Why Small-Sized Channel Forming Can Be A Challenge
Customers are often baffled by an over-the-phone explanation of why certain sized channels cannot be press brake formed. Although press braking appears to be a simple concept, precision accuracy can be quite difficult.
There are a couple of reasons for this but the most significant reason is best illustrated by Figure 1.
If the channel has vertical legs that are too long when compared to the base, the leg formed first will crash into the forming dies before the second bend bottoms out at 90 degrees.
When that happens the metal will crash into the brake or forming dies and the legs or base (or both) will be stretched and contorted, which basically ruins the channel.
Sometimes these constraints can be overcome. Here are some suggestions when forming small-sized or deep-leg channels:
- Custom “dog leg” or “gooseneck” or “swan neck” dies (shown in Figure 2) can often be used or special ordered that allow for tighter formed channels.
Most metal fabricators will have a few sets of standard gooseneck dies for basic channel forming but often times custom sets of metal forming dies will have to be ordered to form and fabricate the parts needed.
These types of dies are expensive, costing several hundred dollars per foot so smaller-sized jobs, particularly non-repeat jobs, are often not quoted because of the excessive cost of purchasing a custom die set.
- Some fabricators will suggest “back-bending” the metal channel, which is also hard to explain verbally but can be attempted.
Back bending works by creating a “W” shape in the formed part and then hitting the channel again with a flattening die to smash the middle section out of the “W” (See Figure 3).
Back bending (see the green shape) keeps the leg of the die from smashing into the crash-point as shown in the illustration. This works well when there may be only a few parts to bend and the fabricator and customer decide, jointly, that it makes sense.
There are a few drawbacks to this method.
One, the metal part will have a line down the middle of the channel where the metal was flattened, which may or may not be important depending on how the part is used. (See red triangle in Figure 4).
Two, this is not a very efficient way of forming parts because it takes several press brake setups and multiple handling of parts compared to basically one set up if the part was formed with the gooseneck dies shown in Figure 2.
All of this is simply to say that forming small or deep channels in sheet metal, as we originally pointed out, is not as easy and obvious as one might think.
Hopefully, this will help you as you work with your local metal fabricator.
Future metal fabrication and press brake forming topics that relate to this will include forming fractures (when metal actually fractures or breaks as it is formed), minimum forming dimensions (what is too small to form) and forming to inside or outside dimensions.
Sheet Metal Fabrication and Ironwork: What’s the difference?
It may seem that sheet metal fabricators and ironworkers have similar jobs. Both are highly skilled trades but they actually have different skill sets and utilize different tools and materials. Typically, ironwork is more structural and sheet metal fabrication is more functional. Both types of metal fabricators work with a variety of metals, machinery and equipment.
Historically, ironworkers fabricated with wrought iron, but today’s skilled craftsman work with a variety of ferrous and non-ferrous metals on heavy-duty projects. There are three main types of ironworkers.
- Structural ironworker
- Ornamental ironworker
- Reinforcing ironworker
As you might guess, structural ironworkers erect the framework of bridges, buildings, stadiums, amusement park rides, bank vaults and other large-scale industrial metal projects according to engineer blueprints. They may also load and unload equipment, operate hoists and forklifts, place pre-cast concrete slabs, and perform industrial maintenance.
Ornamental ironworkers, or finishers, are responsible for the more architectural metal metal elements such as window frames, stairways, catwalks, railings, fencing, gates and building entranceways. These projects can be fabricated from a variety of different types of metals and are usually welded or bolted to the main structure. Ornamental ironworkers are highly skilled at arc welding.
The main job of reinforcing ironworkers, a.k.a. rodbusters, is to strengthen structures. These are the workers who place and tie rebar, and reinforce concrete footings, slabs, bridge framework and building structures.
Some people say the biggest difference between ironworkers and sheet metal fabricators is the height they work from the ground!
Sheet metal fabricators
These skilled tradesman frequently work in metal fabrication shops or at manufacturing plants. They may specialize in fabrication, installation or maintenance, but may perform tasks in all three areas. Sheet metal workers may fabricate metal roofs and rain gutters, heating and cooling systems, handrails, auto parts, and more. There are as many types of sheet metal as there are types of metal, including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, zinc, copper and a variety of alloys. Sheet metal fabricators take into consideration metal thickness, tensile strength, manufacturing method and quality.
