Metal fabrication refers to the process of cutting, shaping, or molding raw or semi-raw metal materials into an end product. Depending upon the type and grade of metal, as well as the desired end product, metal fabricators may employ a variety of techniques to manufacture cost-effective, high-quality components for a wide range of industrial applications.
Types of Metal Fabrication Processes
Some of the different metalworking methods metal fabricators employ include:
One of the more commonly utilized metal fabrication methods, cutting involves splitting metal into smaller pieces. Since cutting is a requirement for many metal jobs, it may be employed alongside other metal fabrication techniques, such as punching, welding, or bending. There are several few different methods of cutting, including:
- Sawing is the oldest method of producing straight cuts through metal materials.
- Laser cutting employs a high-powered, focused laser beam of light to cut through the metal materials.
- Waterjet cutting operations utilize a high-powered water stream to cut through different materials, including metal.
- Plasma Cutting uses a mixture of swirling gases to cut through metal.
- Shearing uses two large blades to cut through metal like a giant pair of scissors.
- CNC cutting uses a computer-controlled machine to make precise cuts through metal via a variety of metal cutting techniques (e.g., laser cutting, plasma cutting, etc.)
- Die cutting employs steel rule (flatbed die cutting) or cylindrical (rotary die cutting) dies to cut out precise metal shapes.
Unlike cutting, forming (or bending) doesn’t remove material from the metal work-piece. Instead, the process alters the work-piece with a machine such as a press brake, or by a hand-held method such as with a hammer, or punch die to fit the required specifications.
The punching process sandwiches metal between a die and a punch. When pressed downward, the punch shears through the metal, and produces a hole in the work-piece.
Welding is a fabrication process that employs heat and/or pressure to join different metals and materials together. There are many welding methods available, each of which is suited to different work-piece and filler materials, production specifications, and other project parameters. Some of the most common include:
- Submerged arc welding (SAW): This welding method employs a continuous electrode to create an arc between the welding rod and the work-piece. The addition of a thick granular flux forms a shield that protects the weld zone from atmospheric contamination during operations.
- Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW): This welding method—also referred to as stick welding—uses a welding rod coated in flux that carriers a high-power electrical current. The coating breaks down during welding operations, forming a layer of slag and a gas shield that protects the weld as it cools.
- Gas metal arc welding (GMAW): This welding method—also known as MIG welding—relies on an adjustable and continuous solid wire electrode. During operations, the electric arc formed between the work-piece and the electrode heats and melts the base metals to form the weld.
- Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW): This welding method—also called TIG welding—requires the use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode. It produces strong welds without fillers.
- Fluxed core arc welding (FCAW): This welding method is similar to GMAW welding, except it utilizes a tubular wire electrode filled with flux rather than a solid wire electrode. Self-shielded FCAW operations rely only on flux to protect the weld zone, while dual-shielded FCAW operations rely on both flux and an external shielding gas.
Uses a top and bottom die molded into a custom 3-dimensional shape. When the metal is pressed between the two dies, it conforms to the desired shape. This process is used to make many complex metal shapes, such as body panels for the automotive industry.
Uses CNC-controlled machinery with various cutting tools to rapidly produce a custom 3-dimensional metal component by removing unwanted materials.
Advantages and Applications of Metal Fabrication Processes
There are several different types of metal fabrication processes employed by industry professionals to produce metal parts and products. As each process utilizes different techniques and equipment, it offers distinct advantages and best use cases.
Advantages and Applications of Cutting
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of all metal fabrication processes, cutting can be employed alongside other methods. In general, cutting offers several advantages with more modern techniques providing enhanced manufacturing capabilities. Some of the advantages of using cutting to fabricate metal parts include:
- Greater precision
- Higher repeatability
- Faster production speeds
- Better cost-effectiveness
Advantages and Applications of Forming/Bending
Metal fabricators use forming operations—e.g., rolling, indenting, and bending—to produce many metal parts, such as pipes, enclosures, and boxes. The advantages of using these operations include:
- Broader product capabilities
- Greater part design flexibility, including for complex shapes and geometries
Advantages and Applications of Punching
Parts produced through punching operations find application in a wide range of industrial products, including airbags, aircraft, batteries, motors, and medical equipment. By using the punching process to produce these parts, manufacturer benefit from:
- Faster production speeds
- Smaller environmental footprints
- Easier equipment setup
- Lower costs per part
Advantages and Applications of Welding
In general, welding allows for minimal waste production, reduced labor and material costs, and process portability. Each of the individual welding techniques also offers unique benefits. For example:
TIG Welding Benefits
Commonly used for aluminum and aluminum alloys, TIG welding produces a better surface finish than MIG welding and doesn’t require a filler material to produce the weld.
