Cutting is one of the three primary manipulation techniques for sheet metal. Due to the ease with which useful pieces may be produced by only removing small amounts of material, sheet metal fabrication can be viewed as a subtractive manufacturing process (much like CNC machining).
Manufacturers can cut sheet metal with a range of tools, some of which are specific to the manufacturing of sheet metal.
Laser cutting is one of the most important techniques for cutting sheet metal. A strong laser is used in a laser cutter that has been magnified by a lens or mirror. Although it is a precise and energy-efficient machine, it could have trouble penetrating the toughest materials. It is best suited for thin or medium gauge sheet metal.
Water jet cutting is an additional method of cutting sheet metal. A high-pressure jet of water combined with an abrasive material is used in water jet cutting, a technique for fabricating sheet metal, to cut through the metal. Since water jet cutters don't produce heat that may unnecessarily distort the metal, they are especially helpful for cutting sheet metals with low melting points.
Plasma cutting is the third method of sheet metal cutting. A plasma cutter produces a hot plasma jet that can readily pierce even thick thicknesses of sheet metal by creating an electrical channel of ionized gas. Plasma cutters are quick and strong with cheap setup costs, while being less precise than laser or water jet cutters.
There are some procedures that are only utilized for sheet metal manufacturing; however, these three cutting machines may be employed on a variety of materials.
For instance, while punching (sometimes referred to as piercing), precise holes are made in sheet metal using a punch and die. Between the two parts, a sheet of metal is inserted, and the punch pushes through the metal to the die. The round bits of material that were removed during the punching process are converted into garbage, but they can also be utilized to create new workpieces, a process known as blanking.
Similar machinery may be used to perforate sheet metal when making many holes.
Deforming sheet metal is a significant subcategory of sheet metal production techniques. There are a variety of techniques to modify and handle sheet metal without actually cutting it.
The primary method of deformation is sheet metal bending. A sheet metal manufacturer may bend sheet metal into V forms, U shapes, and channels at angles up to 120 degrees by using a device known as a brake. It is simpler to bend sheet metal with thinner gauges. Decambering, a procedure used by sheet metal makers, allows them to accomplish the reverse, taking the horizontal bend out of strips of sheet metal.
Although stamping is a type of deformation, it may also be considered a separate category in and of itself. As with punching, it requires the use of a hydraulic or mechanical stamping press outfitted with a tool and die, although the material need not always be removed. For particular operations like curling, sketching, embossing, flanging, and hemming, stamping can be employed.
In contrast to other deformation methods, spinning is a sheet metal production process that rotates the metal while it is forced against a tool. The procedure is helpful for producing rounded sheet metal objects, such as cones and cylinders, and has an appearance that is comparable to CNC turning or even pottery spinning.
Wheeling, which is used to create compound curves in sheet metal, and rolling, which involves feeding sheet metal between two rollers to reduce thickness (and/or promote uniformity in thickness), are less prevalent sheet metal deformation operations.
Some procedures fall somewhere in between cutting and deformation. For instance, to expand a sheet of metal, many slits must be cut into the metal, and the sheet must then be stretched open like an accordion.
Cutting and deformation of sheet metal are two methods of sheet metal production. Assembly is a third option, and it can be done with or without the use of conventional fasteners.
The assembling of various sheet metal elements using fasteners like bolts, screws, and rivets is an essential step in the manufacturing process, even if it isn't always seen as fabrication. Puncturing is one of several sheet metal fabrication techniques that may be used specifically to create holes for rivets and other fasteners.
The method of welding, in which heat is used to melt a part of metal where it meets another component, can also be used to link sheet metal components together. The two components' molten metal fused together to create a reliable connection. Although various metals may weld better with specific forms of welding, like arc, electron beam, resistance, etc., common sheet metals like stainless steel and aluminum have superior weldability.