Depending on the type of fabrication you’ll be doing and the sheet metal machinery that you’ll be working with, there are several elements that you’ll need to consider when selecting what type of sheet metal you’ll be fabricating. Factors ranging from thickness to tensile strength are important and need to be considered when fabricating sheet metal. You also need to understand the properties of the type of sheet metal that you’re working with as each type of metal holds its own unique properties.
Differentiating between metals
When it comes to selecting sheet metal, you should know the properties of each of them so you can determine which type is easiest to work with and best suited for your project. Below are several common metals as well as some of their pros and cons.
- 100% recyclable.
- Resistant to corrosion as well as several acids.
- Its high strength makes it possible to use thinner sheets than required.
- Is difficult to fabricate due to its heavy weight.
- Can warp easily during welding.
- By far the cheapest metal that can be machined.
- Has a very high structural integrity and is able to withstand temperatures of up to 1000 °C.
- Not resistant to rust or corrosion so requires extra treatment.
- Not the easiest metal to cut.
- Highly conductive for both electrical and thermal energy – making it highly desirable for electronic parts in machines.
- Can be shaped easily and welded to other metals.
- Very resistive to corrosion.
- A layer of oxide coating means it’s resistant to rust and corrosion.
- Cheap to fabricate and very light.
- Limited CNC availability in comparison to other metal types.
Sheet metal thickness is measured in gauges – the lower the number, the thicker the sheet is. Determining the gauge of your sheet metal is crucial to the fabrication process as you’ll need to prepare your sheet metal machinery accordingly. This can get a little confusing, however, as the gauges can mean different things depending on the type of metal.
For example, gauge 14 translates to .0641 inches for aluminium – but .0781 for stainless steel. To help determine the thickness of the different types of metal there are specific tools that measure the actual thickness as well as give you the corresponding gauge.
The four properties of metal
As we know, metals have interesting properties in general. Some are great conductors of electricity and others have high boiling points. There are four unique and distinct physical properties, however, that affect all types of metal in the fabrication world. It’s important to understand what these properties are as they can affect the fabrication process.
This property deals with how easy the metal is to machine and fabricate. Some metals are quite easy to machine – for example, cut and shape – and do not require costly equipment to do so with ease and efficiency. As we mentioned above, aluminium is the easiest type of sheet metal to work with and copper is the hardest due to its high malleability.
This quality pertains to the metals ability to withstand stresses without breaking. Steel and stainless steel are both the best metals in this category with copper once again falling short along with aluminium.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of bending, stretching or hammering to make the sheet thinner, then you’re going to want a metal with high ductile strength. This is particularly useful when shaping wire – which is why copper is such a perfect metal for creating wire as it’s both highly conductive and has a high ductile strength. Stainless steel is also highly ductile but does not conduct electricity very well.
As the name suggests, this quality is indicative of how easy it is for metals to join together. If you’re looking at doing some quick welding with inexpensive equipment and little experience, then steel is ideal and very weldable. If you’re looking to weld copper or stainless steel then more high-end and specialised tools will be needed such as a plasma welder.
Are you looking for sheet metal machinery?
ACRA Machinery are premium sheet metal machinery stockists that specialise in both new and used products for a wide variety of metal fabrication applications. Not sure what you’re looking for? Our experienced and skilled technicians can advise you on what machine will best suit your needs. We also offer machinery repair and maintenance services for all your current sheet metal machinery.
If you would like to know more about our sheet metal machinery products and services, then please give us a call on 03 9794 6675. Alternatively, you can also contact us via the enquiry form that’s found on our website.