All Metals Fabrication in Utah is an industry expert, working with all types of steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass, composites and other metals. Our methodology is focused on supporting each client with estimating, engineering, project management, shop fabrication and field installation. Contact us to learn how we can make your project vision take shape.
The Lowest Bid: Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
We all want the best value for our money. But when it comes to metal fabrication, especially large-scale construction projects, the lowest bid doesn’t necessarily always provide the best value.
All Metals Fabrication President, Rich Marker, tells the following story. “Years ago, when we were building our first house, we needed a mason to put up a rock wall. My contractor found three bids. We saw the lowest bid and figured it was $3,000 below our budget (heck yes, we thought, that will allow us to get heated tile in the bathroom).
What we were sad to learn, after the job was installed and bills were paid, is that the installation crews had dumped all their extra plaster-mix into one of our flower beds (which we had to completely dig out). They also wiped their trowels on our decorative landscape rocks, which I still have not completely fixed and now, ten years later, some of the rocks are falling off our house—worst $3,000 dollars I ever saved.”
As hard-working consumers, it’s a challenge to turn our back to the lowest bid. The biggest question to ask, however, is whether the lowest price is really the lowest price?
The Lowest Bid
The lowest bid is often a result of a bidders mistake—scope items may be missed, complexities may be underestimated or, worst case, craftsmanship may be undervalued. Any or all of these issues can lead estimators down a slippery path.
Ultimately—and particularly when quality is at stake—the lowest bid almost always leads to other hidden costs that present themselves when it is too late to change. Some of those include the following:
• Sloppy workmanship that leads to poor appearance.
• Poor craftsmanship that leads to failing outcomes (often times just past the warranty period).
• Slow or improper work that hinders other trades and slows the overall project down.
• Wasted management time trying to get poor performers up to speed.
We urge contractors to take more initiative with their customers to find sub-contractors that provide great craftsmanship, on time delivery of materials and goods, and effective project management infrastructure.
The combination of these strengths allows the buyer to race to the finish line with confidence rather than the opposite which is full of stops, starts, bumps and bruises.
No company is perfect, but high-quality companies make extra steps to overcome mistakes and, even more, prevent them from happening again. They learn and grow as each project runs its course rather than just muscling through each job for the check at day’s end.
Don’t Assume All Fabrication Companies Are Equal
Price quotes can vary for a multitude of reasons, and so can a company’s experience. When it comes to metal fabrication, and especially large-scale projects, you want the most qualified company for the job. A lesser-experienced company will often present a lower bid, and that inexperience is often reflected in lower-quality materials, shoddy workmanship, safety oversights and, ultimately, in the final product.
All Metals Fabrication has decades of industry experience serving both industrial and architectural fabrication of every size and scale. We strive to be the absolute best by amazing our customers with impeccable value, high-quality materials and craftsmanship. Our culture of improvement, team work, recognition, hard work and integrity creates a working climate that ultimately provides our customers with the best products and value possible.
Learn more about our methodology and how our talented team of engineers, project managers and fabricators work together to bring you the best. Give us a call at 1.877.433.1888 to get started.
3D Printing’s Impact on the Metal Fabrication Industry
The potential for technology to change the way the metal fabrication industry operates is ongoing and enormous. We’ve already benefited from laser technology with faster, more accurate metal fabrication. As 3D printing evolves, it will also have a big impact on how things are manufactured.
Also known as additive manufacturing (AM), 3D printing is changing the face of manufacturing and production when it comes to just about every industry: automotive, electronics, military, even food. Originally used with plastics and polymers, recent innovations include a type of 3D metal printing as an additive process that uses a laser beam to melt micron layers of metal powder instead of plastic filament. New 3D printing machines will allow for using a wider variety of metals, which will simplify the printing process.
Industrial Fabrication and Manufacturing
The evolution of 3D printing has gone from a product development tool to a full-blown industrial and manufacturing tool. Metal additive manufacturing will lead the way with processes such as metal binder jetting, powder bed fusion, and directed energy deposition.
