Structural steel fabrication is the process of cutting, bending, and shaping steel components for later use in steel structures like buildings, towers, and bridges. The various steps involved, which include the use of complex fabrication technologies, often call for equal measures of experience, skill, and artistry.
Structural steel fabricating is a specialty skill that requires experience in converting raw materials into products that meet applicable codes and standards. It is widely used in the following industries:
At VeriForm Inc, our structural steel fabrication services are provided by highly skilled tradespeople and state-of-the-art equipment. In this article, we’ll explain what structural steel fabrication is, what it’s used for, and how a top-rated Ontario metal fabrication company can help you get quality results.
What is the Most Commonly Used Structural Steel?
Steel’s chemical composition and the treatments it undergoes can affect its hardness and ductility, making different types of steel suitable for specific applications. We’ll discuss the three main types of structural steel below.
For structural applications, carbon steel is a popular choice. As a matter of fact, it is the most commonly produced steel in North America. Carbon steel is both strong and ductile (it can bend into any shape without breaking), and it is also relatively easy to manufacture.
This structural steel is an alloy, which means that it’s mixed with other metals or non-metallic materials. The main constituents of carbon steel are iron and carbon, with a few other elements alloyed in very small amounts. It is made in a blast furnace by mixing iron with coke (an industrial fuel made from coal or oil). The steel is cast into a mold after undergoing additional processes such as deoxidation. After that, it can be rolled, cold-formed, or heated to create the exact steel you require.
Since carbon steel is so common, it can be used for a wide variety of purposes, from bridges and buildings to bolts and fasteners. Nonetheless, other forms of steel are also suitable for specific applications.
Steel alloys become stronger and harder when they are quenched and tempered. The first step is to quench alloy steel. In other words, it is heated up to a critical temperature and then cooled down immediately. (To prevent brittle edges on the steel, this process must be tightly controlled.) Following quenching for extra toughness, the alloy will be tempered. In tempering, the metal is heated once more, but below its critical point. It is then air-cooled.
Alloy steel that has been quenched and tempered can be used for many things, including building bridges and skyscrapers. It is also used for making tools, which is why it is called tool steel.
The term HSLA refers to high-strength low-alloy steel. Elements like manganese, copper, nickel, zirconium, or more are added to steel to make it harder. Steel was originally designed for pipelines, but now you can find it in cars, cranes, and even roller coasters. Since HSLA has a good strength-to-weight ratio and can withstand a lot of stress, it is an ideal building material.
This steel also tends to be more corrosion-resistant than other kinds due to the particular elements alloyed into it. It is, however, more difficult to manufacture than carbon steel.
What Happens During Structural Steel Fabrication?
Structural steel fabrication is a multi-step process that starts with cutting and bending and usually progresses to welding and assembly.
Structural Steel Cutting
Fabricators cut structural steel using a variety of methods that include:
Oxygen-Acetylene Flame Cutting: This technique is commonly used for general cutting or edge preparation, such as beveling, coping, or notching.
Plasma Cutting: This mechanically-guided process is often used to cut steel plates up to one inch thick.
Laser Cutting: Like plasma cutting, this process is useful for cutting steel plates.
Water Jet Cutting: This manufacturing process uses high-pressure water jets to cut and shape various types of materials.
Shearing: Performed with mechanical presses, shearing is generally useful for cutting plates and angles.
Structural Steel Bending or Rolling
The next step is to bend or roll the alloy. The process of rolling or bending structural steel involves curving it to a specified radius and arc length. The term bending generally refers to creating a bend with a tighter radius, while rolling describes a bend with a larger radius. Bent and rolled steel are often used in environments that require a curved aesthetic, such as domes, arenas, canopies, and roof trusses.
A steel fabricator can hammer steel manually or with a machine. Whether you should do one or the other depends on how much repetitive bending your project requires. Fabricators are more likely to use machinery if bending structural steel is highly repetitive.
Structural Steel Assembly
Combining the various steel parts is the next step in creating steel structures. Although some structures call for the pieces of steel to be joined using rivets, welding is the most commonly used option. This is because welding can make the steel stronger, preparing it for high-pressure applications like I-beams or columns. Compared to riveting, welding gives structures greater strength and durability.
