Sheet Metal
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All About Sheet Metal Fabrication: The Technology behind the Metals in Your Home

We live in a metal-dependent world. While our ancestors could have done well with just wood and stone, it is after they discovered metals that the human race was able to ascend to the top of the food chain. Metals have since become the backbone of industrialization. And it’s going to take a while before we find equally efficient alternatives to metals.

If you make a list of typical household items that are made of metal or have metallic parts, you are in for a big surprise. In your kitchen alone, you’ll find dozens of them: fridge, stove, sink, faucet, cookware, and even the nails and hinges that keep your cabinets from falling apart – they are all made of metals. You will also notice that many of them have flat and thin structures, including the casing of your stove or fridge, your sink, and many of you cookware.

Are you curious to know how these sheet metals end up being components of those household items? Would you like to take a peek at the manufacturing process? If you’ve ever been to a copper sheet supplier before, you probably have an idea of how these items first looked like before fabrication.

What is sheet metal fabrication?

Before catching a glimpse of the sheet metal fabrication process, let’s first take a further step back to know where the raw materials used in this process come from. Knowing the origin of these materials helps us get a sense of the immensity of work involved in manufacturing familiar metallic products.

All metals turned into industrial supplies start out as ores. Every day, thousands of tons of ores are being extracted in mines around the world. These ores are transported to smelting facilities where they are processed to separate the metals from the dregs. The collected metals then sent to foundries where they are melted and cast into blocks or plates of different shapes and sizes. Some foundries produce finished products, while others produce raw materials that need further work. And that’s where sheet metal fabrication comes in.

Sheet metal fabrication is a subset of metal fabrication that focuses on sheet metal. It’s the multifaceted process of creating metal structures out of sheet metals. It starts with flattening raw metals to a specific thickness and breadth through rolling, pressing, or hammering. Once the metal sheet or plate is ready, it goes through any of the following methods, depending on the desired output.

  • Cutting

    Possibly the most common of all processes involved in sheet metal fabrication, cutting produces metal pieces of precise dimensions, divide large sheets into several parts, and create accurate perforations. You can cut sheet metals manually using power tools or with laser cutters.

  • Blanking

    This cutting method involves cutting out a portion of the sheet metal based on a stencil. The excess material is discarded or recycled.

  • Bending

    Depending on the design, you may need to ben portions of the sheet metal cuts you’ve made. You can do this using press brakes and other tools. Large sheet metal suppliers like Rotax Metals use heavy-duty, cutting-edge equipment for bending metals parts.

  • Galvanizing

    To increase sheet metals’ corrosion resistance, their surfaces are coated with zinc. A good example of galvanized sheet metal is corrugated metal roofing panels. The zinc coating works effectively in prolonging the life of your roof.

  • Milling

    If the metal piece is still too thick and further reducing its thickness through rolling or stretching is impractical, milling is the next best course of action. It requires the use of a rotary cutter.

  • Shrinking

    Sometimes, the finished product has small dents on its surface that count as a defect. You can get rid of these dents by heating and stretching the metal piece a little bit until all of the dips disappear.

Types of Sheet Metal

Any metal with a considerable level of malleability can be transformed into thin sheets or plates and eventually fabricated through the previously mentioned processes. Tough and rigid metals are often combined with soft metals to produce malleable but strong alloys. Below are some of the common types of sheet metals.

  • Copper

    One of the most extensively used metals, copper possesses many valuable properties. Malleability is one of them, which is why copper is often cold-worked. Copper is also known for its high corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, recyclability, and antimicrobial property. It combines well with other metals, too.

  • Brass

    An alloy of copper and zinc, brass is also extremely malleable. It’s no wonder many metallic products that consist of tubes and plates, such as musical instruments and cookware, are made of brass. This metal is famous for its gold-like appearance, but you can produce different colors of brass by changing its content proportions.

  • Bronze

    Another alloy of copper alloy, bronze is made of copper and tin. Both are corrosion resistance and extremely malleable, which is why bronze is a perfect material for a lot of machine parts and vehicle body. Many ships have bodies made of unique types of bronze.

  • Stainless Steel

    This metal comes in a vast array of grades. Like copper and its alloys, stainless steel is also corrosion-resistant even though it contains iron. The most common types of stainless steel are austenitic stainless steel (containing chromium and nickel), ferritic stainless steel (containing high levels of chromium but little nickel), and martensitic (does not contain nickel).

  • Aluminum

    There are many reasons why aluminum is a popular choice in both manufacturing and construction. For one, it’s corrosion-resistant like the previously mentioned metals. It also has an outstanding strength to weight ratio. And perhaps the most recognizable feature of this metal is its abundance. Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on Earth.

Knowing which metals are malleable allows you to choose the right material for your sheet metal fabrication projects. Of course, each of these metals is available in different grades. To be sure which grade will work best for your projects, consult with expert brass suppliers. Explain the nuts and bolts of your project, and they can tell you the right type and grade of metal to use.

Which Metals Conduct Electricity and What Other Valuable Properties Do They Have?

Metals are highly prized for their many valuable properties. No other elements or substances can rival metals in terms of versatility, which makes them the material of choice for various applications that drive global development.
copper wire cores

The amazing properties of metals are the result of their unique molecular structure, which is often characterized by closely packed layers of lattices. Unlike the lattices of non-metals, which are loosely bonded and can snap when applied with force, these lattices can slide against each other without separating, leading to certain unique properties.

