Despite being commonly used as interchangeable terms, metal fabrication and welding are two distinct processes. Welding is a more specific process and can be an aspect of metal fabrication. The term metal fabrication refers to any process by which metal is used to create a product. In this process, welding might be used to aid in formation or design by joining two metals. While welding is a significant aspect of the metal fabrication process, there are many other processes involved in metal fabrication. This blog will explore the general aspects of metal fabrication and take a closer look at the role welding plays in this process.
The metal fabrication process begins with layout and design, followed by the cutting and shaping of the various involved metals. Different techniques require different tools to produce specific results. For instance, if a fabricator wants to trim their metal or create particular angels, they could use one of many tools, such as mechanical saws, plasma torches, and laser cutters. For greater precision and accuracy, a fabricator might use lathes to remove parts of the metal and stretchers and shears to create necessary angles to the metal. Once the metal sheets are shaped, bent, stretched or cut into workable pieces, welding is often the next step of the metal fabrication process.
Welding serves the purpose of conjoining the workable pieces of metal. The metals being welded together must have similar chemical compositions because they must melt around the same temperature in order to fuse together. During welding, metals are exposed to high heat until they reach their melting points and combine into one substance as they cool and harden. In addition to building new products, welding is a reliable repairing and strengthening technique.
The welding process can be dangerous, so it is important for fabricators to take precautions. One such example is the use of auto-darkening welding helmets used by welders to protect their eyes from ultraviolet rays. Another example is the use of respirators to protect welders’ lungs from toxic fumes. Welders may work with tools such as welding clamps, power sources, torches, and consumable electrodes, which can pose direct threats to their health if not handled properly.
There is a wide selection of welding processes, a few of which this blog will explore, including gas metal arc welding, flux core arc welding (FCAW) and shielded metal arc welding. These three techniques all rely on an arc of electricity that forms between the torch and the workpiece metal. This arc heats the metal to its melting point. Main differences among the techniques include their ability to resist winds and provide lower spatter levels. Additionally, each technique works best for specific metals. For example, gas metal arc welding offers shallower penetration than other techniques, making it less suitable for conjoining ferrous materials than flux core arc welding. While welding techniques are vast and complex, it is important to remember that much more goes into the overall metal fabrication process.
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