Cleaning and Painting
The last step of the process is to clean the structure surface of any debris. The surface is prepared for painting by using a variety of cleaning methods, such as surface rusting, blasting, etc. Generally, steel structures are painted with two layers of normal paint and one layer of anti-rust paint, which protects against corrosion caused by environmental factors.
VeriForm Inc.: Your Structural Steel Fabricating Experts
Whether you work in the construction industry or the manufacturing industry, a quality structural steel fabrication process is essential for the best results. VeriForm Inc. provides expert welding services on all your fabrication projects, with any oversized or complex parts being welded on Demmeler Bluco fabrication tables for extra accuracy. If you need help with an upcoming structural steel fabrication project, we’ll be pleased to offer a competitive quote. Learn more by visiting our website, calling 519-653-6000 or contacting us online.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) is a form of arc welding that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to create the weld. Due to their high performance, strength, and reliability, GTAW welds are commonly used in aerospace and nuclear energy.
In the 1940s, TIG welding skyrocketed in popularity after successfully joining magnesium and aluminum. Today, it’s an appealing replacement for gas and manual metal arc welding because it uses an inert gas shield instead of slag to protect the weld pool.
At VeriForm Inc, TIG welding is one of our core processes due to its corrosion and crack-resistant welds and compatibility with a wide range of metals and fillers. In this article, we look at how TIG welding works and analyze both its advantages and disadvantages in terms of application, operator skill, and efficiency.
TIG Welding: the Process
During TIG welding, a pointed tungsten electrode and the workpiece are joined by an arc in an inert environment of helium or argon. Small intense arcs created by these pointed electrodes are ideal for precision and high-quality welding. Since the electrode is not consumed, welders don’t need to balance the heat input from the arc. Filler metal must be added separately to the weld pool when it is needed.
Advantages of TIG Welding
Make Clean, High-Quality Welds
When appearances matter, you can create clean welds with TIG due to its superior arc and weld puddle control. TIG welding allows you to control the weld puddle’s temperature with a foot pedal, similar to driving a car, giving you precise control over the weld bead. Therefore, TIG welding is ideal for cosmetic welds such as automotive and metal sculpting.
With TIG welding, no smoke or fumes are produced, unless the metal being welded contains oil, grease, paint, lead, or zinc. Welding should begin with a clean base metal.
The welding puddle only contains the necessary amount of filler metal, so there is no spatter or sparks when you work with clean metal.
No flux needs to be applied or used because the Argon gas protects the weld puddle from contamination. There is also no slag to obstruct your view of the weld puddle and the finished weld won’t have any slag that needs to be removed between passes.
Only One Shielding Gas is Needed
The versatility of Argon allows you to TIG weld all metals and thicknesses, so you only need one gas in your shop. This simplifies the welding process since you don’t have to work with a variety of gas types.
More Versatile Welding
You can make TIG welds in any position – flat, horizontal, vertical or overhead. This versatility makes it an ideal option for shops that produce items like roll cages or need to carry out welding work in tight or confined locations.
Furthermore, TIG welding can weld a greater variety of metals and alloys than any other method available. You can use this process to weld steel, nickel alloys, bronze, copper, magnesium and even gold. In the case of thin sheet metal, there is no better arc welding process: TIG prevents warping, discolouration, and burn-through by using multiple arc and heat control methods.
Greater Operational Control
TIG welding uses tungsten electrodes to create the electrical arc, which improves control. Unlike stick or MIG welding, where a consumable electrode melts into the weld area, tungsten electrodes heat and melt the filler material that is fed into the weld area by the operator. The level of control can make a difference in the quality of the results.
Foot pedals control amperage to the electrode, which is not the case with other welding methods, such as MIG (gas metal arc welding), in which the arc voltage is set at a preset value. A TIG welding setup has variable amperage, which is one of the main differences between it and processes like MIG welding.
TIG welding’s filler material application helps to achieve control. As we mentioned before, TIG welding electrodes are non-consumable, so the operator can better control the amount of filler rod used by separating the filler metal application from the heating step. MIG welding, on the other hand, uses the gun as both an electrode and a filler material.
Disadvantages of TIG Welding
TIG Welding Can Be Difficult
Although TIG welding equipment and materials are relatively affordable, skilled and experienced technicians are needed to perform the process, which can result in higher labour costs. (Even the most experienced welders gradually switch over to TIG welding.)