MIG Welding Benefits
Commonly used on steel, MIG welding does require the use of consumable filler material (i.e., the feeding wire). However, compared to TIG welding, it is faster and easier to control.
Sticking Welding Benefits
Commonly used on iron and steel, stick welding is the simplest welding technique. As such, it is used extensively for industrial fabrication applications.
Advantages and Applications of Stamping
Stamped parts are found across a diverse set of industries. The stamping process allows for:
- Higher precision and accuracy
- Faster production speeds
- Lower per-unit production costs (for high-volume runs)
Advantages and Applications of Machining
Machining is a broad industrial term for subtractive manufacturing processes, such as drilling, milling, and turning. While some companies still rely on manual machining units, many companies have adopted the use of computer numerical control (CNC) machining equipment. The latter enables industry professionals to achieve the following:
- Tighter tolerances
- Higher production consistency
- Greater cost-efficiency (for small to medium runs)
Metal Fabrication Solutions From G.E. Mathis Company
At G.E. Mathis Company, we offer industry-leading metal fabrication services to customers across a diverse set of industries. Equipped with a 135,000 square foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and over a century of industry experience, our team provides:
Precision Laser Processing
We offer laser processing capabilities for a variety of materials, from 16 gauge sheets to 1.25 inch thick plates. Our fiber optic and hybrid cutting systems produce up to 8,000 watts of power, and accommodate sheets and plates up to 14 feet wide and 100 feet long. Armed with these systems, we offer some of the tightest tolerances in the industry.
Precision CNC Plasma Cutting
We utilize 4-axis machines capable of high-definition cutting action to provide precision CNC plasma cutting services. The equipment’s 400 amp, straight, dual-head, and contour beveling capabilities help us provide superior results across a wide variety of materials, including carbon, aluminum, stainless steel, and exotic metals.
Precision CNC Punching
Our 40-ton, high-speed precision CNC punch accommodates plates and sheets up to 60-inch wide and 0.5-inch thick. We process materials such as carbon steel, aluminum, and stainless steel with best-in-class industry tolerances.
For our precision forming/bending operations, our team utilizes eight hydraulic press brakes, including two equipped with CNC capabilities. These machines feature 400- to 1,000-ton capacities and accommodate thicknesses up to 2 inches and lengths of 20, 20, 30, 23, 25, 40, and 48 feet.
Some of the formed/bent components we fabricate include:
- Channels and angles
- Bump formed sections
We process a variety of materials in these operations, such as:
- Carbon steel
- Stainless steel
- Hardox® wear plate
Our AWS-certified welders are capable of providing precision arc and MIG welding services using CNC-controlled welding and fully automated processes, including:
- Dual-wire submerged arc welding
- Flux cored arc welding—i.e., FCAW
- Gas metal arc welding—i.e., GMAW
- Gas tungsten arc welding—i.e., GTAW
- Shielded metal arc welding—i.e., SMAW
- Submerged arc welding—i.e., SAW
We weld materials up to 12 feet wide and 50 feet long, including:
- Carbon steel
- Stainless steel
- Hardox® wear plate
HARDOX® Wearparts Fabrication
Our team of certified craftsman leverages thermal cutting, laser cutting, and welding to produce HARDOX® Wearparts in the following material grades:
- HARDOX 450
- HARDOX 500
- STRENX 100 (Domex® 100)
- STRENX 110 (Domex® 110)
- STRENX 700
- WELDOX 100
- WELDOX 110
These products are available in up to 2-inch thicknesses with industry-leading tolerances to meet even the most demanding application requirements.
In addition to being an ISO 9001:2015-certified manufacturer, G.E. Mathis Company can provide the following services:
- PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) – All Levels
- FAIR (First Article Inspection Report)
- Capability Studies (Statistical Process Control)
- CMRT (Conflict Minerals Reporting Template)
At G.E. Mathis Company, we have over a century of experience providing metal fabrication solutions. If you have a metal fabrication project, we can meet your needs. Contact us today for more information about our metal fabrication capabilities or request a quote from one of our experts for your next project.
It’s always a great experience for us to interact with other manufacturers and see what new technologies are trending in the industry. Trade shows and conferences provide us the chance to do just that. This year, G.E. Mathis Company sent a team to attend the FABTECH trade show, which took place in Chicago in November.
At this year’s event, we exhibited, presenting ourselves as a job shop able to fabricate component parts for potential customers. We showcased our various capabilities, which allowed us to show the breadth of work we can handle. It was an exciting show for us, we saw a lot of traffic, and we were able to connect with current customers as well as meet new customers and generate some good leads for future business. We had two of our reps manning the booth at all times, enabling them to answer any questions regarding our capabilities as well as keep a pulse on the industry.
