Fundamentally, sheet metal fabrication is a manufacturing process that shapes a piece of sheet metal by removing excess material or deforming it in order to get the desired figure. “Sheet metal” is the actual work piece in the manufacturing process and one of the most common forms of raw material supply. Sheet metal can be cut, bent, and stretched into almost any shape imaginable.
Currently, it is not yet defined what specific thickness would classify a work piece as sheet metal, but generally it is considered to be in the range of 0.006-0.25 inches. Metal material that is much thinner than this range is called a “foil” and material that is thicker is referred to as a “plate”.
Sheet metal’s “gauge” refers to its thickness, which is a number ranging from 3-38. The higher the gauge, the thinner the piece of sheet metal, and vice versa. Sheet metal comes in a wide variety of materials, including:
- Stainless Steel
The process of removing material to create a certain shape entails the creation of holes and cut-outs. The deformation process may require bending sheet metal several times at different angles or stretching the sheet in order to create complex figures.
Two Categories of Sheet Metal Fabrication: Forming and Cutting
Forming processes use an applied force which then sufficiently results in the material plastically or permanently deforming into the desired shape. Forming processes are able to bend or stretch the sheet metal.
Cutting or shearing processes both use an applied force to separate the work piece allowing the material to be cut or removed. Other cutting processes that remove material by using heat or abrasion include CNC Plasma cutting which uses torch technology and CNC Waterjet cutting which uses a high pressure stream of water.