Fabrication processes transform aluminum sheets into useful products.
This guide will teach you how to cut, better ways of forming, and assembling aluminum sheets. Finally, you will learn the best finishing techniques, applications and cost saving ideas during fabrication process.
Keep reading to be an expert in aluminum sheet metal fabrication.
What Is Aluminum Sheet Metal Fabrication?
Aluminum sheet metal fabrication entails the process of converting aluminium sheets into useful products.
You employ processes such as cutting, folding, punching and joining in aluminium sheet metal fabrication.
Fabricated aluminum tumblers
Advantages Of Aluminum Sheet Metal Fabrication
You identify the following advantages of aluminium sheet metal fabrication:
- Aluminium is highly resistant to corrosion: This allows it to shield components from environments that cause corrosion.
- Aluminium is resistant to wear and tear: You benefit from aluminium’s superior resistance to deterioration resulting from heat and other common environmental conditions.
- Aluminium is lightweight: You can easily combine aluminium with other metals to form alloys that are lightweight.
- Aluminium is highly flexible: You can employ aluminium sheet metal in various applications.
Best Aluminum Grades For Metal Fabrication Process
Typical aluminum grades include:
- Grade 1100-H14
While it has the lowest strength this grade offers you the highest ductility especially for drawing and welding purposes.
- Grade 3003-H14
This aluminium metal grade is affordable, highly resistant to corrosion and weldable.
- Grade 5052-H32
This aluminium grade employs magnesium and offers you high formability, and corrosion resistance best used for applications like tanks or chassis.
- Grade 6061-T6
Employs silicon alongside magnesium with its use spread from airplane applications, weapons, automotive parts, bicycles, and boats.
Steps In Fabricating Aluminum Sheet Metal
The fabrication process entails the procedures you undertake to convert aluminium sheet metal into a finished and useful form.
You find the following steps necessary in fabricating aluminium sheet metal:
Cutting Aluminum Sheet Metal Stock
Cutting involves separating pieces of aluminium metal from a large sheet to produce a product in the desired shape.
You find the cutting process divided in two: Shearing and Non-Shearing Methods
Shearing methods involves the application of heat in the aluminium sheet metal cutting process. These include:
In this process, you employ laser beams to cut aluminium sheet metal through melting by focusing on specific locations.
In this aluminium sheet metal cutting procedure, you employ ionized gas or plasma in the cutting process.
Heat resulting from the plasma blast melts away the focused aluminium metal sheet.
Here, you slice aluminium sheet metals using a water jet of high-pressure usually over 50,000 psi at about 600 m/s.
Shearing methods involve application of force rather than thermal treatment that melts away the aluminium sheet metal at the point of breakage.
Sheet metal blanking
Some of the shearing methods include:
In this method, you employ a punch and die to extract a metal part from a larger aluminium sheet metal.
The die secures the metal piece while the punch cuts out the part in the blanking process.
This process is similar to blanking in the allocation of shear force. However, the useful piece is that left in the die while you punch out the scrap.
You employ a tool called a saw to gradually cut aluminium sheet metal to create a sequence of incisions. A saw tooth separates a tiny fraction of material from the aluminium sheet using friction and shear force.
- Metal Band Saws: These have multiple, small, slightly curved teeth, perfect for cutting non-ferrous metals like aluminum.
- Horizontal Band Saws: You use these to cut bar stocks into smaller sizes when required.
- Vertical Band Saws: These allow you to finishing more difficult cuttings that demand accurate shapes in the metal part.
You conduct the cutting process in straight lines by use of shearing force when conducting this method. The aluminium sheet metal consequently breaks of at the point of shear application.
Forming Aluminum Sheet Metal
You conduct aluminium sheet metal forming by mechanically deforming aluminium to the desired shape.
Mechanical deformation involves changing the shape of the aluminium material without altering its size.
Aluminium Sheet Metal Forming Methods
During bending process, you mold aluminium sheet metal into a preferred shape by applying force along an axis.
Bending changes only the shape through plastic deformation but retains the material’s volume.
- Rotary Bending: You bend aluminium sheet metal into sharp angles usually exceeding 90 degrees.
- V-bending: You use a punch to bend the aluminium sheet metal over a V-die by an angled force application.
- U-bending: While similar in execution to the V-bending technique, this process requires a U-shaped die that lends its shape to the final product.
- Roll Bending: Here, you bend aluminium sheet metal into rolls or rounded shapes.
To achieve a particular bend, you typically require three rollers, a hydraulic press, and a press brake.
- Wipe Bending: Here, you determine the aluminium sheet metal bend’s internal radius by employing a wipe die.
When hydroforming, you use a die to stretch an aluminum sheet metal by employing a fluid at high pressure.
You can achieve both convex and concave shapes with this process that finds common use in body building in the automobile industry.
When curling aluminium sheet metal, you eliminate burrs from edges making them smooth.
This technique gives workpiece edges a hollow and round roll thus increasing edge strength and promoting safe handling.
When using ironing on aluminium sheet metal, you achieve a consistent wall thickness.
You find this forming technique common in making aluminium cans by utilizing a punch and die.
Joining Aluminum Sheet Metal
The process of joining in aluminium sheet metal fabrication entails attaching metal pieces to come up with the desired shape.
Fasteners are a non-permanent choice for joints employing components known as fasteners to mechanically affix two or more aluminium sheet metals.
This method offers you a non-permanent approach of joining aluminium sheet metals by using clips called rivets.
You first drill holes in the respective aluminium sheet metals before inserting the rivet.
You then form a bond by applying force on the rivet to flattening it thus preventing removal.
Unlike the welding method, here you do not melt the base metal.
Rather, you join two aluminium sheet metals by heating a filler metal until it is moldable.
