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What is Metal Fabrication?

Author: Rich Marker | Updated April 22, 2024 | March 05, 2020 what is metal fabrication
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Metalwork by All Metals Fabrication | Photography by Jacom Stephens | Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah | 801.979.1734 |

What is metal fabrication? This seemingly simple question to those of us in the industry can be a little confusing for those just outside of the industry. Perhaps a little clarification can be helpful.

Metal Manufacturing, as a hole, could include numerous types of manufacturing processes. Lets name a few:

  • Forging
  • Smelting
  • Blacksmithing
  • Casting
  • Stamping
  • Painting
  • Roll Forming
  • Heat Treating
  • Structural Fabrication
  • Machining
  • Metal Fabrication
  • Etc.

Metal Fabrication, listed near the end here, is only one potential segment in an enormous field of metal manufacturing.

To make matters more complex, Metal Fabrication, by itself, has many subcategories and niches that would be impossible to comprehensively list.

A few general categories would be as follows:

1) Heavy Industrial Plate Metal

This might include enormous plate steel sometimes 1”-4” thick (even heavier) and fabrication processes like Plasma Cutting, Rolling, Welding, Heat Treating, Finishing.

Products might be Mining Equipment, Pressure Vessels, Tanks, etc.

2) Light Industrial Sheet Metal

This might include smaller weighted metal like materials ranging from 1/32” – 1/2” and fabrication processes like Laser Cutting, Brake Forming, Welding, Anodizing, Painting, Etc.

Products would be Computer Enclosures, Cases, OEM Parts, etc.

3) Heavy Structural Steel

This might include structural iron and beams that weight several hundred pound or more per a foot: I Beam, W Beam, Tube, Plate, Etc. Fabrication processes would typically be Sawing Cutting, Plasmas Cutting, Drilling, Welding, Sandblasting, Painting, Etc.

Products would be Structural Iron at Sky-Scrappers, Large Bridges or Tunnel Supports, etc.

4) Light Structural Steel

This might include structural tube, angle and beams that weight less than a hundred pounds per a foot: Beams, Tube, Angle, Light Plate, Etc. Fabrication processes would typically be Sawing Cutting, Plasmas Cutting, Drilling, Welding, Sandblasting, Painting, Etc.

Products would be Small Buildings, Small Bridges, Platforms, Supports, etc.

As just mentioned, metal fabrication is a term most used to mean manufacturing that includes cutting, forming, rolling, sawing and welding metal.

Buyers will often get fabrication confused with machining.

To be fair, there is some cross over and some parts assemblies do require both, but machining processes include manufacturing such as milling, lathing, routing, polishing, etc.

In addition, fabrication usually works with manufacturing tolerances at .010” – .030” whereas machining works with tolerances all the way down to .005” (and even smaller in many cases).

Metal Fabrication, like all manufacturing industries, began to significantly transform in the early to mid 1980’s with the advent of Computer Numerically Controlled, CNC, machines. These types of machines, combined with Computer Aided Drafting, CAD, revolutionized the metal fabrication industry.

Old school techniques required hand layouts and calculator math (I honestly recall watching my grandpa layout complex geometry on the shop floor with chalk lines) that craftsmen would use to layout and calculate fabricated parts.

Machines had manual gauges that would be fine-tuned by hand as we moved stops, dialed back gauges and tweaked settings.

Those days are long gone as programs are auto generated from CAD drawings and sent, via computer and code, directly to the various machines.

Lasers can cut metal like butter, brake forming machines can tell you which order to sequence your bends and robotic welders can weld endless amounts of wire throughout the night.

Metal Fabrication is still an enormous part of everyday life and most of us see it, or use it, without even knowing as much. Light rail transit cars, automobiles, snowblowers, electrical panels, guardrail, signs, etc., etc. Metal fabrication is everywhere!

All Metals Fabrication is proud to be a part of such a stalwart industry that makes the world go-round.

AMF like to boast that we have the best of technology and craftmanship. What good is a world-famous racecar driver without a world class car. And, visa versa, what good is an amazing car if the driver has no skills or experience.

It takes both to create a winning race team. It takes both to create a winning metal fabrication team.

In the end, our goal is to put a smile on our customer’s face and allow them to enjoy the race, as it were.

Superior quality, superior delivery, superior performance—and perhaps the most important, our passion to make it all work.

About the Author

metal fabrication shop

Rich Marker

All Metals Fabrication Owner and CEO

Rich Marker is an 18 year, skilled professional in metal fabrication and manufacturing. Co-founder, owner and principal of All Metals Fabrication, Rich has helped to sustain the company’s success over a variety of economic conditions. He has extensive background in continuous improvement, training and process improvement, and emotional intelligence—among other specialized proficiencies. He loves to learn, fly fish, watch college football and devour NY style pizza! He has the best family on earth, loves a good plan, great teaching and the opportunity to get better.

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