What Does a Metal Fabricator Do?
A metal fabricator specialises in the creation of metal structures by cutting, bending, and assembling raw materials. They may work with a variety of metals, including steel, aluminium, and iron, and are employed in a number of industries, including construction, manufacturing and automotive repair.
In this article, the team at KNS Metals will explore what a metal fabricator does in more detail, beyond the typical job description to cover the metal fabrication process, techniques, and qualifications required.
Job Description: Metal Fabricator
If you are interested in becoming a metal fabricator, you may be surprised to find the job description can vary depending on the employer and the project you are working on. In general, however, metal fabricators are responsible for reading and interpreting blueprints or drawings, selecting the appropriate materials for the job, measuring and cutting the metals to size, and then joining them together using welding or bolting techniques. Once the structure is complete, they may also be responsible for installing it on-site.
Understanding the Metal Fabrication Process
As mentioned above, the metal fabrication process follows taking raw metal and shaping it into a usable product. This can be done in several ways but most often involves cutting, bending, and welding the metal into the desired shape.
The first step is to cut the metal to the appropriate size utilising specialist tools like power saws. This is followed by bending the metal, which can be done with several different machines, but most often a press brake is used. The press brake applies pressure to the metal, causing it to bend into the desired shape, ready to be welded, which is essentially melting the metal and joining the ends together.
Manipulation Techniques Used by Metal Fabricators
1. Shot Blasting
Shot blasting is a process that is used to clean or prepare metal surfaces for further treatment. The process involves using high-pressure air to blast abrasive particles at the surface of the metal, removing contaminants or debris from the surface, as well as preparing it for painting or other finishes.
In metal fabrication, cutting is an important process for creating parts and components. Several different methods can be used to cut metal, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Sawing is a cutting method that uses a rotating blade to slowly wear away at the material. This method is typically used for larger pieces of metal, as it can take some time to cut through the entire piece.
Shearing is a similar method that uses two blades to quickly cut through the metal, but is often not as accurate and can leave rough edges.
Grinding is an abrasive cutting method that uses a rotating wheel to remove material from the workpiece. This method is very accurate and can produce a smooth finish, but can also be very slow, making it impractical for large projects.
In bending, force is applied to a piece of metal, causing it to deform and take on the desired shape. Bending can be done using various methods, including hand-bending, press brakes, and roll forming.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a bending method, such as the type of metal being bent, the desired shape, and the tolerance required. Bending methods also vary in terms of cost and complexity.
Welding is concerned with joining materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. Fabricators do this through melting workpieces and introducing a filler material to form a pool of molten material (the weld pool). This will eventually cool and form a joint that can will have just as strong as the base metal. Welding is distinguished from other joining processes, such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal.
What Qualifications & Skills are Needed for Metal Fabricating?
Qualifications and skills that are commonly needed for metal fabrication include:
· The ability to read and interpret engineering drawings
· Capable of using a variety of hand and power tools
· Welding experience
· Soldering experience
· The ability to work with a variety of materials
· Good communication skills
· Physical strength and stamina
· Attention to detail
· Problem-solving skills.
In Australia, there are a few different ways to become a metal fabricator. One option is to complete an apprenticeship. This typically takes several years to complete and combines on-the-job training with theory-based learning. There are also a number of private colleges that offer courses in metal fabrication.