What Is Custom Fabrication
Metal is the material of choice for heavy-duty hardware, tools and machinery parts due to its excellent tensile strength. It is also easy to manipulate, which means it is the ideal material for fabrication. Custom fabrication is the process of taking raw, dimensionally accurate metal and turning it into finished parts to meet specific requirements. These requirements may be as basic as creating a piece of jewelry or as sophisticated as the design of an entire machine. Regardless of the specifics, metal fabrication requires an intricate mix of industrial machines to cut, bend and roll the metal into its desired form.
The most common types of metal used for custom fabrication include steel, stainless steel and aluminum. The fabricated metal is then assembled and used in a variety of applications, from machine parts to structural components and even complete equipment. Metal fabrication is an important part of many industries, including automotive, construction, aerospace and military and defense.
A metal fabricator or plastic fabricator will take a wide range of raw materials as its starting point, from sheet and plate stock to hollow structural shapes (HSS), angle iron and channel iron. The metals can be in the form of rectangular sheets or rolls, or they can be preformed into a specific shape, such as HSS beams, angles and channels or solid circular cross-sections, like pipes.
Once the raw materials have been sourced, the fabricator begins by cutting the metal to the required dimensions. This can be done with a laser cutter, a waterjet or a plasma cutter, and the cutting is typically followed by bending or rolling to form the raw materials into their final form.
This step can be as simple as forming the material around a mandrel or form, or it could involve more complex processes such as cold or hot rolling. This is a major stage in custom fabrication, and it is essential to ensure that the finished product has accurate tolerances and the right strength and quality.
After the bending or rolling is complete, the fabrication team will weld the pieces together to create the final products. For most projects, this is accomplished through welding, but for some projects it is necessary to use a different joining method, such as brazing or soldering. The completed product will then be ready for shipment to the customer or end user.
A good metal fabricator will also have other capabilities, such as welding, metal bending, grinding, powder coating and possibly some machining and stamping. This allows them to offer their customers a full package of services that can eliminate the need for multiple vendors.
People in the investment world tend to put metal fabricators into one of two categories: those that compete mainly on price, and those that compete on overall value. Increasingly, though, fabricators are moving beyond the pigeonholes to develop a more integrated business model. This may include changing component design to make them easier to manufacture, incorporating assembly and packaging services, implementing supply chain management programs such as kanban replenishment or delivering finished goods directly to the customer’s customers.