Welders without experience have a hard time handling heat with the pedal, as an accidental jerk will create small welding craters on the metal surface. Improperly performed inclusions, contaminations, and unbalanced heating can result in warped or defective products, as well as wasted materials.
TIG Takes Longer
TIG welding takes a lot of time. The kind of precision it’s known for is extremely time-consuming compared to other technologies like stick welding. The machines themselves also need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use: since any contamination will corrode the surface being welded, there is no room for error.
Overheating is a Risk
As the temperature is controlled by a pedal, distractions or operational errors can cause overheating. Upon overheating, the metal surface will discolour instantly, making the joint brittle and prone to breaking. You won’t be able to reduce the amperage smoothly if you haven’t developed the pulsing ability. Overheating will result in every time.
VeriForm Inc.: Your Welding and Fabrication Experts
TIG welding is one of many state-of-the-art technologies that have a place in modern metal fabrication shops. At VeriForm Inc, our CWB CSA W47.1 and W59 certified welders deliver expert and outstanding results on your fabrication projects, and all oversized or complex parts are welded on our Demmeler Bluco fabrication tables for extra precision. If you have a routine or complex welding project, we’re here to help. Learn more by visiting our website, calling 519-653-6000 or contacting us online.
Welding is a process that consists of different technologies and an equally diverse range of materials. The process you use and the metal being worked on will largely dictate the tools and steps involved.
Having said that, there is a set of ‘golden rules’ that can be safely applied to all welding applications. In this article, the experienced fabricators at VeriForm Inc. go over welding best practices that will maintain both efficiency and the quality of your output.
Common Welding Challenges in Fabrication Environments
Although materials with a carbon steel base are often used in welding applications, they aren’t the only ones. Stainless steel, aluminum, and even bronze and titanium are becoming more common in manufacturing and fabricating environments. When you run an enterprise that welds different materials, you’re often looking at investing in more welding equipment as well as adjusting the schedule to accommodate equipment changeover between applications.
Do’s and Don’ts of Welding
Welding solutions designed for different types of materials can help you gain flexibility and efficiency while making high-quality welds. These best practices can help ensure you always have the right equipment on hand and use it to its best advantage.
DO Wear Appropriate Clothing and Safety Gear
Maintaining compliance with safety regulations and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements is essential. This includes wearing the following during welding operations:
A welding helmet to protect the worker’s face from sparks and the ultraviolet and infrared rays that the arc emits
Clothing that doesn’t have pockets or cuffs that could potentially catch sparks
Respiratory protection to keep the welding fumes at bay
DO Clean the Metal Surface
It’s important to properly prepare the metal before you weld it. This includes removing surface contaminants like dirt, paint, and rust and sanding away any cracks or uneven surfaces. In most cases, a simple going-over with a powered wire brush is sufficient, but be prepared to go further if needed.
Should it be impossible to clean an area before repairing it, don’t use an MIG welder on it. Instead, use a stick welder with a 6011 rod and go slowly so gas bubbles escape from molten welds before these impurities can be trapped.
DON’T Stick to Basic Feeders
Don’t limit yourself to basic options when selecting wire feeders. In welding operations where materials are frequently changed, wire feeders with more advanced technologies can save time and increase productivity.
Dual feeder systems eliminate the need for separate welding cells for different materials. Integrated systems that include the power source and feeder on a single MIG runner cart can save time during setup and make it easy to move the equipment from one cell to the next. Advanced wire feeders also allow welders to save different weld programs, making it easy to retrieve the correct parameters for specific applications.
DO Integrate Pulsed MIG Welding
Welders can produce high-quality welds and reduce rework by choosing a feeder and power source with pulsed MIG capabilities. Compared to CV MIG welding, pulsed welding is much better for aluminum because it provides lower heat input and greater arc control, reducing problems like burning, distortion, and spatter.
There are also advanced pulsed welding processes that help you produce a better-looking weld and bead profile: some versions even compensate for welder inexperience by supporting accurate travel speeds and correct distances between the contact tip and workpiece.
DO Incorporate User-Friendly Welding Technology
With materials like aluminum and stainless steel, it can be more difficult to set the correct welding parameters to support the desired bead profile and penetration. Consider welding technologies that make these parameters easier to attain. For example:
There are welding power sources that assist welders in setting proper parameters. When the welder enters the material type, thickness, and wire size, the machine will establish the parameters necessary to create a quality weld.
