Today, a lot of metal fabrication work is automated, from Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) drawings to pre-programmed machines that cut, mould or shape the metal into a final product. We’re even beginning to see 3-D printing in engineering workshops and factories.
However, at the same time, customers still have one-off projects or need customisations made to existing products or components. How does this process work today?
Design and specification
Sometimes customers know exactly what they want and arrive to the first meeting with a set of fully complete engineering drawings and a list of the required materials, processes and finishing. That’s unusual, however. More often, the customer has an idea of what the finished product or component should look like and what it must be able to do, along with a cost framework, but they have less of an idea of the processes that will realise this vision.
The first stage is design and conceptualisation. The fabrication specialist will assess the customer’s requirement to ensure that it’s feasible, uses available materials, will work as required and will be reliable when in service. CAD is often used to model and prototype the requirement.
Building the custom product or component
The fabricator now has to apply their expertise to choosing a suitable process for manufacturing the item. There are a number of different techniques that may be used including casting, forging, extrusion, drilling and several others. A process such as drawing, for example, involves the use of tensile force on molten metal to draw it into a taper-shaped die.
It should be noted that these kinds of processes involve some risk, and the fabricator should follow the precautions described in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Health and Safety in Engineering Workshops guidance. This runs through many of the metal fabrication processes and lists the most frequent accidents that happen when they are being carried out.
Finally, the workpiece should be ready for assembly and finishing. Not all items will need assembly involving bonding, but when they do, many metal fabricators are now seeking to use metal bonding adhesives like those at www.ct1ltd.com wherever possible because their hazard profile is so much lower.
When choosing a metal fabricator for a custom job, ensure that they have some experience in your industry and the type of production run that you require.