Ever wondered how skyscrapers stand tall or cars drive smoothly? The secret lies in the meticulous art of welding and the intricate process of metal fabrication. While welding focuses on fusing metals, metal fabrication encompasses cutting, shaping, and assembling them into sturdy structures. 

What is Welding?

Welding is the process of joining two pieces of metal by melting them together, sometimes with a filler material, to create a strong bond. This technique is essential in various industries, ensuring the integrity and durability of metal structures.

How the Welding Process Works

Welding involves heating the metal surfaces to their melting point, creating a molten pool where the metals fuse. Depending on the technique, a filler material might be added to enhance the joint’s strength. As the weld cools, it forms a robust connection often as strong as the base metals.

Types of Welding

  1. Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW): This method uses a consumable electrode coated in flux to lay the weld. It’s versatile and effective for welding different metals under various conditions.
  2. Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW/MIG): Employs a continuous wire feed as an electrode and uses inert gas to shield the weld, making it ideal for non-ferrous metals.
  3. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW/TIG): Utilizes a non-consumable tungsten electrode and often a separate filler metal, providing precise control and high-quality welds.
  4. Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW): Similar to MIG welding but uses a tubular wire filled with flux, suitable for outdoor welding due to its tolerance to windy conditions.
  5. Submerged Arc Welding (SAW): Uses a continuously fed consumable electrode and a blanket of flux to prevent contamination, commonly used for thick steel sheets​​.

Welding up close

Applications of Welding

Welding is crucial in industries such as construction, automotive, aerospace, and manufacturing. It’s used to build everything from bridges and skyscrapers to car bodies and aircraft components. The strength and durability of welded joints make them ideal for high-stress applications.

Tools and Equipment for Welding

Welding requires specialized tools including welding machines, electrodes, and protective gear such as helmets and gloves. Different welding techniques demand specific equipment, but safety remains a constant priority.

Challenges in Welding

Welding poses challenges like controlling heat and material properties to avoid defects such as cracks and porosity. Additionally, welding in harsh environments or on challenging materials adds complexity to the task.

What is Metal Fabrication?

Metal fabrication involves creating metal structures by cutting, bending, and assembling metal components. Fabricators transform raw materials into finished products, encompassing a broader scope than welding.

How the Metal Fabrication Process Works

The metal fabrication process starts with design and planning. Once a design is finalized, the raw materials are cut to size using methods like shearing, sawing, or laser cutting. The next step involves bending the cut pieces into desired shapes using press brakes or other bending equipment. Finally, the pieces are assembled and joined using welding, bolting, riveting, or adhesives to create the final product.

Cutting Techniques in Metal Fabrication

  • Shearing: A method of cutting metal by applying a great shearing force.
  • Laser Cutting: Uses a laser to cut materials, offering high precision and the ability to cut intricate shapes.
  • Plasma Cutting: Involves cutting through electrically conductive materials using an accelerated jet of hot plasma.

Bending and Forming

Bending involves deforming the metal without removing material. This can be achieved through press brakes, roll bending, and other machinery designed to handle various thicknesses and types of metal.

Assembling and Joining

Assembly involves putting together the cut and bent components. Joining can be accomplished through welding, but also through other methods such as bolting, riveting, or using adhesives, depending on the requirements of the project.

Tools and Equipment for Metal Fabrication

Fabricators use a wide range of tools, including cutting torches, hydraulic presses, and CNC machines. Each tool serves a specific purpose in the fabrication process, ensuring precision and efficiency​.

Welding vs. Fabrication: Overlapping Roles and Distinctions

While welding is a critical component of metal fabrication, not all welders are fabricators, and not all fabricators are welders. Fabricators often need welding skills, but their role encompasses a broader range of activities including design, cutting, and assembly.

Skill Sets and Training

Welders focus on mastering various welding techniques and understanding material properties. Fabricators require a broader skill set, including proficiency in cutting, bending, and assembling metal components. Both roles demand precision and a keen eye for detail.

Career Pathways

Welders and fabricators can pursue various career paths, from working in industrial settings to specializing in artistic metalwork. Certification programs and apprenticeships provide essential training and open doors to advanced opportunities in the field.

Conclusion

Welding and metal fabrication are indispensable processes in the metalworking industry, each with its unique functions and challenges. Welding focuses on joining metals, while fabrication involves transforming raw materials into finished products. Both require specialized skills and tools, and together, they form the backbone of modern manufacturing and construction.

Understanding the difference between welding and fabrication not only clarifies the roles of professionals in the field but also highlights the intricate artistry and technical expertise involved in shaping the metal structures that support and enhance our daily lives.

Do You Need A Metal Fabrication or Welding Project Done? If You Can Dream it, We Can Customize it.

