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What the Heck is Sheet Metal?

What the Heck is Sheet Metal?

What exactly is sheet metal and how is it fabricated? Sheet metal is generally defined as being thinner than metal plates but still thicker than foil. So, how would a Sheet Metal Fabricator produce these metal sheets? Here’s the low-down on two common techniques that are used to produce sheet metal:

Technique #1 – Flat Rolling

Flat rolling is exactly what it sounds like: the metal is put through a roller in order to reduce its thickness. Such rollers are usually mechanically operated as a consistent (and tremendous) amount of pressure is needed to roll out and even and smooth the metal sheet. To get a thinner metal sheet, the metal may be “rolled out” more than once to achieve the desired thickness.

Technique #2 – Deep Drawing

Another method used to produce sheet metal is to squeeze the metal until it reaches the desired thickness. For this, the Sheet Metal Fabricators would use a punch. The punch presses down on the metal and reduces its thickness radially. Think of how you used to squash a ball of clay with the palm of your hand to flatten it when you were young. The pressure of your palm reduced the thickness of the clay ball and the clay ball got bigger in length and width. A punch may be manually or machine-operated.

Once the sheet metal has reached the perfect thickness necessary for the specific project sheet metal fabrication can commence. Sheet metal fabrication is the process of shaping and bending the metal sheet into the perfect shape to be used in a particular project. Sheet metal can be shaped into a vast range of hollow shapes and structures and can even be perforated. A Sheet Metal Fabricator is often referred to as a fab shop. How does a metal sheet get fabricated into the perfect shape?

As any Sheet Metal Fabricator will tell you, fabrication consists of a couple of smaller processes. The first of the smaller processes is to cut the metal sheet down to size. Cutting is done with manual or machine operated shears. Some punches also “cut” the edges off the metal sheet while it punches the metal sheet into a specific shape. For example, cupping is the process of shaping the metal sheet into a cup by punching it. The edges are cut away as the punch presses down, leaving only the cup behind.

Other small shaping processes include bending and folding which can also be done with punches or other machines. Bending and folding is used to create angles and corners. Similarly machine punches that punch different shapes also exist as explained in the above cupping example. Another example is cylindrical shapes such as tubes that are created by roll-forming machines.

These are just some of the ways in which the Sheet Metal Fabricator may shape your metal sheet. Many other ways exist to create shapes from metal sheets that are not covered in this blog but hopefully the blog has provided you with a basic idea of what sheet metal fabrication entails. Next time you are contacting a Sheet Metal Fabricator, impress them with your sheet metal fabrication knowledge by asking them if they will be “flat rolling” or “deep drawing” your metal sheets in their shop…

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