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Subtractive Manufacturing

INTRO TO SUBTRACTIVE MANUFACTURING

 

Subtractive manufacturing can be performed manually by a machinist. More commonly it’s a highly complex process used by a CNC machine.

It is a decades-old practice with a demonstrated history of effectiveness in the prototyping process and manufacturing products. The goal for your project will determine if it is the correct process for your needs. 

 Subtractive manufacturing is like the process an artist uses to create a sculpture. The machinist or CNC programmer, like the artist, uses specialized tools to carve metal materials into the desired shape.   

The different techniques used by the craftsman or artist create the specific details requested by the client.

If you want to understand subtractive manufacturing further and whether it aligns with your needs, consider Glenn Metalcraft Inc. They are an industry leader with a customer service focus.

What is subtractive manufacturing?CNC machine cutting example of subtractive manufacturing

Subtractive manufacturing is aptly named since it involves removing or subtracting materials to produce the end product. One method of implementing subtractive manufacturing utilizes a computer numerically controlled or CNC machine

The process begins with a rough slab or bar of material. Then, a machinist removes the excess until it reaches the final shape of the prototype or product being manufactured. You can imagine it like a sculpture. Your piece begins as a rough block but takes on a more complex shape through detailed carving. 

Subtractive manufacturing can be further broken down by the machines and manufacturing technologies used. 

Conventional machining uses three-axis cutting tools so that the block does not need to be manually flipped or turned. Conventional lathes, milling machines, and drill presses produce basic geometric designs.

Unconventional machining is ideal for working with brittle materials or producing more intricate and complex shapes. It uses a variety of processes to remove excess materials. This method can use a combination of mechanical, electric, thermal, or chemical methods to fashion the block into the desired shape.

What is the difference between additive and subtractive manufacturing?

CNC machine drilling example of subtractive manufacturing

The difference between additive and subtractive manufacturing is stated within their names. One method adds material; the other method subtracts material. 

Additive manufacturing involves adding material to create the desired part. Adding layers to the workpiece forms the designated object. 

Like a CNC machine, a 3D printer is programmed to create a 3d printed piece. The printer then builds up the shape from raw materials. Specific industries that utilize additive manufacturing include the medical and dental device industries. 

Subtractive manufacturing involves removing material from solid blocks to fashion the desired shape. Manufacturers can use it with many different metals, such as aluminum and brass. A machinist or CNC machine system will remove metal using drilling, milling, or turning. The process will clear away segment by segment until the result is your product or prototype. 

However, the two processes are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, many manufacturers use both together to take advantage of each process’s unique advantages.

Advantages of subtractive manufacturing

CNC Machine Turning as an example of subtractive manufacturing

There are many advantages of subtractive manufacturing, so it has remained a popular production method after decades of use. 

Subtractive manufacturing usually results in much smoother surface finishes than the “stepped” surface, which results from using an additive manufacturing process. 

Why does the type of finish matter? If your product needs to slide, you will want the smooth finish that subtractive manufacturing provides. 

The texture matters if you use your prototype in your sales and marketing process. Your customers will be more likely to believe that your product is the right fit if it has the right feel. 

Computer numerically controlled systems are commonly utilized in the subtractive manufacturing process. First, the CNC software reads the design provided and instructs the CNC machine on creating the product. It then prescribes how to cut, drill, and channel your components. 

This level of automation means that larger-scale production can be handled with greater ease and less human involvement. 

The tools used in subtractive manufacturing are exact and can create intricate or tight geometric designs. These types of complex shapes may be otherwise difficult to mold or cast.

Subtractive manufacturing techniques

CNC Machine Abrading example of subtractive manufacturing

Many subtractive manufacturing techniques are used. However, the main approaches can be divided into three broad categories. Those are: 

  • Cutting, 
  • Machining, and
  • Abrading.

Cutting involves using saws, blades, or other such tools to remove excess material. 

Machining is when tools move around or across the raw material to shape it. CNC machining involves turning, milling, or drilling the item. 

Finally, abrading is when the raw material is sanded down or polished using an abrasive substance. 

The type of process used is dependent on the type of material used.  A manufacturer needs a deep knowledge of metals to apply those processes to create the right design effectively. 

Subtractive manufacturing examples

CNC machine being programmed by a man

Manufacturers can apply subtractive manufacturing in various industries, including medical, dental, automotive, aerospace, and agriculture. 

From gears in an airplane engine to garden tools, subtractive manufacturing can produce many products. This manufacturing technique can even make jewelry! Glenn Metalcraft Inc. uses its decades of industry experience to create items that might otherwise seem impossible!

Subtractive manufacturing has earned its place as an effective fabrication process in most machine shops. Its long history has improved by adding automation and software to allow many additional applications. Moreover, its unique properties mean it can create tight geometric shapes with a smooth and polished finish. 

Why Glenn Metalcrafts Inc.?

Glenn Metalcrafts Inc. specializes in assisting the OEM industry in creating prototypes and manufacturing the products that build your success. Our company brings to the table decades of experience, advanced equipment, and the advice of metal industry experts. We manufacture products others would not even consider. 

Glenn Metalcrafts Inc. builds solid relationships and grows alongside its customers. It is selective in its clientele to achieve the right fit. Reach out today to find out how Glenn Metalcrafts Inc. can make your manufacturing idea a reality. 

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The Differences Between Welding And Metal Fabrication

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.

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Welding, Defined

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.

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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.

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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.