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All About Metal Fabrication

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: 

Cutting

Laser cuttingOne 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.

Forming/Bending

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.

Punching

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

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. 

Stamping

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.

Machining

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

1/2" Hardox-450 laser cut platesWe 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 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.

Precision Forming/Bending

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.

3/4" bump-formed cone segments

Some of the formed/bent components we fabricate include:

  • Cones
  • Cylinders
  • Ob-rounds
  • Segments
  • Channels and angles
  • Bump formed sections

We process a variety of materials in these operations, such as:

  • Carbon steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Titanium
  • Hardox® wear plate

Precision Welding

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
  • Aluminum
  • Hardox® wear plate

Hardox® Wearparts Fabrication

1/4" Hardox-450 cone weldmentOur team of certified craftsman leverages thermal cutting, laser cutting, and welding to produce wearparts in the following material grades:

  • 450–500 Hardox®
  • 100–110 Strenx® (Domex®)
  • 100–110 Weldox®

These products are available in up to 2-inch thicknesses with industry-leading tolerances to meet even the most demanding application requirements.

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.

Our Experience at FABTECH

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!

Choosing the Right Material for Your Fabrication Needs

During the initial planning phase of fabrication, there are many things to consider. One of the most important of these considerations is material selection—what’s the absolute best choice for your part?

In industries and applications where the metal will be coming into contact with other hard materials that can wear it out due to abrasion, a good choice is an abrasion resistant (AR) plate. AR plates are designed for use in harsh environments.

Of course, there’s more than one type of AR plate, and we would recommend using Hardox®. Hardox® is chemically engineered to provide abrasion resistance throughout the entire thickness of the material, not just the surface. Many other AR plates only offer the abrasion resistance on the surfaces of the material, becoming softer towards the center of the material. Specific benefits of Hardox® include:

  • 1/4" Hardox-450 cone weldmentHardox® is generally more formable.
  • Readily weldable without pre- or post- heating (whereas pre- and post-heat may be necessary to prevent stress fractures in the material and the weld itself when using regular AR plates, no heat treatment is needed for Hardox® up to 2 inches).
  • Longer part life as a result of even abrasion resistance throughout the thickness of the plate.
  • Hardox® is blasted and primed at the mill, which results in material that better resists rusting and scaling.

While different machining processes and specific environments can affect material choice, as a general rule, when an AR plate is right for the job, Hardox® can be highly advantageous. In mining, construction, and other industries, it’s been known to save time, money, and worry. As an official Hardox® Wear-Parts member, (one of only a handful in the country audited and authorized by SSAB, the maker of Hardox®), G.E. Mathis has a great deal of experience using it, and therefore is well aware of its benefits. When selecting abrasion-resistant material, put your confidence in a fabricator with a proven track record.

Constructing your Stainless Steel Needs

You’re a customer in the architectural field, and you’re in need of precision laser cut stainless steel panels for your next project. In order for your project to go off without a hitch, these ¼” thick stainless steel panels must measure 63” in width and 143” in length. Not only do you need a quantity of 91 pieces, but you also need the large metal panels to be laser cut to a tolerance of ±0.015 in. To top it off, your project schedule is under a time crunch, and it is necessary that you receive these parts within the next few weeks. It’s pertinent, then, that you find a metal working company who can meet all of your needs in a quick turnaround time. Where do you go?

For one firm in particular, they came to GE Mathis Company. This customer came to us with an engineered drawing of these exact needs. So how did we fulfill their requirements? We took A240-T304 stainless steel and used our 6,000 watt laser to cut the stainless steel plates precisely to the customer’s specifications. Once the panels were cut, we then ground and de-burred the laser cut edges to ensure that the panels were precise and ready to use. Even better – we were able to do all of this in three weeks! It is important to our entire staff to meet the needs of every customer – whether in the architectural field or other industrial fields.

GE Mathis Comapny: Growing Up in 2013

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!

Why we are Celebrating American Manufacturing

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!

G.E. Mathis Company: A Diversification of Options

Diversification. What is diversification, and why is it so pertinent to us, here at G.E. Mathis Company?

To start, diversification is defined (by Merriam Webster) as a balance in industries or classes to a portfolio, or the increase in the variety of products offered. It is a word that has often described our company, due to the fact that we have not limited ourselves to one application, one fabrication process, or the production of one fabricated part. In fact, our long history has given us extensive experience and a vast portfolio.

What are some products we are skilled in fabricating?
Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) for chemical applications and high quality components for OEMs in the construction, mining, defense, and agricultural industries.

What materials can we work with?
Everything from a wide variety of Duplex SST, to HARDOX® and STRENX, to common grades like A36, Gr-50, Gr-80, A514 (T1) and AR plate.

Welder With TorchWhat fabrication processes are we experts in?
Everything from laser processing, high def plasma cutting with bevel capabilities, press brake forming, and welding.

What has enabled us to have such a diversified company?
There are many factors, including our lead times, ISO quality standards, and our HARDOX® Wear Parts membership. Our capabilities have expanded over the years, primarily because we continue to upgrade our equipment and focus on having the longest and most precise fabrication capabilities (for example, we can fabricate parts from 16 gauges to 2 in. thick!). We have continued to set our sights on improving our business and our capabilities. In other words, whatever it takes to get the job done right.

A Tradition of Quality Since 1905

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. G.E. Mathis Company wagonDedication 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 or contact us today.