Mass manufacturing faces the biggest challenges when it comes to 3D printing, but rapidly evolving technology will eventually allow production speed and quantity to increase. Some experts predict a complete disruption in traditional manufacturing in many industries.
In April 2017, a Massachusetts startup announced the release of two new metal 3D printing systems targeted toward the engineering and manufacturing industries. Initially allowing engineers to make metal prototypes, the full production system rolling out in 2018 will enable manufacturers to print metal parts. The system uses powdered metal and a “bound metal deposition extrusion process, which it says creates repeatable, high-resolution parts that are superior to not just current printed parts, but also parts made from traditional casting.” (Forbes)
In traditional fabrication, there’s often wasted materials. With 3D printing, waste and energy use can be reduced. 3D printed products also have the potential to be lighter, a big benefit especially in the aerospace and aviation industries.
One of the coolest anticipations is the ability to use 3D printing in zero gravity. Astronauts will eventually be able to print parts, tools, and possibly even food in space, helping make space missions more self-sufficient.
All Metals Fabrication is watching this technology carefully, anticipating the day will come when we add this capacity to our manufacturing base.
Welding Metals Together Will Create Warping and Distortion
Warping and distortion when welding metals is a topic we have discussed before but it seems to be one of the biggest overall issues that our customers misunderstand.
Welding metal materials is not “gluing” pieces of metal together, although that is sort of how it seems.
Welding is basically melting metals together—for steel, those melting temperatures, without getting overly technical, range at approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The color of the metal, during the process, will give a good clue to just how hot the joining metals become. Bright yellow and you are over 2000 degrees. Red is around 1200 degrees.
Most people might naturally begin to understand that introducing that type of heat, along with rapid cooling, is a recipe for warping and distortion.
There are ways, of course, to mitigate warping but sometimes, particularly fabrication assemblies that have high dimensional tolerances (or aesthetic tolerances for architectural designs) the engineers or designer may be asking for something that is nearly impossible.
So, some steps to help minimize distortion when welding metals include the following:
1) Avoid Over Welding—this is a big one! Solid, thick welds look pretty but can warp the heck out of metal particularly on thinner materials.
2) Use Intermittent Welding whenever possible—this is commonly referred to as stitch welding. It allows for parts to have little segments of weld rather than continuous welds.
3) Well-planned Weld Sequences—this process allows for welding along different segments of the assembly so all the heat does not collect in one point for a long period of work.
4) Clamping and Jigs—locking parts into place while welding is the most commonly used method of minimizing warping but it is not a fix-all. Parts will often move once they are removed from the clamps (hopefully not as much as if they were welded in free form).
5) Allowing for Warping—which means presetting the parts anticipating that they will move or warp, hopefully into place.
Metal welding is not a new trade—craftsman have been mastering this work for years and can do amazing things…sometimes impossible things. Still, there are limits. Engineers and designers would be well served to consult industry experts as they design and detail parts to make sure they are, in fact, workable and weld-able!
Laser Cutting Plastic-Type Materials
AMF is often asked about the feasibility of laser cutting materials other than metal.
Truth is lasers do a good job of cutting nearly anything but it isn’t that simple particularly when it comes to plastic.
Cutting certain types of plastics can cause significant caustic fumes that can literally be lethal if someone is exposed in a major way.
Of course there is science behind this. Without getting into the chemical specifics, common plastics can be divided into two categories: Thermosets and Thermoplastics.
These two categories are delineated by how much chemical bonding takes place inside the plastic material itself.
Thermosets have a large amount of bonding connections and break down easily when heated because they are less subject to melting or puddling.
Common example of Thermoset plastics would include: Rubber and Epoxy Resins
Thermoplastics have fewer bonding connections and are a bit harder to cut as they tend to melt. In fact cutting is accomplished by a term called “melt shearing”.
Common examples of Thermoplastics would include: Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Nylon, PVC, Lexan and Acrylic.
The quality of the cut can be an issue. Often times the plastic will discolor at the edge of the cut with a brown charring effect. In addition to discoloration, some plastics will not cut cleanly but will, instead, melt at the edge leaving a poor quality (almost a drippy-looking) cut edge.
