
Cutting and burning
The raw material has to be cut to size. This is done with a variety of tools.
The most common way to cut material is by Shearing (metalworking);
Special band saws designed for cutting metal have hardened blades and a feed mechanism for even cutting. Abrasive cut-off saws, also known as chop saws, are similar to miter saws but with a steel cutting abrasive disk. Cutting torches can cut very large sections of steel with little effort.
Burn tables are CNC cutting torches, usually natural gas powered. Plasma and laser cutting tables, and Water jet cutters, are also common. Plate steel is loaded on a table and the parts are cut out as programmed. The support table is made of a grid of bars that can be replaced. Some very expensive burn tables also include CNC punch capability, with a carousel of different punches and taps. Fabrication of structural steel by plasma and laser cutting introduces robots to move the cutting head in three dimensions around the material to be cut.
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