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Metal Fabrication Process And A DIY Perspective 

 May 3, 2022

By  Chris

by Chris

May 3, 2022

Metal Fabrication - Pipe Extension

Metal fabrication is the process of turning raw or stock steel into a finished product. The finished product is created by manipulating the metal.  The process may include cutting, forging, stamping, bending, welding, or machining.

Do you have a project that needs metal fabrication? Whether it's a simple bracket or something more complex, the process can seem daunting. It doesn't have to be though! In this article, we will discuss the different processes involved in metal fabrication and how you can do it yourself. We'll also provide some tips to help make the process go smoothly. Let's get started!

The history of metal fabrication

Metal fabrication can be traced back to the blacksmiths of ancient times. They were some of the first people to develop the techniques necessary to shape metal into useful objects.

Humans have mined and manipulated metals for almost 10,000 years.  A discovery by archaeologists in northern Iraq proves metal fabricators were around in 8700 BC. Metal fabrication has come a long way since then, and today there are a variety of processes that can be used to create a wide range of products.

What is considered metal fabrication?

From metal alloys, molten metal is poured into the mold and allowed to cool, resulting in a finished product. This process is often used to create small parts and components for products such as electronics.

There are many other fabrication processes that can be used depending on the project to shape metal. Some of these include machining, stamping, rolling forming and pressing, shearing metal sheets into shape with a die or hammer; bending metal into curves by applying pressure to one side at an angle (similar to what you would do when making cookies); cutting out holes in metals such as steel pipes or plates using saws and drills; forging pieces together by heating them up first then smashing them together so they fuse into one solid piece.

Other processes include extrusion (pushing metal through a die), casting or pouring liquid metals like iron that harden when cooled off; and assembling pieces by welding them together using heat generated from an electric arc welder torch as well as other techniques such as riveting, fastening screws/nuts/bolts, or using adhesives.

There are many ways to achieve the desired outcome when fabricating metal. It all depends on the project and what is available to you in terms of tools and equipment. As a general rule, the more complex the project, the more processes that will be involved.

Types of Metal Fabrications

Casting

Casting involves heating the metal to the melting metal. The liquid metal is then poured into a mold. Once the metal has cooled down, it can be removed from the mold. When cooled, the metal hardens maintaining the molds shape. 

Casting, as a metal manufacturing process, provides a perfect mass production of parts. With nonexpendable molds that can be reused for identical parts and repeatability.

Using the casting method for metal fabrication saves a lot of time for mass production. A mold can be built once and reused over and over. It's way faster than machining or forging the same piece or product.  

There are a ton of metal casting classes that beginning DIY fabricators can take to get started with casting. 

Machining

Machining is the process where metal fabricators remove material from the metal stock. The remaining metal left over is the form of the machined part. 

Machine shops will use milling machines and lathes to remove the material. These machines can be used manually, with either manual or powered feeders.

There are a multitude of different mill/drill bits and cutters that determine the cuts of metal. The order of operations will determine which bits are used and when.

For mass production of parts, CNC or computer numerical control machines are used. A CNC programmer will either use software or manually type G code to create the various tool paths. Once the program is completed, the operator starts the program and begins milling the product.

Machining is a very common metal fabrication process. For the small shop and DIY folks, there are quite a few inexpensive mill and lathe machines available. It's better to take a class and understand the inherent dangers of rotating equipment than just winging it. 

Forging

Forging is the process of deforming metal into a desirable shape by impact or pressure. Think blacksmith.

There are different types of forging processes that can be used in metal fabrication:

Downward upsetting, where the metal is compressed from top to bottom, increasing its length and reducing diameter.

Drawing out which stretches the material while maintaining its cross sectional area.

Rolling where stock material moves through a pair of rolls to reduce thickness and increase length.

Swaging which is when the metal is squeezed into shape using dies that have indentations or protrusions on them. This process can be used for both external (outside diameter) and internal diameters as well. It can also be used to create threads.

Forge metal fabrication is one of the oldest methods for shaping metal. Forging has been around since ancient times when skilled blacksmiths would heat metal in a forge and beat it into shape with hammers on anvils.

Today, forging is still quite popular as there are many parts that are difficult or impossible to machine.  

Forging is relatively inexpensive to get into when considered to other metal fab processes.  There are several forging books and free video courses on forging to get started.

Extrusion

Extrusion is the process of pushing metal through a die to create a desired shape. 

