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Metal fabrication is the process of cutting, shaping, or molding metals into a final product. Metal fabricated products are made from a range of common metals and their alloys. One of the common alloys used for fabrication is steel.
Steel fabrication products include bar joists, ladders, grating, skids, pipe racks, etc. Structural steel is used for fabrication purposes. Structural steel fabrication is used in multiple industries including the construction industry, energy sector and automobile industry. The uses of steel fabricated products in the construction industry is vast.
What is structural steel fabrication?
Steel fabrication is the process of transforming raw steel into a product or an item that can be used in industries like consumer products, machinery, aerospace, etc. Unlike the common manufacturing method of assembling ready-made components together, fabrication creates a product from raw or semi-finished materials.
In a steel fabrication workshop, you will be able to see fabricators use drills, lathes, and mills to remove unwanted materials and model the metal into the required shape and size for the structural steel fabrication process. . Companies employ highly skilled experienced professionals as metal fabricators. In a steel fabrication work floor, there will be solderers, first-line supervisors, brazers, cutters, welders, etc., working on different stages of fabrications.
What are the raw materials involved in steel fabrication?
Different forms of raw steel are used in steel fabrication. The form depends on the design the company wants to produce. Here are different forms of steel used for fabrication to make steel fabrication products:
- Slabs: Slabs are produced by rolling metal ingots in a steel mill.
- Billets: Steel billets these have a square cross-section and have been formed by either rolling, forging, or extrusion.
- Plates, sheets, and strips: Steel slabs are put under rolling mills to form steel sheets, plates and strips. Sheets and strips are thinner than plates. Sheets have a large width-to-thickness ratio compared to strips.
- Bars: Long, solid piece of steel with square, round, or rectangular cross-sections. They are produced by rolling billets into smaller cross-sections.
What are the steps of steel fabrication?
Before beginning the structural steel fabrication process, the fabricator conceptualises and plans the design and features of the final product. Here are steps involved in structural steel fabrication process:
1. Preparing the design
The drawings and specifications of the end product are prepared by the designers. Once the design is complete a list of raw materials required is listed down and operational bills are prepared needed for purchase and production.
2. Acquiring raw materials
All materials required are procured as per the list of raw materials prepared. The primary raw material required is steel. To make quality fabrications you need steel suppliers that can guarantee premium steel.
3. Cutting and drilling
The steel acquired is cut and drilled using a CNC machine. The steel is first cut according to the measurements of the design and then drilled to create the holes needed for the project. Steel cutting is usually performed by circular saw machines, laser cutting machines, waterjet machines, or plasma cutting machines. There are multiple methods to cut steel including shear cutting, wedge-action cutting, abrasion, and other non-traditional methods.
4. Bending and welding
Once the steel is cut and drilled, it needs to be bent to form the right shape. There are various bending methods including section bending, roll bending, plate bending, and tube bending to create the desired shape. The steel is then welded together using MMA welding or MAG welding.
5. Quality check
A quality check is done after welding the steel into its desired shape to ensure that the steel meets all the required specifications. The check includes visual inspections, dimensional inspections, and mechanical tests. Non-destructive testing (NBT) is also done to check for hidden defects and cracks in the welded parts.
Once the quality check is complete, the steel is then sandblasted and painted. This usually involves coating the steel to protect it from corrosion.
What are the types of steel fabrication?
The type of fabrication of steel structures is the same as the types of types of metal fabrication. Let us have look at the different types of metal fabrication:
Cutting steel to make different parts is the most common type of fabrication. Cutting can be manual, powered by a tool or computerised.
Bonding is the process of creating a single metal piece from two different pieces. The pieces are joined using hot and cold cure adhesive method.
Folding is bending the metal to form the desired shape. A brake press can be used to fold the steel to its desired shape or sometimes a steel slab is manually hammered to get the desired shape.
Extrusion is usually used to make cylindrical objects like pipes. This process uses a specifically crafted open or closed die to form a cavity inside a steel piece.
Punching is the process of punching multiple holes in a steel piece using specific machinery. Steel with holes drilled out is typically used for fastening purposes.
What are the uses of steel fabrication?
The steel fabrication industry has much scope and demand as they form the tiny components in machines, consumer products, etc. Here are the top applications of steel fabrication:
- Bar joists
- Automotive parts
- Universal beams
- Pipe racks
- Universal columns
- Industrial equipment
Different industries use different forms of structural steel components in their equipment. Stainless steel is fabricated to make a variety of aerodynamic parts. Surgery related tools and scalpels are a famous use case of steel fabrication in medical industry. Structural steel fabrication and steel fabrication products are therefore very important and are at the center of every machinery.