As the show features equipment vendors, fabricators, and businesses that sell services, it is the perfect opportunity for a company like ours to share our capabilities and see what else is happening throughout the industry. For us, it was nice to gain exposure to new people, and we hope to be able to build on the leads we generated. Overall, we thought this year’s show was a success, and we look forward to the industry’s future events. We hope to see you there!
What do we want to achieve in 2013? As the new year gets off to a good start, all of us here at G.E. Mathis Company have reflected on the year that was and are setting future goals. So what do we have in mind?
2012 was a positive year of growth, not just for us, but for manufacturing as a whole. This past year, we have seen an upward growth and we would certainly like to build on that in 2013. Currently, as we are trending upwards, we are slowly returning to a more comfortable manufacturing level—close to a place we held prior to the recession. Our customers have said they are cautiously optimistic about the growth, and we attribute our current success to our wide range of capabilities.
How do we hope to grow ourselves and contribute to the industry? Currently, we are expanding our capabilities, so that we continuously meet the requirements of our customers. As we continue to see positive signs of improvement in the economy, we hope that our capabilities can contribute to this progress. Recently, we invested in new machinery that provides us with unique welding capabilities. After putting this machine into operation, we hope to service a wide range of applications and industries.
What’s one of our biggest goals for 2013? To help contribute to the growth of the economy and manufacturing, and to see industry reach the height it held before the recession. By advancing our capabilities and services, we have high expectations for our business and that of the manufacturing world!
Manufacturing. It’s all the rage recently, especially during the month of October—it had been named National Manufacturing Month, in fact. According to a recent article, several national manufacturing associations and departments co-produced National Manufacturing Day (held on October 5th) in order to raise more awareness about manufacturing right here in America. Since companies have been so receptive to the idea, it was decided to extend the awareness for a whole month! Here at G.E. Mathis Company, we understand the importance and value of domestic manufacturing, especially since we are a U.S. manufacturer ourselves. Here are some key reasons why we believe American manufacturing is something to celebrate:
- Economic benefits: The more manufacturing we can do domestically, the less we rely on others and the better state our economy is in. It is economically beneficial for us to export more than we import—the more we can manufacture ourselves, the more solid our economy will be.
- Higher employment: Not only does manufacturing in the U.S provide more jobs and livelihoods for workers, but it creates even further demand for jobs. For example, here at G.E. Mathis Company, we produce components and products that our clients use for their products—therefore, our work is in turn spurring more work once ours is completed.
- Higher quality: We are proud not only to be considered “Made in America,” but also to meet the highest quality standards. Not to mention, if you work with a domestic manufacturer, you have the option to check in on the production process and ensure that the products you are receiving meet your specifications.
- Shorter lead times: With manufacturing being done domestically, the turn-around time is cut down dramatically.
To learn more about American manufacturing, join us in celebrating MFG Day!
Welcome to G.E. Mathis Company and our blog, the space where we plan to open a dialogue with you, our customers, and all those interested in the metal fabrication industry. We enjoy a rich history of quality, integrity, and craftsmanship that began with our great grandfather, a ‘tin knocker’ who opened a sheet metal fabrication shop here in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Dedication and hard work earned him a reputation for producing the highest quality fabrications, which, along with superior customer service, sowed the seeds for expansion. The shop went through a transition into the ventilation business, where continuously developing skills and technology led to jobs fabricating heavier steel plate components, which then further transitioned us into the multi-service contract manufacturer that we are today.
With the knowledge and skill passed through the hands of four generations, G.E. Mathis Company has become a nationwide supplier of long, intricate, and close tolerance fabrications. We operate a large, 135,000 sq. ft. facility housed in three separate buildings equipped with some of the largest and most versatile metal fabrication equipment available today, as well as 21 overhead bridge-type cranes for efficient material handling. Advanced production and control technologies allow us to deliver parts with the tightest tolerances in the industry, and our ISO 9001:2015 certified quality assurance program ensures product integrity and customer satisfaction.
Providing a full range of services including laser cutting, plasma cutting, press brake forming, CNC punching, welding and metal finishing, we are excited about furthering our capabilities: we are supplementing our current equipment list with a new large press brake and a submerged arc and MIG welding system at the end of the summer. We hope you take advantage of our expanded offerings in the fall!
Thanks for stopping by to read about G.E. Mathis Company; we hope to see you on these pages again soon. If you would like to learn more about our capabilities, please visit our website, contact us today or request a quote for your next project.