  • Malleability

    – Most metals can be hammered or rolled into thin sheets without breaking. Along with strength and toughness, this property makes metals the most suitable material for protective covering for machines, flimsy electronic components, temporary or permanent structural platforms, and more.

  • Ductility

    – Apart from being able to maintain form while being flattened, a lot of metals can also be drawn into small wires without snapping. True enough, most wires and cables existing today have metal cores.

  • Tensile Strength

    – Materials like stone and concrete may be excellent at resisting compression but when it comes to tension, they can easily break apart. Metals are good at resisting tension, which is why they are often used as a reinforcing component for concrete.

  • Conductivity

    – Most materials can conduct heat and electricity but not as efficiently as metals do. Current can run through some of them at light speed, and they heat up fast, too.

  • Reactivity

    – Metals are among the very few types of elements that easily combine with other elements and produce new materials. The material produced by combining two different types of metal is called alloy. Some metals, such as gold and silver, however, are almost non-reactive and so remain as pure elements.

Each type of metal has a unique combination of these properties. When alloyed with other metals, these properties also merge, making the produced material have either more or less of the properties its component metals share.

Electrical Conductivity of Metals

Now that you have a general idea of the type of material metals are, let’s focus on one of its main properties—electrical conductivity. Its discovery wasn’t only unprecedented but also surefire revolutionary. Our ancestors had known about electricity for some time due to the existence of lightning but they didn’t know how to recreate, harness, and distribute it until metal’s electrical conductivity was discovered.

The main reason why metals are more electrically conductive than other types of material is because its atoms have valence electrons. These are electrons in the outer shell of an atom that can freely move across the lattices of atoms. This movement passes electrical charge across the lattices, resulting in the conduction of electrical current.

The more valence electrons a metal has, the weaker its electrical conductivity is. That’s because there are fewer electrons that can bump against each other and create resistance. Simply put, the most electrically conductive metals are those with only a single valence electron.

Which Metals Conduct Electricity?

Perhaps the question we need to answer first is “Do all metals conduct electricity?” Well, the obvious answer is “none”. All metals have a certain degree of electrical conductivity. It’s just that some metals are more electrically conductive than others. A more sensible question instead would be “Which metals have the highest resistivity?” That will lead you to metals that “almost” do not conduct electricity. Then you can start identifying which are the least electrically resistive, which is another description for the most electrically conductive.

Metals such as mercury, titanium, lead, and tungsten have the highest resistivity among all metals. They are often utilized for applications where insulation is needed but stability, which only metal could provide, is also paramount. Here are the metals on the other end of the spectrum.

  • Silver

    – With an electrical conductivity of 6.30×107 Siemens per meter (the highest on the chart), silver is the most electrically conductive metal. It is also the highest in terms of thermal conductivity and reflectivity. Silver was once the material used for manufacturing electrical wires and cables but was banned later due to its low heat resistance, which could lead to fire. It is still widely used due to its other properties for applications such as currency, water filtration, jewelry, ornaments, high-value tableware and utensils (hence the term silverware).

  • Copper

    – Next in rank in terms of electrical conductivity is copper with 5.98×107 Siemens per meter. It’s the metal that replaced silver in electrical wires, cables, and a variety of other components of the electrical grid. Like silver, it is also soft, malleable, ductile and has high thermal and electrical conductivity, but unlike silver, copper is highly reactive, easily combining with other types of metal. In fact, over 100 different types of alloy are copper-based. The most popular of them are brass and bronze, from which the spawning of copper-based alloys had begun.

  • Gold

    – Arguably the most popular of all metals and classified as a precious metal, gold is also the most expensive. This is why it’s not very commonly used for industrial and construction applications. Like silver, it is also non-reactive. While it reacts to copper and a few other metals, it is generally difficult to alloy. Gold has been utilized for coinage, jewelry, and other arts. It has an electrical conductivity of 4.5×107 Siemens per meter.

  • Aluminum

    – A silvery-white, soft, non-magnetic, and ductile metal, aluminum is one of the most widely used materials on the planet. Another reason for that is the fact that it is the most abundant metal on Earth’s crust and the third most abundant element, next to oxygen and silicon. Aluminum and its alloys are extensively used in the aerospace, transportation, and construction industries.

All metals that can conduct electricity play a crucial role in the development of the modern world. Without them, there won’t be cities and vehicles, no roads and bridges, and certainly no satellites that aid telecommunication and the Internet.

Should you find the need for metal supplies in the future, make sure you’ll buy them from a trusted metal supplier, such as Rotax Metals. It pays to have materials that were manufactured by a first-rate foundry and distributed by a company that has been established for many decades. So the next time you get confused where to buy copper sheets or other metal supplies, be more meticulous when it comes to the manufacturer’s credentials.

Why Builders Use Copper Sheet Metal for Their Kitchen Remodeling Projects

The success of your kitchen remodeling project depends on the kind and quality of the materials you will use. With so many different options available on the market, distinguishing superior materials from substandard ones may prove difficult. If you go to a trusted supplier like Rotax Metals, however, you have a better chance of finding high-quality copper sheet metal and other building materials. (more…)

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