Sheet metal fabrication is a cornerstone of modern manufacturing, crucial to various industries from automotive to aerospace. This intricate process transforms flat sheets of metal into diverse shapes and structures, utilizing specialized tools and techniques.

The Basics of Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication is the process of forming, cutting, and assembling metal sheets into functional products. It involves several stages including cutting, bending, and joining. The versatility of sheet metal allows for the creation of a wide range of products, from small components to large structures.

The Sheet Metal Fabrication Process

Design and Prototyping

The journey begins with design and prototyping. Engineers use CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software such as Solidworks or Catia to create detailed blueprints and technical drawings. This ensures precision and feasibility before moving to production.

Cutting Techniques

Cutting is the first major step in the fabrication process. Various cutting methods are employed depending on the material and required precision:

  • Laser Cutting: Utilizes a high-powered laser to melt and vaporize the metal, offering high precision and clean edges. It’s ideal for intricate designs and tight tolerances​.
  • Waterjet Cutting: Uses a high-pressure stream of water mixed with an abrasive substance to cut through metal. This method is versatile and can handle various materials and thicknesses without introducing heat, which can distort the material​.
  • Plasma Cutting: Involves ionized gas to heat and cut through the metal. It’s faster than other methods and suitable for thicker materials, though it may introduce some heat-affected zones​​.

Sheet Metal Fabrication

Forming and Bending

Once cut, the metal is formed and bent into shape. This is achieved through several methods:

  • Brake Pressing: A manual process using a clamping bar and plate to bend the metal, suitable for small-scale production and prototyping​.
  • Roll Bending: Similar to brake pressing but used to create cylindrical or conical shapes​.
  • Press Brake Bending: Utilizes hydraulic machines with punches and dies for precision bending, suitable for sheets up to 6mm thick.

Joining Techniques

Assembling the cut and formed metal pieces into a final product involves various joining methods:

  • Fasteners: Includes screws, rivets, and bolts which provide secure and removable connections.
  • Welding: Melts the metal surfaces to fuse them together, creating strong, permanent bonds. Common welding techniques include MIG, TIG, and spot welding.
  • Adhesive Bonding: Uses specialized adhesives to join parts, offering weight reduction and improved aesthetics​​.

Finishing Techniques

Finishing enhances the appearance, durability, and functionality of the final product:

  • Painting: Provides a protective layer and allows for customization through various colors and finishes​.
  • Powder Coating: Involves applying a dry powder that is cured to form a durable, attractive finish​.
  • Anodizing: An electrochemical process that creates a protective oxide layer on the metal surface, enhancing corrosion resistance and providing a decorative finish​.

Types of Sheet Metal

Sheet metal comes in various types, each with unique properties suited to different applications:

  • Steel: Known for its strength and durability, it is commonly used in construction and automotive industries.
  • Aluminum: Lightweight and corrosion-resistant, ideal for aerospace and marine applications.
  • Stainless Steel: Offers excellent resistance to corrosion and staining, used in kitchen appliances and medical devices.
  • Copper: Valued for its excellent electrical conductivity, it is commonly used in electrical and roofing applications​.

Sheet Metal Fabrication Steamy

Common Applications of Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication finds its place in countless applications across various industries. Here are some of the most common uses:

Automotive Industry

Sheet metal is extensively used in the automotive industry to create body panels, chassis, and other structural components. Its durability and formability make it an ideal material for this purpose.

Aerospace Industry

In the aerospace sector, sheet metal is used to manufacture aircraft components, including fuselage panels, wings, and engine parts. The lightweight nature of materials like aluminum is particularly advantageous here.

Construction Industry

From HVAC systems to roofing and structural components, sheet metal plays a crucial role in the construction industry. Its versatility and strength are key factors in its widespread use.

Electronics and Electrical Industry

Sheet metal is used to create enclosures, brackets, and other components in the electronics and electrical industry. Copper, in particular, is prized for its excellent conductivity.

Benefits and Limitations of Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication offers numerous benefits but also comes with some limitations.

Benefits

  • Versatility: Sheet metal can be cut, bent, and shaped into virtually any form.
  • Durability: Products made from sheet metal are often strong and long-lasting.
  • Precision: Advanced tools and techniques allow for high levels of accuracy.

Limitations

  • Cost: The initial setup and tooling can be expensive.
  • Complexity: Some designs may be challenging to achieve.
  • Material Limitations: Not all metals are suitable for all applications.

Key Tools in Sheet Metal Fabrication

Various tools are used in the sheet metal fabrication process, each serving a specific purpose. Key tools include:

Press Brakes

Used for bending sheet metal into precise angles, press brakes are essential for creating complex shapes.

Shears

These tools are used for cutting sheet metal into smaller pieces. They come in various forms, from manual to hydraulic shears.

Laser Cutters

Laser cutters offer high precision and can cut through various thicknesses of sheet metal with ease.

