This article covers the advantages and disadvantages of metal fabrication. Fabrication refers to any process that cuts, shapes, or otherwise forms a material into an end product.
Advantages of Metal Fabrication
Metal fabrication depends largely on the family and grade of metal used in production. Some of the more commonly fabricated metals include steel, magnesium, iron, aluminum, copper, and nickel, each with their own various grades. Metals generally provide the following advantages over plastic fabrication:
Heat resistance: Metals typically have a higher melting-point and are less likely to degrade under elevated temperatures.
Improved strength: Metal grades tend to be stronger, harder, and more durable than their plastic counterparts.
Versatility: Metal can be fabricated through a wider range of processes, including casting, deep drawing, welding, forging, soldering, and chipping.
Cost-effectiveness: Metal is usually a cost efficient option, particularly in high-volume or long-term production runs.
Disadvantages of Metal Fabrication
Despite offering numerous benefits, metal is not ideal for every application. Some of the disadvantages of metal fabrication include:
Secondary operations: Metal fabrication is more likely to require post-fabrication processes, such as finishing, painting, and deburring, which can be time-consuming or costly.
Design limitations: The viscosity and molten flow behavior of some metals are not suited for crafting highly complex geometries or shapes.
High start-up fees: metal tooling costs are typically more expensive than comparable plastic fabrication tooling.
Choosing a Specific Fabrication Process
Once you have determined whether metal fabrication will better meet your project needs, the next step in the production process is to choose a specific shaping or forming process.
Some frequently used fabrication techniques and their common applications are:
Lathing: Lathing is a cutting method that uses a rotating work table and separate blade to cut, drill, knurl, or etch the material. Lathing is best suited for products that are symmetrical around an axis of rotation.
Drilling: This process employs a drill press to bore holes into a product. It is effective for creating uniform, circular cuts.
Milling: Like drill presses, mills bore holes through material, but with a sideways cutting motion. They are a good option for creating asymmetrical or non-circular cuts.
Honing: Honing involves multiple rotating tips that enlarge existing holes to exact sizes. It is useful for making products that require large circular cuts, such as engine cylinders.
Grinding: Grinders apply an abrasive wheel to surface treat material or create faint cuts in the product. Grinding is beneficial for applications that require smooth surface textures.