Cut discoloration and edge quality are certainly important factors but perhaps the most significant overall factor is safety. The ‘melting’ and heating impact of the laser beam cutting through the plastic creates fumes and gases.
Some of these fumes are merely unpleasant to smell, but some fumes can be very caustic and, as mentioned at the onset, can be utterly lethal.
Smokey and stinky materials include the likes of common rubber (think smoking tires on the road) and lexan.
Toxic materials include plastics such as Delrin, Vinyl and PVC.
PVC literally will create Hydrochloric Gas Vapors!
The takeaway here is that AMF’s tube laser will not be cutting PVC pipe. We generally try to avoid most plastics in general but do cut, from time-to-time, materials like Plexiglas near the end of the day when the shop can avoid the stink-out.
Create an Exciting and Rewarding Career in Metal Fabrication
A career in metal fabrication is a rewarding, exciting and lucrative one for skilled metal workers. This ever-growing career field offers a steady pool of jobs, solid income potential, and the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects.
Assemblers and fabricators hold 1.8 million jobs in today’s workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 2.3% employment rise in 2016, with an average hourly wage of $19.23 per hour and a mean annual wage of $40,000. Industries with the highest levels of employment for metal fabricators include architectural manufacturing, ship and boat building, and foundation/structural contractors. Other highly employable industries within metal fabrication include industrial, transportation, shipping, motor vehicle, body and trailer manufacturing, engines and turbines, aerospace parts, rail transportation, and jobs within the government sector.
We do metal fabricators do?
Metal fabricators utilize raw metals and machinery to fabricate, position, align and fit metal products for a large variety of products and industries. From car parts to aircraft to steel buildings, if there’s metal involved, you need a fabricator. Most metal fabricators work in fabrication companies or manufacturing plants. Even with advances in technology and machinery, such as precision tube lasers, metal fabrication requires strength and skill.
Skills and training
Hands-on occupational training in the fundamentals, skills and theories of metal fabrication is critical to success in the field. Typically, a high school diploma is required, followed by study in a technical program. It’s important to find a solid program with a strong combination of education and hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment. Areas of instruction should include safety, blueprint readings, math, MIG/TIG/stick welding, sheet metal fabrication, part constructing and forming and project building. In Utah, the DATC in Kaysville and OWATC in Ogden, for example, teach a variety of welding processes, cutting, joining, reading and understanding blueprints, and industrial skills.
Our people and technology
All Metals Fabrication is about more than just metal. Utilizing a strong combination of skilled craftsmen and state-of-the-art technology, our experienced fabrication crews work closely with our project management, engineering, and installation teams to create high-quality metal fabrication work that delivers on time. From our dedicated 60-foot tube laser to welding, flat sheet lasering, punching, rolling, forming and polishing, we provide high-end architectural and industrial metal fabrication from start to finish. For more information about career opportunities, including incredible benefits such as 100% health care coverage and 401K Safe Harbor retirement plans, contact us today at All Metals Fabrication, where Vision Takes Shape!
Making Employee Safety a Priority in Industrial Fabrication
Employee safety in the industrial fabrication industry should be a paramount consideration for all companies. At AMF, we believe our employees are our most important assets, and that makes their safety our number one priority.
Safety vs. Productivity
When it comes to safety vs. productivity, employee safety should always be the clear winner. In fact, when properly implemented the two goals should complement each other. After all, safe employees are productive employees.
A survey by the National Safety Council reported that 70 percent of employees say that safety is part of their orientation and ongoing training. It’s important to remind both employees and management not to let safety practices slack due to a heavy workload and pending deadlines. Encouraging employees to stay focused will not only keep them safe, but will actually help get the job done right and on time.
The bottom line: Employees cannot and should not be forced to choose between safe practices and the pressure of keeping productivity goals. Most importantly, they must have the ability to stop production when they feel safety concerns are at stake.
Safety culture begins at the top
When it comes to worker safety in industrial fabrication, a safety manager is a key liaison between management and employees. The safety manager’s responsibilities begin with ensuring that all OSHA requirements are met. Under OSHA, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment, including:
- Providing a workplace free from serious recognized hazards
- Comply with standards and regulations listed under OSH Act
- Ensure employees have and are trained to use safe and properly maintained tools and equipment
- Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
- Provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
Safety issues should always be addressed immediately, before anyone gets hurt.