Welding Equipment

Welding equipment is used to join pieces of metal together. Various welding techniques, such as MIG, TIG, and spot welding, are employed depending on the material and application.

Welding Equipment

Conclusion

Sheet metal fabrication is a dynamic and essential process in modern manufacturing. Combining precision, versatility, and strength, it enables the production of a wide range of products used in diverse industries. Understanding the intricacies of this process is crucial for anyone involved in manufacturing and engineering. By mastering the techniques and tools of sheet metal fabrication, manufacturers can continue to innovate and create high-quality products that meet the evolving needs of various sectors.

For more detailed information on sheet metal fabrication, refer to our website or contact us below.

How can we make your next project high-quality, efficient and customized to meet your needs?

Metal fabrication is a comprehensive process that involves transforming raw metal materials into finished products. This process includes several techniques such as cutting, bending, and assembling, and is essential across various industries. Understanding the nuances of metal fabrication can help appreciate its significance in modern manufacturing and construction.

As the backbone of manufacturing and construction, metal fabrication’s significance cannot be overstated. This process ensures that structures are safe, durable, and capable of withstanding various stresses and environmental conditions. From towering skyscrapers to delicate medical devices, the precision and expertise involved in metal fabrication are what bring these structures to life.

Understanding Metal Fabrication

Metal Fabrication Definition: Metal fabrication is the act of constructing machines and structures from raw metal materials. This process encompasses various techniques including cutting, bending, and assembling, often facilitated by advanced machinery and skilled labor.

Types of Metal Fabrication Processes

  1. Cutting: This fundamental process involves slicing metal sheets into desired shapes and sizes. Traditional methods like sawing have evolved into modern techniques such as laser cutting, waterjet cutting, and plasma arc cutting, which offer precision and efficiency​.
  2. Drawing: Drawing involves pulling metal through a die to reduce its diameter, often used to create wires. This can be done at room temperature (cold drawing) or at elevated temperatures to ease the process.
  3. Folding: Folding manipulates metal to bend at specific angles, commonly using a brake press. This process is crucial for shaping sheet metal into desired forms​.
  4. Forging: One of the oldest fabrication techniques, forging shapes metal using compressive forces. This can be done at various temperatures, including cold, warm, and hot forging, depending on the metal and desired properties​.
  5. Extrusion: This process forces metal through a die to create objects with a fixed cross-sectional profile, such as pipes and tubes. Extrusion can be performed hot or cold, each method suited to different metals and end uses​.
  6. Casting: Metal casting involves pouring molten metal into a mold to achieve a specific shape. This versatile process is ideal for creating complex geometries and is widely used in manufacturing​.
  7. Welding: Welding joins two metal pieces by melting their edges and fusing them together. Various welding techniques, such as arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding, are employed based on the material and application.
  8. Stamping: Stamping involves placing metal sheets between dies and applying high pressure to shape the metal. This process combines punching, bending, and other operations to form parts with precision​.

Each of these processes plays a crucial role in metal fabrication. Cutting is often the first step, creating manageable pieces from large sheets or bars of metal. Bending follows, shaping these pieces into forms that can be assembled into more complex structures. Welding ensures these parts are securely joined, while machining refines the shapes and dimensions. Finally, assembling brings all the parts together into a cohesive whole.

Metal Fabrication

Structural Metal Fabrication

Structural metal fabrication focuses on creating components for buildings and other large structures. This includes beams, columns, and girders that form the backbone of construction projects. The strength and durability of these fabricated pieces are crucial for the safety and integrity of the structures they support.

In structural metal fabrication, precision and strength are paramount. Beams and columns must be capable of supporting immense loads, often under challenging conditions. The fabrication process involves stringent quality control measures to ensure that every piece meets the necessary standards. This includes rigorous testing for strength, durability, and resistance to environmental factors such as corrosion.

Commercial Metal Fabrication

Commercial metal fabrication involves producing metal parts and products for various commercial applications. This can range from retail fixtures and furniture to components used in the service industry. Precision and quality are paramount in commercial metal fabrication, ensuring that the final products meet the required standards and specifications.

In commercial applications, aesthetics can be as important as functionality. Retail fixtures, for example, must not only be sturdy and functional but also visually appealing. This demands a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail in the fabrication process. Additionally, commercial metal products often need to meet specific regulatory standards, requiring meticulous documentation and quality control.

Custom Metal Fabrication

Custom metal fabrication is tailored to meet specific needs and requirements. It involves creating unique metal parts and structures that are not available off the shelf. This process is highly flexible, allowing for a wide range of designs and applications. Custom metal fabrication is often used in specialized industries where standard components won’t suffice.

