From the cars we drive to the tall buildings we work at all day to the industrial plants that produce everything we use, today’s society owes its infrastructure to metal’s strength and durability. Extreme amounts of heat and pressure and skilled labor give the metal its final form. Two of the most crucial metalworking processes are welding and metal fabrication. Many people don’t understand the distinctions between these two processes. Let’s delve into some of the differences between welding and metal fabrication in today’s blog.
In the meantime, if you have a metalworking project that you need help with, contact us. Glenn Metalcraft’s customer relationships are as solid as the metals we work with, forged on quality service for the highest quality parts.
GMI is an extension of each of our customers. We strive to grow in the right direction, so we are prudent about the work we accept and aim to achieve a good fit above everything.
Welding is the process of joining pieces of metal together using fusion. These material pieces must have similar melting points for the welding to be successful at holding them together.
Welders often work with hot metal, specialty tools, and heavy machinery. Therefore, it’s imperative to be trained in proper safety guidelines and use the correct safety equipment to prevent injuring themselves or others.
Welders should always have access to:
- an auto-darkening welding helmet
- coveralls or a leather apron
- flame-resistant clothing
- hearing protection
- heavy work boots
- safety goggles
- welding gloves
- and often a method for fume extraction equipment.
Workers must understand the importance of safety equipment, meaning the shop should have safety policies defined and communicated to their welders. Both the provision of equipment and the proper training in safety expectations are necessary for a metal fabrication shop to have a thriving safety culture and environment. This safety culture is part of the shop’s overall program of quality control.
Welding involves the fusing of two (or more) pieces of metal. Numerous welding techniques exist, and each has its particular strengths and weaknesses.
Standard welding techniques include:
- Shielded metal arc welding.
- Gas metal arc welding.
- Gas tungsten arc welding.
- Flux core arc welding.
All welding techniques have the same goal: to permanently bond metal pieces together.
Metal Fabrication, Explained
Metal fabrication is the process of bringing together metal parts and assembling, or fabricating, something out of the elements. Usually, the process creates metal structures, machines, buildings, or other components.
Metal fabrication is the entire process of creating metal parts, from beginning to end. In comparison, welding is only one part of the fabrication process, which involves using heat to join two metal pieces.
Metal gives structural strength and efficiency. For instance, metal is strong and extends the life of structures. However, despite its strength, it can be manipulated to take on a new shape. Besides, due to its strength, it is incredibly cost-efficient. Metal fabricators can replicate the procedure to create a product, which brings down the cost per unit.
Also, metal is cost-efficient for the owners. Buildings or structures that utilize the fabrication process have a lower risk of fire damage, peeling paint, and even attract fewer pests. Best of all, its resistance to damage means there are lower insurance rates.
Processes Used In Metal Fabrication
- Casting. The casting process occurs when molten metal is poured into a mold and is left to solidify into a specific form. Casting is one of the most flexible metal fabrication methods. It’s ideal for a wide range of complex shape-making. The most common materials used in casting include copper, gold, iron, magnesium, silver, and steel.
- Cutting. Perhaps the most common metal fabrication processes involve cutting, where sheets split into halves, thirds, or smaller. Welders perform cutting on a range of machines, from lasers and plasma torches to elaborate high-tech machinery pieces.
- Folding. One of the more complicated metal fabrication processes involves folding, where a metal surface is manipulated to shape at a certain angle.
- Machining. When a machine removes portions from a metal piece, the process is known as machining. The method uses a lathe, which will rotate the metal piece against tools that trim corners and edges, cutting the section down to a desired shape or measurement.
- Punching. When holes are formed in metal, the process involved consists of punching. Punching is when a metal piece is placed under a die and submitted to a drill “punch-through.” For the punched hole to be the correct size, the drill’s circumference must be accurate.
- Shearing. For long cuts, the process is known as shearing. Shearing can be done horizontally, vertically, or by lowering the blade like a paper cutter. Shearing is used to trim down the edge of sheet metal, but the shearing process may be done anywhere on the metal piece.
- Stamping. The metal fabrication process of stamping creates specific shapes, letters, or images within a metal piece. In effect, metal stamping is similar to a relief carving in wood or marble. Coins are a primary example of metal stamping: with words, currency amounts, and presidents’ faces stamped on each side on pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.
- Welding. Welding is easily one of the most popular metal fabrication processes among enthusiasts, along with cutting.
Additional metal fabrication processes include broaching, grinding, honing, and milling. Depending on the needs of a particular metal fabrication application, some metal facilities even perform specially customized fabrication types.
Differences Between Welding And Metal Fabrication
Welding is a metal forming technique necessary in many metal fabrication applications to complete work on a specific part or project.
Not all metal fabrication involves welding, but good welders are essential for a successful metal fabrication business to operate to its greatest potential.
Both welding and metal fabrication uses similar processes like assembling and bending. Many welders can fabricate, and many fabricators can also weld.
Metal Fabrication Encompasses Many Different Techniques
Metal fabrication encompasses the creation of a metal product from beginning to end. It involves everything from layout and design to shaping and finishing. In contrast, welding is simply one activity during metal fabrication.
As we stated above, all welding techniques have the same goal: to permanently bond metal pieces together. Metal fabrication, by comparison, encompasses many different metalworking strategies — welding included.
Welding and Metal Fabrication Use Different Tools
There are various tools used during welding and metal fabrication. Typically, professional welders need equipment such as abrasives, chipping hammers, electrode holders, soapstone, vice grips, vices, and welding clamps.
Metal fabricators, by trade, concern themselves with metal cutting, machining, or bending.
Fabricators accomplish this task using various cutting machines. A fabricator uses a lathe to remove portions of the metal. They can also create holes through which bolts will be able to pass. Bending machines then add necessary angles to the metal piece.
Welding utilizes a diverse toolset, including welding clamps, torches, power sources, and consumable electrodes.
Welding and Metal Fabrication Require Different Skills
Metal fabrication uses various metalworking processes — welding included — to create the structures and components necessary for the modern world to exist.
Most fabrication tools have a tabletop nature. Fabricators place the metal on the relevant device and then carefully manipulate the tool to accomplish the desired task.
On the other hand, welding has a vastly different strategy. While some welders do require stationary tools, welders mainly perform the welding process itself by hand.
While some metal fabricators also possess welding ability, the welding process’s complexity often requires more specialized practitioners. Without intense practice, a welder wouldn’t be able to create strong, neat welds. When creating high-performance metal products, only a welder with experience can operate with the necessary degree of skill and precision.
Why Trust Your Metal Manufacturing To Glenn Metalcraft?
Glenn Metalcraft’s customer relationships are as solid as the metals we work with, forged on quality service for the highest quality parts.
GMI is an extension of each of our customers. We strive to grow in the right direction, so we are prudent about the work we accept and aim to achieve a good fit above everything. Contact us about your project today.