The die is a shaped opening that the metal is pushed through. The metal takes on the shape of the die once it passes through. 

Extrusion as a metal fabrication process is most commonly used to create long, continuous shapes like rods and tubes. 

Extrusion can be done cold or hot depending on the type of metal being formed. Aluminum is often extruded using a hot process whereas steel may be extruded at room temp.

Folding

Folding is a metal fabrication process that bends the metal into a desired shape. 

The metal is placed between two dies and then compressed. This compressing action causes the metal to fold onto itself.

There are a few different types of folding:

Single-folding which occurs when one die contacts the metal on one side and then the other die contacts it from the opposite side.

Double-folding is when both dies contact the metal at once, causing one half of the metal to fold over onto itself.

Stamping

This metal manufacturing process is used to create parts that have been precision cut out of flat sheets by a press. The pieces are then bent into shape with dies or other tools, which results in an end-product that's ready to use immediately upon completion!

Some common uses for stamped parts are in the automotive, agricultural, and construction industries.

The stamping process can be used to create simple or intricate shapes in the metal.

The fabrication process for metals is the same as punching, but the press creates no holes in metal but indentures. Stamps can create shapes or images for metal panels and sheets.

Sheets of up to 1/4 inch thickness are manufactured in specified shape or dimensions. Metal stamping presses are capable of manufacturing an enormous variety of products, including blanking metal coins or four slide forms.

Cutting edge

This very common kind of metal fabrication consists of cutting up work into smaller parts. The sawing technique is the earliest and modern way for cutting and includes laser cutting waterjet cutting power scissors and laser cutting arcs. It is possible to cut by various means from manual tools to numerical computer cutters.

Cutting is sometimes an early phase in a longer manufacturing process or the only process used. Die-cutting is a cutting technique using a die to cut metals. Rotary die-cutters use spinning cylindrical dies to cut materials pumped from presses. This method is.

Welding

Welding is the process of joining two pieces of metal together by melting them and fusing them together.

There are many different types of welding processes, but they all have one common goal: to create a strong bond between the two pieces of metal.

Some popular welding processes used in metal fabrication are:

Stick Welding (Shielded Metal Arc Welding/SMAW)

Stick Welder - Metal Fabrication

Stick welding, commonly called shielded metal-arc welding (SMAW), involves an electric stick generating an electric charge that creates electric currents in contact with metal. High heat welding is used in welding arc welded materials.

MIG Welding (Gas Metal Arc Welding/GMAW)

Metal Fabrication - MIG welding.

MIG welding, commonly referred to as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), is a welding process that uses an electric arc to weld metal. MIG welding is a continuous process, meaning that the electrode wire is fed continuously during the welding process. MIG welding can be used for a variety of metals, including steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. 

TIG Welding (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding/GTAW)

Metal Fabrication With TIG Welder

Tungsten Inert Gas welding, or TIG welding, or gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) is a type of arc welding that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area is protected from atmospheric contamination by an inert gas, such as argon or helium.

Flux-Cored (Flux-Cored Arc Welding/FCAW)

Flux-Core Welder

Flux-cored welding, or flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), is similar to MIG welding that uses a continuously fed electrode that has a core of flux material. The flux protects the weld area from atmospheric contamination and provides a slag covering that protects the weld bead from oxidation. No gas is required.

The welding wire provides it's own slag to protect the weld bead. Most flux-cored welders will have a place to tie a bottle of gas for MIG welding. All that's required is changing the polarity.

Shearing

It's an a typical metal manufacturing process that consists of a long straight cut.

An upper blade presses the metal into the lower blade and fractures. The rupture spreads outward to complete separation.

This is one of the more common metal fabrication processes for both sheet metal, expanded metal and plate metal.

Drawing

This metal manufacturing process is used to create hollow objects such as tubes and pipes. The metal is drawn through the opening or die of a press, which results in the creation of a tube.

The advantage of this method is that it can be done quickly with very little scrap material left over from the original piece being formed. This means less wasted metal and more product for your customers!

Metal Fabrication Processes

Metal fabrication processes of turning raw or stock steel into a finished product is determined by each metal fabrication job. The finished product is created by metal fabricators manipulating the metal. The process may include cutting, forging, stamping, bending, welding, or machining.

The process can also be broken down into phases as well. Design phase, planning phase, actual building phase, and the finishing process. Often, these different phases are performed by different departments or even different companies.

For large companies, the metal fabrication process works with engineers that will begin the design phase. The engineers will draft up blueprints on cad and cam programs.