The customization process begins with a detailed design phase, where engineers and designers collaborate to create bespoke solutions. This might involve unique shapes, sizes, or materials to meet specific requirements. Custom fabrication often employs advanced techniques such as CNC machining or 3D printing to achieve the desired results. This approach allows for a high degree of precision and flexibility, catering to unique and complex needs.

How Different Metals Are Fabricated

Different metals require different fabrication techniques. For example, steel is often cut with plasma or laser cutters, while aluminum may be machined or bent using specific tools to avoid cracking. Understanding the properties of each metal is crucial for selecting the appropriate fabrication methods.

Steel, known for its strength and durability, is a staple in construction and manufacturing. Its fabrication often involves high-temperature processes like welding and plasma cutting. Aluminum, on the other hand, is lighter and more malleable, making it suitable for applications where weight is a concern. Fabricating aluminum requires lower temperatures to prevent warping and cracking, and it is often machined to precise specifications.

How Does Custom Metal Fabrication Work?

Custom metal fabrication begins with a detailed design phase, where engineers and designers work together to create precise plans and specifications. These designs are then translated into physical products using various fabrication techniques. The process often involves iterative testing and adjustments to ensure the final product meets all requirements.

The initial design phase is critical, involving detailed discussions and planning to ensure that the final product meets the client’s needs. Advanced software tools are often used to create detailed models and simulations. Once the design is finalized, the fabrication process begins, using techniques like CNC machining, laser cutting, and welding. Throughout the process, quality control measures are implemented to ensure the final product meets all specifications.

Why You Should Outsource Metal Fabrication

Outsourcing metal fabrication can offer several advantages. Specialized fabrication companies have the expertise, equipment, and resources to handle complex projects efficiently. This can lead to cost savings, higher quality products, and faster turnaround times. Additionally, outsourcing allows businesses to focus on their core competencies while leaving the fabrication work to the experts.

By outsourcing metal fabrication, businesses can leverage the expertise and advanced equipment of specialized firms. This can lead to significant cost savings, as there is no need to invest in expensive machinery or training. Moreover, specialized fabricators often have established quality control processes, ensuring that the final products meet all necessary standards. This approach also allows businesses to focus on their core operations, improving overall efficiency and productivity.

Techniques in Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication employs a variety of techniques to achieve precise results. Some advanced methods include:

  • Laser Cutting: Provides high precision and is ideal for intricate designs.
  • CNC Machining: Uses computer numerical control to automate the fabrication process, ensuring accuracy and efficiency.
  • Water Jet Cutting: Uses high-pressure water mixed with abrasive materials to cut metal without generating heat.

Industries Relying on Metal Fabrication

Numerous industries depend on metal fabrication for their operations. These include:

  • Construction: For beams, columns, and other structural components.
  • Automotive: For frames, body parts, and engine components.
  • Aerospace: For aircraft frames, landing gear, and other critical parts.
  • Manufacturing: For machinery, tools, and equipment.

The Evolution of Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication has evolved significantly over the years. From ancient blacksmithing techniques to modern CNC machining, the field has continually adapted to new technologies and materials. Today’s fabricators use advanced software and machinery to achieve unprecedented levels of precision and efficiency.

The evolution of metal fabrication is marked by significant technological advancements. Ancient blacksmiths used hammers and anvils to shape metal, relying on skill and experience. The industrial revolution brought about new machinery and techniques, such as steam hammers and rolling mills. In the modern era, digital technology has revolutionized the field. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software allow for precise control and complex designs, transforming metal fabrication into a high-tech industry.

Conclusion

Metal fabrication is a dynamic and indispensable part of modern industry. From the towering skyscrapers that define our cities to the intricate components that power our technology, the impact of metal fabrication is all around us. Understanding this process not only highlights its importance but also underscores the remarkable skills and technologies that make it possible. Whether you’re in construction, manufacturing, or any other industry, metal fabrication is a cornerstone of progress and innovation.

How can we make your next project high-quality, efficient and customized to meet your needs?

At Yarbrough Industries, your vision is our passion. We understand you have a lot on your plate. From meetings with project managers to juggling multiple projects, you need a vendor you can trust to understand your exact needs and get the job done right the first time. That’s where we come in. 

We are in the business of finding solutions for all your metal and manufacturing needs. In order to get the job done right for your project, our fabrication services are at your service:

Welding
Our equipment includes a cold saw, vertical bandsaws, a large abrasive saw and a CNC-controlled, auto feed, bundle cutting, and miter capable saw.

Sawing
We can mig, tig, and stick weld stainless, aluminum, and carbon steel of all types. We can also spray weld for shaft or seal surface repair.

Lasser
Using nitrogen gas to remove the secondary processes needed to prep the edge of parts for welding, painting, and forming. We can also etch part names or numbers directly on the part.