All Metals Fabrication works hard to create and maintain a safe work environment.
Our standard safety practices include:
- Yearly safety and process audits by outside consultants
- Monthly company-wide safety meetings
- Regular and accurate measuring of accidents and the root causes of those accidents
- Culture set up to allow employees to stop work when conditions feel unsafe
Workplace safety is important for many reasons, including employee welfare and retention, maintaining OSHA compliance, and manufacturing efficiency. OSHA reports that “an effective safety and health program…is the right thing to do, and doing it right pays off in lower costs, increased productivity, and higher employee morale.” At All Metals Fabrication, we wholeheartedly agree.
How Laser Cutting Works
The terms laser cutting, etching and engraving are often used interchangeably, but each process offers different metal fabrication benefits. All three provide a permanent way to mark products with company logos, serial numbers and designs. While it seems as these processes accomplish the same goal, how each goes about it is different, and one may work better for a particular metal or project over another.
The main difference between cutting, etching and engraving is the lens focal length. A laser-engraving machine has a shorter focal length, which results in high quality detail work. A laser cutter, on the other hand, uses a longer focal length, which allows for cutting thicker materials with a more precision cut and at faster speed.
Laser cutting is an industry standard for accurate, fast fabrication. A high-powered laser is able to make precision cuts in sheet metal by actually melting the metal. High-pressure gasses, typically nitrogen or oxygen, are used along with the laser beam, and the cutting head moves over the metal plate to create an exothermic reaction that delivers the precision cut details.
We often get asked if our 4,000-watt flat laser-cutting machine can etch materials. It can, but a laser engraver, designed specifically to etch and mark materials, can do the job better. The flip side is that a laser-engraving machine isn’t really designed to cut materials. While both machines serve essential functions, they’re not as cross functional as people may think.
The Mazak Fabrigear II 220 tube laser is the latest addition to the All Metals Fabrication family of laser cutters. Designed for fast, high-precision cutting, this revolutionary tube laser boasts 4,000 watts of power and a tapered laser torch that allows for the laser cutting head to cut any shape, size or extrusion. Click here to read about the significant advantages our new tube laser offers.
Tube laser cutting is very similar in the actual laser beam technology, but differs significantly from flat sheet lasers with the ability to cut full 24-foot lengths of tube, angle, channel, beam, etc. without requiring the very manual setup that flat sheet lasers need to cut the same extruded type of material.
Ultimately, cutting lasers and etching lasers are really designed for two different purposes and are both important and useful technologies in the fabrication industry.
AMF is the only fabricator in Utah that has water jetting, flat sheet lasering and now tube laser capacity under one roof. Call us or email us at email@example.com to find out how tube laser cutting can enhance your next metal fabrication project.
All Metals Fabrication Hires New Quality Assurance Director
All Metals Fabrication has experienced brisk growth in the industrial sector of parts and assembly manufacturing, including sectors such as automotive, transportation, medical, recreational, mining, machining, and machine building. In order to manage our growing quality requirements in these industries, we’ve hired a new Quality Assurance Director, Craig Johnson.
Craig brings both an incredibly optimistic attitude and highly skilled aptitude to the AMF senior management team. His major role as Quality Assurance Director will be making sure AMF meets the quality standards required from our great customers in processes such as flat sheet laser cutting, tube laser cutting, water jet cutting, plasma cutting, advanced forming, bending, rolling, cutting, cleaning, TIG welding, MIG welding, general assembly and more. He will also play a significant role in Continuous Improvement, Lean and Strategic initiatives for the company.
Craig’s background includes significant contributions in both sheet metal and metal foundry manufacturing processes. This wealth of experience in the metal industry allows Craig to focus on processes that will simultaneously improve quality and production methods at the same time.
All Metals Fabrication is thrilled to have Craig with the company and think our customers will feel the same!
Contact us to discuss how we can help turn your vision for your next industrial or architectural metal fabrication project into reality.