What Is Sheet Metal Custom Fabrication?

Sheet metal custom fabrication is responsible for a surprising number of everyday products. The process involves taking raw materials and fabricated them into sheets of metal which can be anywhere from super thin foils to heftier plates. And these sheets are commonly produced as flat planes or coiled strips.

Crude forms of sheet metal fabrication have been around for millennia. Ancient civilizations often hammered silver and gold into leaf, or foil, which was layered over wooden objects to produce decorative pieces.

And plate armor was fashioned by hammering bronze, and harder metals later in history, into protective coverings worn into battle.

Today, the processes are diverse and highly technical. Here are a few of the most common means of sheet metal custom fabrication.

Sheet Metal Rolling Fabrication

Before it goes onto other fabrication processes, the majority of all sheet metal is made by rolling. Rolling is a process quite similar to pasta makers. Like dough, the raw metal is fed through a pair of rollers to produce sheets of a desired, uniform thickness.

This process of sheet metal custom fabrication produces either hot rolled or cold rolled sheets.

Hot Rolled Sheet Metal

As the metal is worked through the rollers, it willise about recrystallization temperature, which is a structural alteration. Hot rolled sheet metal has a variety of uses, such as air compressor tanks and automobile wheels.

Cold Rolled Sheet Metal

Here the temperature is closely monitored to ensure it remains below the recrystallization temperature as it's worked. Cold rolled sheet metal will often be used in the manufacture of metal furniture, home appliances, etc.

Sheet Metal Stamping Fabrication

Stamping is pretty much what it sounds like. Rather than hammering as our ancestors did, stamping uses machine precision to form desired shapes.

This sheet metal custom fabrication is accomplished by feeding sheets of metal into a mechanical stamping press where the tool and die surfaces pound the sheets into the desired configuration.

Stamping has been around for over a century, and it continues to remain an effective and economical process for the manufacture of metal products. Many everyday items - everything from toasters to automotive panels - were made by stamping sheet metal into shape.

Sheet Metal Punching Fabrication

For creating holes and perforations in sheet metal, punching is usually the most economical method available.

Traditionally, holes were formed in sheet metal with hand tools - a hammer and a simple punch. But in today's industrial setting, holes are punched using specialized machines.

Punching is capable of producing a variety of hole shapes and sizes; helpful when building a custom mobile skid or other framework. These can be decorative, or they can serve function purposes. 

Functionally, these holes can reduce the weight of the material, and the roll-over created by the punching process can also provide traction (stair treads, for example).

Sheet Metal Water Jet Cutting Fabrication

A recent sheet metal custom fabrication process brought to light is water jet cutting. This method requires an industrial tool capable of producing an extremely high-pressure jet of water, which can cut cleanly and precisely through sheet metal. CNC water jets can yield highly complex shapes and intricate designs.