Waterjet
The intensifier pump can create up to 90,000 psi of water pressure to push garnet abrasive at speeds of mach3. This power, combined with CNC accuracy, allows us to provide top-quality parts in almost any material.

Metal Bending and Forming
With our CNC press brakes, we can work with pieces up to 200 tons and 12 feet long. Our section roller can roll up to 3 x 3 x ¼ angle and 8 x ¾ flat bar. The universal rollers allow us to roll round, square, and rectangular tubing. Our sheet and plate rolls can handle thin material up to ⅜” x 72”.

If You Can Dream it, We Can Customize it

We specialize in creating tailor-made solutions to fit your specific needs. Whether you’re in need of a small industrial part or a fully custom-built machine, we’ve got you covered. Our team of designers, fabricators, technicians and machinists are at the forefront of technology, and we pride ourselves in our ability to handle projects of any size, no matter how complex.

We understand that in today’s fast-paced world, you need solutions that are both efficient and effective, and that’s exactly what we provide. With us, you can have peace of mind that your project is in good hands. We understand that the complex nature of your work requires flexibility, customization, attention to detail, and thorough communication, which is why we work with you every step to ensure we get every detail right.

Efficiency is the Name of the Game

Imagine having access to the most advanced fabrication technology, where every detail of your parts is brought to life through cutting-edge design software and expertly executed by highly qualified and experienced fabricators. That’s exactly what our fabrication division offers. Utilizing custom metal laser cutting and custom CNC machining, combined with our top-notch quality control and quick turnaround, we bring efficiency and capability to your projects. See for yourself by watching this video and discover the possibilities of what our division can do for you

Trust is key when it comes to choosing a vendor to partner with. That’s why we invite you to tour our facility and have in-depth discussions with our team before making your final decision. Our flawless execution gives our clients the confidence that we’re on their team. We don’t just want to sell you parts or build your project; we want to see you succeed. Trust us to be your partner in success.

How can we make your next project high-quality, efficient and customized to meet your needs?

At Yarbrough Industries, we’re ready to get the job done. Let’s work together!

There are many different methods that metal fabricators use to cut metal, but laser cutting is one of the most advanced techniques. A laser cutter’s ability to make precise cuts at speeds unmatched by other flat sheet cutting methods makes it one of the best sheet metal fabrication choices. There are several benefits to this method of cutting, including:

Competitive Pricing

Laser cutting is a highly automated process, making labor costs minimal when compared to hand-operated machinery. Since costs associated with sheet metal fabrication include labor, operation and machine expenses, this is an important factor to consider. The operating costs and machine costs are fairly average compared to other cutting techniques.

Generally, companies will find that outsourcing laser cutting for their sheet metal fabrication is the most effective option for most projects. Laser-cutting machines can be quite expensive, and most companies find that it is easier and less expensive to outsource this aspect of their fabrication process. 

One of the great things about laser cutters is that there are no dull or worn blades to worry about, making die changeovers a thing of the past. This also means that by placing larger orders, you can reduce costs tremendously, as the automated system does the mapping and planning for each additional piece. 

Although laser cutting isn’t the cheapest cutting technology available, it’s more than affordable for most projects. It has some major benefits over other cutting forms, such as water jet cutting or hand cutting processes.

Unrivaled Speed, Efficiency & Automation

A laser cutting machine can move as quickly as 1,000 holes per minute. Of course, the exact speed will vary depending on the tolerances and intricacy of the parts.

CNC controls typically run laser cutting. The formulas entered into the computer mean each part and product is identically fabricated, leading to fewer defects per batch.

Quality Precision

Laser cutting can create tiny cuts at tight tolerances. However, that’s the tradeoff: the more precision you want, the slower the laser will move. Yet, this highly detailed capability is unique to laser cutting. So, laser cutting is the only type of cutting that will get the job done well if you require intricate cuts.

Beyond that, all laser-cut edges and curves are smooth, sharp, and clean, which means there is very little, if any, burring because the laser melts rather than physically cuts the metal.

The only thing to consider is if your project requires very thick sheets of metal – thicker metals affect the cut’s quality, and a laser will leave some dross (melted metal scum) behind on thick metals. Aside from this dross, there is little to no clean-up involved in the majority of laser cutting projects.

Versatility

The combination of cost, speed, automation, and precision makes laser cutting a great choice for any size product or project. This makes many routine tasks/projects easy, including prototypes, industrial orders, delicate designs, and larger cutouts. Lasers are capable of making holes, slots, tabs, and other cut fabrications with no interruption of the cutting process. The incredible precision allows for tight tolerances on intricately detailed designs. If your project doesn’t require tight tolerances, the laser can move quickly and produce parts at incredible speeds. This makes laser cutting a fantastic choice for a wide spectrum of projects.