Once the engineers are done, the planning stages begins to help prioritize work processes for the metal fabricator. From there, the actual building process begins.

If your fab shop/mad house is anything like mine, i.e., home-brewed, you do it all or most of it because you can't afford to hire a metal fabricator. You design it, engineer it, and build it. At most, someone might bring an idea to you to build. You then build it using various processes and your fabrication experience to bring it to life.

Are metal fabricators the same as a welder?

Metal fabrication is a process that can be done by one person or many people. It involves cutting, forming, and assembling metal parts into finished products such as tables, chairs, etc...

Metal fabricators would do all these things while welding only does one thing: joining two pieces of metal together! A welder will not cut materials or form them into shapes.

So, a metal fabricator is someone who can do all the steps in metal fabrication while a welder only joins two pieces of metal together. Make sense?

Custom metal fabrication

Custom metal fabrication can be a great way to get the products you need while also saving money. You can save a ton of money fabricating yourself.

If you're not confident or lack the tools, it will be cheaper to hire it out. Tooling up for one off projects can get expensive quick, not to mention the cost of wasted material if you do mess up.

Different types of metal fabricators

There are many different types of metal fabricators out there, but here are a few examples:

Blacksmiths were one type for creating things like horseshoes and other tools made out of iron or steel. A blacksmith typically uses an anvil as his work surface and coal or charcoal fires to heat up the metal before shaping it with hammers on top of the anvil.

Blacksmiths were one type for creating things like horseshoes and other tools made out of iron or steel. A blacksmith typically uses an anvil as his work surface and coal or charcoal fires to heat up the metal before shaping it with hammers on top of the anvil.

Metalworking is another type that involves cutting, bending, forming, rolling into shape or otherwise deforming metals using tools such as shears and presses; this process can be done either cold (without heating) or hot (with heating).

A metal worker may work in a metal fabrication shops to create things like tables and chairs out of sheet metal or they could be hired by companies to make parts for their products such as car doors and window frames.

There are many other types of fabricators, but these are a few of the most common. As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing a fabricator. You need to find one that specializes in the type of products you need and who has the experience and skills necessary to create them.

The DIY Approach To Metal Fabrication Process

There are many different steps involved in metal fabrication, but don't let that scare you! With a little bit of knowledge and some practice, you can easily create the products you need for your business or home.

There are many different ways to approach metal fabrication. You can do it all yourself, or you can outsource some of the processes to other companies.

The most important thing is to have a plan! It doesn't matter if it's plate steel, sheet metal or raw materials, you have to have a solid plan. The design phase is key, as it will determine how the finished product will look and function.

Once you have a design in place, you can start planning the fabrication process. This will include figuring out what tools and equipment you need, as well as determining the necessary steps to complete the project.

Once you have all that figured out, it's time to get building! The actual fabrication process can be done in a number of ways, so choose the one that works best for you and your team.

And finally, the finishing process. This is where you put the finishing touches on your product and make it look great!

DIY metal fabrication tools

DIY metal fabrication is a great way to learn how the process works, and it's also fun! It can be done at home or in your garage with just some basic tools and equipment. You don't need anything fancy like a CNC machine used in the metal fabrication industry; all you need are some simple hand tools like wrenches, hammers and pliers.

Slightly more expensive tools to elevate your metal fabrication might include a welder and some basic welding tools. There are some really inexpensive options that will work just fine until you can afford higher end equipment.

Spending a little money now for these tools will save a ton of money when considering the cost of outsourcing it to metal fabrication shops.

There are many different methods of DIY metal fabrication that can be used for creating custom parts or products with sheet metal such as aluminum, steel and other materials.

These include bending by hand using clamps and vices to hold pieces in place while they're being bent at angles between 0-90 degrees; welding with a MIG welder or other type of arc welder that melts metal together when it is heated up above the melting point temperature range for that particular material.

If you want to learn more about DIY metal fabrication, check out our metal fabrication blog for in depth articles on how to fabricate your own products.

Conclusion

We hope that this post has given you some insight into the world of metal fabrication and how it works. Obviously, this is a broad overview of the metal fabrication process. If there's anything else we can do for you, please comment below!

If you found this blog post helpful, then share it with others who might like to read about DIY metal work as well! Good luck on your future metal fabrication projects!

About the author 

Chris

Average guy that likes to build things and teach others what I learn. Family comes first. Steel, Jeeps and off-roading are all fighting for second place.

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