Here, you employ heat, pressure, or both, to fuse two aluminium sheet metals together.
In this process, the base metal melts under high heat with a filler material forming a common joint.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding:
In this technique, an electrode stick upon application of an electric current forms an arc when it contacts the aluminium sheet metals.
Metal Inert Gas Welding
This method uses an unbroken wire electrode and shielding gas.
The shielding gas buffers the weld pool from atmospheric contact whereas the melted wire electrode makes aluminium sheet metal connection possible.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding
You employ a tungsten electrode, to produce a reduced arc when joining dense metals.
You also employ shielding gas to screen the electrode and weld region from contaminating air particles.
Apply Finishing On Fabricated Aluminum Sheet Metal Parts
A surface finish over aluminium sheet metal allows you to protect the surface from external contaminants that can cause deterioration.
This method commonly applies in the aerospace industry and formation of precision instruments.
Here, you oxidize the surface of the aluminium sheet metal in the following ways:
- Type I: Entails using chromic acid to deposit a thin layer on the surface of the aluminium sheet metal.
- Type II: You create a robust layer that is resistant to corrosion on the aluminium sheet metal surface using sulfuric acid.
- Type III: Here, you produce a thick and hard coatings capable of weathering corrosion and wear.
Here, you employ tiny abrasives, usually glass beads or coarse sand, to effect a smooth finish under compressed air force.
Bead blasting offers aluminium sheet metal pieces a smooth surface without altering size.
Here, you simply employ a brush with filaments to enhance the surface quality of aluminium sheet metal products.
You can remove burrs developed throughout different aluminium sheet metal processing steps without endangering the component’s quality.
In this method, you produce an electrolytic cell by attaching a thin metal layer to the aluminium sheet metal surface.
This method entails painting the aluminium sheet metal’s surface with powdered paint.
You then bake the surface to form sturdy layers that impart resistance to wear and corrosion.
Industries Using Fabricated Aluminum Parts
The following industries employ aluminium sheet metal fabrication:
Fabricated aluminum sheet metal part
You can employ thin aluminium sheet metal fabricated parts to form sturdy frames for use as hoods, side panels and fenders.
You find extensive use of aluminium sheet metal fabricated parts in the appliances industry.
A common application is in cooking pans and housing for appliances like blenders and mixers.
You need components with high precision and tolerance in this industry capable through aluminium sheet metal fabrication.
Aluminium sheet metal is a common construction feature where it finds use in roofing and making corrugated sidings owing to their durability.
You employ aluminium sheet metal production in developing electronic components such as computers, tablets, audiovisual and telecommunications equipment, and even drones.
Aluminium sheet metal manufacturing can fulfill the demand to enclose electronic mechanisms for safety or sanitary purposes.
You find aluminium sheet metal fabricated products employed for medical tools designed for accuracy and quality.
These include surgical tools such as scalpels.
Cost Saving Designs Tips In Aluminum Sheet Metal Fabrication
The labor intensive nature of aluminium sheet metal fabrication could increase the production costs. You can mitigate the high costs by undertaking the following strategies:
Avoid Plating or Welding
The welding and plating processes are costly and negatively affect lead times. These processes are also not environment friendly.
Consider Basic Fasteners
Using customized fasteners impedes production and generally shoots up the cost of production. Use basic fasteners where they do just fine.
Employ Simple Design Elements
While intricate designs have aesthetic appeal, their raise production costs.
For instance, using thick aluminium sheet metals and making several bends and cuts complicates manufacturing.
Maintain Proper Tolerances
Finer tolerances increase the production cost of aluminium sheet metal as they require specialized tools which you frequently replace.
Select Appropriate Raw Materials
When considering aluminum sheet metal, you find it cheaper than stainless steel with almost identical qualities.
Use Inexpensive Finishes
Undertake the finishing that serves your aluminium sheet metal product life without emphasizing on visual appeal.
Use Optimal Bend Radius
Another technique to cut down on the cost of aluminium sheet metal production is to use optimal geometrics in design.
The internal bend radius should fall within the range of the material thickness and 0.762mm.
Utilize the Common Sheet Gauge
Your production costs can soar when you order aluminium sheet metal in custom gauges.
You can employ standard gauges which are easily accessible preventing a drawn-out ordering procedure.
Common Challenges In Fabricating Aluminum Sheet Metal
Some common fabrication issues you experience with aluminum sheet metal are:
Susceptibility to Damage
While aluminum is a flexible metal, it is less tough than steel and thus likely to fail during the manufacture process.
The thermal conductivity of aluminum causes it to ward off heat during the process of welding potentially weakening welds.
Standard Tolerances In Aluminum Sheet Metal Fabrication
Tolerance for sheet metal fabrication
You can achieve exceptional fit and function by employing correct tolerance resulting in increased production efficiency.
Hole Sizes +/- 0.003”
The hole size and features depend on that of the punch and die. In general, a suitable and useful tolerance is +/-0.003″.
Hole to Hole +/- 0.005”
The machinery you employ in aluminium sheet metal fabrication determines hole to hole distance accuracy. A tolerance of +/-0.005″ is manageable.
Hole to Edge +/- 0.010”
When striking metal, stress can push the edge out when close to one less than twice the material depth. This can affect the hole’s positional accuracy relative to the edge thus requiring a tolerance of about +/-0.010″.
Hole to Bend +/- 0.015”
For the majority of applications, a +/-0.015″ hole-to-bend tolerance is functionally acceptable.
You need to take into account the press brake’s variation, in relation to the material thickness.
Bend to Bend +/- 0.020”
You should always allow +/-0.020″ bend-to-bend tolerance. If crossing several bends, you need to employ greater tolerances.
With the techniques in this guide, you can make any aluminum part and components of your choice.
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