Yarbrough Industries is proud to offer laser cutting services for your next fabrication product. We can fabricate any order, whether it includes prototypes, components, or final assemblies. We adhere to the belief that high-quality results can only be achieved through the use of high-quality equipment. Laser cutting offers the ability to cut through various materials and thicknesses at high speeds, producing extremely precise and accurate cuts.

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Metal fabrication is a small part of the metal manufacturing industry. There are many different types of manufacturing processes, including:

  • Forging
  • Smelting
  • Blacksmithing
  • Casting
  • Stamping
  • Painting
  • Roll Forming
  • Heat Treating
  • Structural Fabrication
  • Machining
  • Metal Fabrication

As you can imagine, the wide variety involved in metal manufacturing can be overwhelming. Metal fabrication, by itself, has many subcategories and niches that would be impossible to comprehensively list. Some different categories of metal fabrication you might encounter are heavy industrial plate metal, light industrial sheet metal, heavy structural steel, and light structural steel fabrication.  

Heavy Industrial Plate Metal Fabrication

This type of fabrication might include enormous plate steel, sometimes 1”-4” thick (even heavier) and fabrication processes like plasma cutting, rolling, welding, heat treating, and finishing. Finished products that involve heavy industrial plate metal fabrication might include mining equipment, pressure vessels, and tanks.

Light Industrial Sheet Metal Fabrication

This type could include smaller weighted metal-like materials ranging from 1/32” – 1/2” and fabrication processes like Laser Cutting, Brake Forming, Welding, Anodizing, and Painting. The products produced using this type of fabrication might be Computer Enclosures, Cases, and OEM Parts.

Heavy Structural Steel Fabrication

These fabrication processes are done with sawing cutting, plasma cutting, drilling, welding, sandblasting, and painting. This process deals with structural iron and beams that weigh several hundred pounds or more per foot. You can see the results of heavy structural steel fabrication, check out skyscrapers, large bridges and tunnel supports. 

Light Structural Steel Fabrication

This can include structural tube, angle and beams that weigh less than a hundred pounds per foot.  Fabrication processes would typically be similar to heavy structural steel processes, but the products created would be Small Buildings, Small Bridges, Platforms, and Supports.

Metal Fabrication Versus Machining

Metal fabrication is a term that typically refers to manufacturing that includes cutting, forming, rolling, sawing and welding metal. However, it is not to be confused with machining. There is a bit of crossover with the two, but machining usually includes more detailed work such as milling, lathing, routing, and polishing and is typically a part of the manufacturing industry. 

In addition, fabrication usually works with manufacturing tolerances at .010” – .030” whereas machining works with tolerances all the way down to .005” (and even smaller in many cases). 

Advancements in Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication, like all manufacturing industries, has transformed over the years as technology has become more advanced. This began with the Computer Numerically Controlled, CNC, machines. These types of machines, combined with Computer Aided Drafting, CAD, revolutionized the metal fabrication industry.

Prior to the invention of CNC and CAD, hand layouts and calculator math were the tools used by craftsmen to layout and calculate fabricated parts. Machines had manual gauges that would be fine-tuned by hand as the technician moved stops, dialed back gauges and tweaked settings.

However, those days are long gone and programs are now generated automatically from CAD drawings and sent, via computer and code, directly to the various machines. Lasers can cut metal like butter, brake forming machines can tell you which order to sequence your bends and robotic welders can weld endless amounts of wire throughout the night. Metal fabrication is still an enormous part of everyday life and most of us see it, or use it, without even knowing as much. Light rail transit cars, automobiles, snowblowers, electrical panels, guardrails, signs, etc. Metal fabrication is everywhere!

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Manufacturers typically use one of two major cutting processes when cutting material for a project. These are known as laser cutting and water jet cutting. The choice of one or the other may be better depending on the type of material used and the desired end result. This article explains some of the basic differences between these fabrication processes and the materials and types of projects that they work well with.

Laser Cutting

A laser cutter relies on gas, typically CO2, for energy. The CO2 is transmitted through a beam, guided by mirrors, and directed at the material that will be cut. With CO2 lasers, the laser source is located inside the machine, and the beam can output between 1500 and 2600 Watts, which makes safety a primary concern and can occasionally increase the price point on a laser cutting job. Materials and applications, as well as precision and safety, are important factors to think about when considering laser cutting.

Materials and Applications

Laser cutters work well with a wide variety of materials, making them an easy choice for plastic, glass, wood, and most metals. It is important to note that laser cutters cannot be used on reflective metals. It can also work on material combinations as long as that combination consists of materials with similar melting points. If the materials have different melting points, it can be rather difficult to cut. Sandwich structures with cavities cannot be cut at all using a laser, and materials with limited access prove difficult as well. 3D material cutting is also hard to manage because of the rigid beam guidance with the mirrors. 

