At the heart of industrial manufacturing is metal fabrication, which contributes to countless types of machinery and steel structures. The machine that has made metal fabrication a much more efficient industry today than most of last century is the laser cutter. Here are essential reasons why lasers are embraced by manufacturers that use metal as a principle material.
Common Metal Fabrication Processes
cutting, drilling and machining
punching, stamping and die casting
welding metal together
Drilling Holes in Metal
Hand drills are still useful for various applications, especially for home renovation. But when it comes to mass manufacturing, you need to work with machines that get the job done in lightning speed with high precision. There’s not much room for error in today’s competitive business environment, as unsatisfactory production simply doesn’t “cut it” anymore. Laser cutters are the solution that outperform other cutting machines on almost every level.
Not only can laser cutters drill holes more accurately and quickly than other cutting devices, they provide a cost-effective solution for mass production. Since they are computer-based, they also allow for automated cuts and drilling. First you design a product in CAD software then you program the machine to make precise cuts in the pattern based on X,Y and sometimes Z coordinates.
Efficient Use of Sheet Metal
Another attraction to laser cutting for metal fabrication is that it’s a much more eco-friendly process than traditional cutting methods. Since lasers cut so finely and precisely, they generate minimal waste. But even metal scraps can be used for recycling, especially for aluminum or steel. Less wasted material also means getting the most financial benefit out of metal costs.
Sheet metal is used widely by fabricators due to its light weight and flexibility that allows it to be cut into any imaginable shape. Thickness or gauge of metal determines what type of laser cutter is most appropriate for a given project. The most widely used types of sheet metal are stainless steel, aluminum and alloys such as brass.
Punching and Stamping
Two widely used processes for metal fabrication are punching and stamping. They are both somewhat similar in concept to how a traditional printing press works. A punch applies pressure to a die, which is a mold of the product. Traditionally it was a manual process using a press, but now it’s commonly done much more quickly and accurately by a CNC machine. It’s an excellent way to make tools.
Custom metal stamping encompasses a broader array of processes for cutting shapes including embossing, bending and coining. Once again, CNC machines are commonly used for this process due to precision and reliable high speed production.
Metal fabrication using laser cutters has become a key to modern industrial solutions for structural and equipment manufacturing. Contact us at Serra Laser & Waterjet for more information on the most efficient ways to cut various types of metals.
Metal fabrication is a profession that dates back centuries–long before the industrial revolution. At one time it was closely associated with elite circles and warriors with large swords. The Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago marked the beginning of mixing metals together. Since then, metal has been used for the nuts and bolts that hold the industrial world together. Here are some key elements of metal fabrication to focus on when planning your manufacturing projects.
Definiton and Applications of Metal Fabrication
Sheet metal is at the core of the metal fabrication industry, which utilizes techniques for joining metals together as well as cutting, bending, and shaping various metals. Common materials used in the industry include plate metal and expanded metals. Here are typical products that result from the metal fabricating process:
aerospace and military equipment
off road components
medical industry devices
industrial machinery and building materials
computer / tech industry
How Laser Cutters Speed Up Projects
Although traditional cutting methods are still used even by large manufacturers, laser cutters are considered state-of-the-art for precision and quick delivery on metal fabrication jobs. Not only are the cuts cleaner without degrading sheet metal; laser cutters can also handle various metal thicknesses better than traditional cutting tools. The key to cleaner cuts is that laser beams rely on microscopic heat zones and precision tools rather than physical force. That’s why laser cutters are preferred by professionals for drilling holes placed close together.
Traditional cutting tools such as saws are based on blades that eventually wear out. Laser cutters, however, do not use blades so they inevitably have more longevity. One of the main reasons for this quality is that laser cutting is a non-contact process. Ultimately laser machines are more efficient and produce less waste due to allowing more parts per sheet, making them the more sustainable solution. They also cut production and material costs substantially. From a design perspective these machines are more suited for engraving fine lines into sheet metal, which can be used for various purposes.
When identical metal parts need to be repeatedly produced, laser cutters once again are the superior choice. Simply by programming the machine you can roll through several feet of sheet metal per minute to produce hundreds of parts. Other modern alternatives for metal fabrication include plasma cutting and waterjet cutting.
Customization is another strong reason to go with laser cutters, which allow much more flexibility for cutting unique geometric shapes in metal. Thanks to laser cutters, manufacturers can now promise faster turnaround times. Part of this acceleration is due to eliminating secondary refining processes since precision cuts can be made the first time. Laser machines can also be automated, which means more work can be done with less people, amounting to cost savings.
Call Serra Laser to Learn More
Metal fabrication is at the core of industrial manufacturing with laser cutters serving as the high end of manufacturing equipment. Contact us at Serra Laser & Waterjet to learn more about how laser cutting machines speed up and improve the manufacturing process.
The beginning-to-end process of metal fabrication is a complicated one that involves a multitude of differing stages. At the very beginning, the most rudimentary of these steps are rolling, cutting and bending. The piece is then assembled. Finally, subsequent steps refine this initially manufactured product with finishing techniques that polish, customize, and make it fit for its end goal. Here is a quick rundown on the most notable steps in metal fabrication finishing:
A fairly straightforward, if somewhat tedious process, weld remediation usually entails the grinding down of excessive material in the joint areas. It can also include the straightening of weld joints or the redrilling of misplaced holes or other piercings. In some cases, the fabricated pieces will be discarded and end up in the recycling process. In short, remediation is really a “cleaning up” process rather than a truly finishing one.
Laser and Water Jet Cutting
By far, the most important type of finishing for fabricated metal parts involves the laser and water jet cutting of these parts before they are assembled. These processes falls into several types. The most notable are:
2-D laser cutting – Our 4-axis rotary machine tools can handle any job in two dimensions. We can accommodate sheets as large as 13 feet x 6.5 feet and still hold to tolerances of as little as ±0.001 inches – if we do say so ourselves, that is not too shabby.
3-D laser cutting – Using a 5-axis laser, we can add another dimension to your metal fabrication finishing needs. It is an excellent alternative to traditional drilling, milling, and cutting operations.
Waterjet cutting – Primarily used to cut very thick – up to eight inch – metal pieces, waterjet cutting provides accuracy in both the positioning of the cut as well as any ancillary tapering. In addition, waterjet cutting is suitable for use on almost any type of pure metal or alloy.
Laser marking and engraving – Whether you simply want to mark the work for installation or you would rather see your company’s name on the piece, laser marking or engraving is the right finishing process for you.
Coating and Polishing
The metal fabrication process – for a variety of reasons – can be deleterious to the surface of the items being fashioned. For this reason, they generally must be polished and sometimes coated before being shipped out to the end user. In particular, fabricated metal pieces will be polished to a high gloss and then covered in a variety of synthetic coatings that range from simple paints through highly engineered polymers that will resist the worst wear and tear that Mother Nature and man can throw at it.
For further information on the most important steps involved in the metal fabrication finishing process, please contact us at Serra Laser & Waterjet. We can be found online at SerraLaser.com or reached directly at 714.680.6211.