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Almost all modern day metal fabrication falls into two categories. There is fully automated and semi automated systems. There are some old fashioned metal workers who do everything by hand but their work falls into the category of a specialized artisan. It is not the mainstream. In general, a fully manual system is more expensive and less versatile than the other two.

A semi manual system of metal fabrication is good if you need lower start up costs. For all the machinery you cannot afford, you can hire someone to take their place. An employee is less expensive for smaller scale operations. However, a human is more prone to error than a fully automated system where you program in all the specs then let the machine run.

Sheet metal fabrication has several methods. It can be bent in different formations. The most common are the roll and u-shaped bends and the perpendicular bends. Both of these are best left to a machine. The perpendicular or v-shaped bend must be exact for the final product to fit together. The rolled sheet metal must also be evenly rolled on all sides. It is more difficult for a human to do that work. However, in a semi manual system, a human will bring the metal to and from the bending machine. A fully automated system will have a robot which brings the metal to the folding machine and then removes it after the operation is complete.

Most sheet metal cuts are made with a plasma torch. This technique has become even more mainstream as these tools have come down in price, making them available to artisans as well as manufacturers. Plasma cutters will cut the outline of a piece as well as drill holes where ever necessary. They can make long, perfectly straight cuts as well as follow the designs of any artistic metal worker.

After metal pieces have been fabricated, they can be joined together to make any number of products, from a log debarking drum to furniture to chimney supplies. How the pieces go together is another system entirely. Some workers prefer to weld metal pieces together. This ensures a strong bond that might never break if cared for properly. Other manufacturers prefer to drill screw holes and keep sheet metal pieces together with nuts and bolts. Some designs incorporate both. Which one is chosen is largely a means of preference. The nice thing about nuts and bolts is that it allows consumers to order specific parts if something breaks, instead of having to repurchase the whole item or send it into a specialist for repair.

Of course, sheet metal fabrication has brought down the cost on so many items. This has increased the quality of life for everyone that the industry touches, from the debarking specialists who were using hand tools, to the millions who now have metal roofs over their heads, which are cheaper and more durable than the shingle alternative. Metal fabrication has allowed for innovation in many fields. It is a shame that so few know about this crucial industry that touches their lives every day.


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