Laser cutters do well with materials that range between 0.12 in and 0.4 in thickness and are commonly used to cut flat sheets of medium thickness steel. Typically, a laser cutter performs cutting, welding, drilling, engraving, ablation, and structuring.           

Precision and Safety

Lasers are great when you want precision. The minimum size of a laser cutting slit can reach 0.006 in, depending on the speed of the laser. It is good to note that thinner workpieces may suffer from gas pressure if the proper distance cannot be maintained, and partial burring does occur frequently. Deformation and minor structural changes can occur as a result of thermal stress, and the cut material will appear striated. 

Laser cutting produces smoke and dust, and some plastics and metals may produce toxic fumes, so being aware that those could impact time and cost is important. The overall risk involved in working with laser cutting machines is very low, however, and your time and budget can benefit from the minimal amount of waste produced and subsequent ease of cleanup. 

Waterjet Cutting

Waterjet cutters use pressurized water to cut materials. There are often abrasives such as garnets and aluminum oxide added to increase cutting ability.  The overall process mimics erosion in nature, just at a much higher speed and concentration: a high-pressure pump drives the water through rigid hoses, resulting in a forceful water jet—a typical water jet can output between 4 to 7 kilowatts. Unlike a laser cutter, where the laser source is located inside the machine, the work area and pump are often separate.     

Material and Applications

Water jets can cut virtually any material including combination materials—with combination materials. However, water jets pose the threat of delamination. They can sometimes handle 3D material cutting, and exhibit limited ability with sandwich structures and cavities. Cutting materials with limited access is possible but difficult. 

Water jets usually perform cutting, ablation, and structuring, specifically with materials like stone, ceramics, and thick metals. Materials that range in thickness from 0.4 to 2 inch benefit from water jet cutting.

Precision and Safety

Waterjet cutting is not quite as precise as laser cutting, with a minimum cut size slit of .02”. Because of the high level of force used, thin, small, parts do not fare well and must be handled carefully. Although thermal stress is not an issue and burring doesn’t occur in the cut, the surface of the material will appear sand-blasted as a result of the added abrasive to the waterjet. The waterjet cutting process is quite noisy, and requires a significant amount of clean up, which could mean a bit more labor cost. There is also a large amount of waste that occurs as a result of the mixed water and abrasive. 

 

At Yarbrough industries, we specialize in laser and waterjet cutting. Learn more about our services and how we can help you with your next project.

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When you need to hire a machine shop, it’s important to work with someone you can trust to get the job done right the first time. Working with a local company makes this much more likely. But why?

A local machine shop offers several advantages. When you are weighing your options, consider the following benefits of working with someone in your own backyard and what you should look for when doing so:

    • You can be more specific: Clear communication and detailed specifics are essential to getting the end result you desire. Being able to deliver this information in person allows you to make sure your parameters are accurately conveyed and your machine shop understands exactly what you need. You can specify the tolerances needed and work with the local company to achieve accurate measurements and optimal results. 
    • You can make roughness smooth: An important aspect of your project is determining the desired roughness of the surface. Do you want smooth components, with a very polished surface? This depends greatly on the functionality of the parts. A local professional can explain how the roughness will affect the performance of your equipment and work with you to decide what roughness is best for your project.
    • You can choose wisely: The materials you use for your manufacturing affect the final durability and performance. It also greatly affects the cost of production. Your local machine shop will review your options with you and let you personally examine various materials to determine which is best. You may even be able to look at similar products the shop has made in the past to make an informed comparison.
    • You can enjoy savings: A local shop can save you both time and money. Enjoy a smaller budget by saving on delivery costs. Complete your project faster by cutting out delivery wait times. By working with someone local, you won’t be wondering where your parts are in transit or when the project will be completed.
    • You can be involved: When you work with a local machine shop, you can be actively involved in the manufacturing process. This will provide peace of mind and a better overall experience with production.
    • You can complete the process: Once the machine shop has designed and manufactured your piece, they can also install it. It is typically easier for the same professionals who created the part to also perform the installation. Working with someone local makes this possible.
    • You can help your community: Obviously, we all want to do what we can to ensure that the community we live in is becoming better every year. Working with a local business helps your own community and you know that they will provide reliable, timely service to keep their reputation spotless.

Shop local with Yarbrough Industries! You’ll enjoy the advantages of working with a local machine shop right here in the heart of the Ozarks while receiving the best quality from some of the top professionals in the industry. Reach out to us today with any questions or to get started on your next project.

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In every area of life, we are all looking for ways to save money, cut costs, and squeeze out every penny when it comes to our budget. No matter if it’s a trip to the grocery store, buying a car, or looking to repurpose an abandoned warehouse for something new, we all want the best quality at the best price possible. There are situations where the best price isn’t necessarily the lowest, but knowing the difference will give you the confidence you need to make an informed decision.

This is especially true when it comes to metal fabrication. Although there may not be coupons or weekly ads to compare prices, when you begin getting the bids for a job, it becomes a heavy task to sift through the facts and figures to try to ensure you are hiring the right fabricator or welder for the job. Every job has many different factors that have to be considered, but typically the bid’s total dollar amount is one of the most things you can look at.

When you are getting ready to request bids on an upcoming project, here are a few tips that can help keep estimates low and lead times short. Keep in mind, these are suggestions and you can alter each of them to fit your specifications and needs at any particular time.

Provide shop-ready drawings.

By providing your own drawings, you can eliminate the engineering process that many fabrication companies spend additional money on while forming their estimated bid.

Provide a completion date. 

Every fabrication company has a different workload based on multiple factors. This means that your desired delivery date will impact their bid price and ability to fit the project into their schedule.

Provide addresses and contacts.

It is not uncommon for fabricators to do a majority of the work on-site, which can help shorten lead times considerably. By having this information upfront, you allow each metal shop to determine a closer estimate of their costs based on the specifications of the job site.

Provide load specifications if possible. 

These include specs for tension, environmental loads, equipment limitations or restrictions, or even equipment cut sheets. This can provide them with valuable information on how they will be pricing your bid and if they will need to custom order anything.

Provide engineering drawings

Provide engineering drawings or basic arrangement drawings if possible. Once again, these small things allow estimators to have a clearer picture of the project in its entirety. That enables them to provide a more realistic bid total. Plus, their bid total won’t need to include costs related to this prep work.

Provide any plans and profiles available.

To reiterate for the third time, the more information you can provide prior to getting the bid, the more realistic and accurate that bid will be.

If you are ever in doubt about what you should provide, always err on the side of too much. Communication is key to more precise bids and the more detail you include, the closer to a factual total you will end up with. As an interested customer, the more information you can provide upfront, the better.

Another thing it is important to remember when you are considering a fabrication job is that if you need to make any major changes to these pre-stated specifications AFTER a job begins, it can extend the completion date out beyond the deadline and tack on extra costs that weren’t accounted for in the contingency figures. By being prepared in advance and knowing what you want from the start, your metal fabricator can actually get to work and complete the project as efficiently as possible.

Need to Request for Quote from Yarbrough Industries? Contact us anytime!

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Anytime there is metal involved in a project, there is a possibility of rust. This can present a challenge to the appearance of the project and the piece’s overall structural integrity. When iron is exposed to oxygen through air or water, rust and corrosion may take hold. There are a few ways to combat rust, but it is best to prevent it from forming in the first place.

Ways to Prevent Rust

Here are a few suggestions for how you can work to keep rust and corrosion from destroying your project.

Use Rust and Corrosion Resistant Alloys


Certain metals, such as stainless steel, are naturally resistant to rust because of their chemical makeup. For example, stainless steels have chromium added to them. The chromium combines with oxygen to form a passive layer that protects the steel from corrosion. What’s really great about this protective layer is that it can fix itself if damaged. However, this does not mean that stainless steel is completely impervious to corrosion, as exposure to extreme environments (such as saltwater) can still cause stainless steel to corrode. Before you begin a project, it is important to weigh your options regarding what metals and materials you will use and how they interact with the given environment in which they will exist.

Another option is to use weathering steel, also known as “COR-TEN” steel. This steel contains various alloys such as chromium, nickel, copper, and phosphorus that create a protective patina that can greatly reduce the corrosion rate.

Intelligent Design


Aside from choosing a corrosion-resistant metal, a lot can be accomplished to combat rust through smart design. No matter the structure you are creating, limit the number of cavities and crevices in which water could easily collect. It is better to weld joints than to bolt them together as water can penetrate the spaces underneath bolts and washers and eventually cause them to fail. It would help if you also prioritized making all spaces open to making future maintenance as easy as possible, so rust can be addressed as soon as it is discovered.

Paint


Painting is a great, low-cost way to protect against rust. The paint forms a protective barrier between the metal and corrosive elements. Oil-based paints are the best choice if you try to prevent water and oxygen from penetrating the metal and causing corrosion. Keep in mind that you will have to monitor the quality of the paint regularly. As soon as the paint chips or becomes damaged, the metal underneath will become more susceptible to corrosion.

Powder Coating


Another great option to protect your piece is to have it powder coated. This is when applying a dry powder via spraying and then heating it, so it forms a thin, protective film.

At Yarbrough Industries, we have experts to help you through the process to ensure your project lasts.

Make sure to contact us about any metal fabrication and machining questions you may have!

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This industry moves fast, but you can move even faster if you’re up to date on trends, technical developments, and best practices. The Yarbrough Industries blog is a go-to source for valuable, timely and detailed information. Sign up to ensure that you don’t miss a single post.