When welding aluminum, a power source with a crater and hot start provides better arc starting and stopping capabilities.
DO Choose the Right Filler Materials
It is critical to select the right filler metal for the application and base material. As aluminum and stainless steel come in many types, make sure the filler metal matches the base metal’s mechanical and chemical properties.
DON’T Use the Same Liner and Consumables for Different Materials
Welding steel should not be done with the same liner and consumables that weld aluminum. Cross-contamination or wire feeding issues can result. The liner for carbon steel is usually steel, while the liner for aluminum is plastic or Teflon with tighter tolerances. For the base material, you also need to use the correct feed guides and drive rolls.
DO Use the Appropriate Angle, Arc Spacing, and Speed
The correct angle will depend on the technology you are using. When wire welding, tilt the gun 10° to 15° in the direction you are pushing the weld. Maintain a 20° to 30° lead angle when stick welding.
When it comes to arc spacing, you’ll want to adjust your travel speed so that the arc remains within the leading third of the weld pool. With wire welding, maintain a distance of ⅜ to ½ inch. Stick welding requires a distance of 1/8” between the rod tip and the workpiece.
With travel speed, you’ll know that you’re going too slow when you’re producing convex, wide beads that have shallow penetration while depositing too much metal. If the travel speed is too high, the weld will produce a narrow, highly crowned bead. For most joints, the travel speed is well below 40” per minute.
VeriForm Inc.: Your Welding and Fabrication Experts
When you’re required to weld different materials, how well you adopt welding best practices can make a difference in your success rate. Pulsed MIG and advanced wire feeders allow operators to save time in setup and to produce high-quality welds, so investing in these additional capabilities can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
At VeriForm Inc., our CWB CSA W47.1 and W59 certified welders continually use welding best practices to ensure that we always meet your project specifications. We believe that in order to complete superior-quality welding, we need to use the best equipment and recommended technologies. To learn more about our metal fabrication services, please visit our website, call 519-653-6000 or contact us online.
Machining and fabrication are two processes commonly used to create metal parts and components. Although a lot of machine shops and manufacturing facilities employ them to achieve comparable results, they are not the same.
At VeriForm Inc. we use both technologies to deliver client metalworking projects. In this article, we’ll go over the main differences between machining and fabrication and which one you should use for a given application.
What is Machining?
The metal machining process involves removing material from raw metals to make finished products or components. To achieve the desired shape, metal is cut, turned, drilled, or milled using a variety of machines, such as CNC machines. Our new CNC machining centre is long enough to duplicate multiple workstations, ensuring peak productivity and uptime.
Common machining technologies are highlighted in detail below.
The CNC milling process, which is also known as 3D milling, involves moving the computer-directed tool across the workpiece simultaneously in three axes or more. With these machines, you can contour surfaces and drill holes with extreme precision. As a result, they are indispensable tools in the manufacturing industry.
Drilling takes place by rotating either the drill or the workpiece and feeding the drill along its axis into the workpiece. A computer-based drilling system is particularly useful for the mass production of components. With advanced and versatile CNC centres, drilling functions can be performed more quickly and on a repeatable basis.
In countersinking, a V-shaped edge is created near the surface of the hole. It is often used for deburring holes or for making countersunk-head screws sit flush with surfaces. CNC milling commonly uses chamfering endmills to make countersinks.
Metal threading is a metal processing technique that involves making continuous helical threads on the surface of a workpiece. There are various applications for metal threading, including screws, bolts, and lead screw drives, which require high load capacity and precision in load transformation.
Different threading technologies include:
Thread Cutting: Using tools and dies, thread cutting generates threads on the internal or external surfaces of cylinders and cones. By using a pattern-specific tool, this process removes excess material with each successive pass to achieve desired thread depth.
Thread Milling: During thread milling, the material is removed from the workpiece’s surface with a rotating milling cutter to create threads. The internal threads are carved out by inserting a milling tool into a hole and rotating it in a circular motion. A milling tool is fed to the outer surface of the workpiece to carve out external threads.
Tapping and Threading: In this process, threads are formed through the use of taps and dies. Taps are used to cut or form threads on the internal surface, whereas dies are used to cut threads on the external surface.
Metal boring cuts a small amount of metal from a workpiece’s inside diameter to increase the accuracy and size of a hole. The process involves rotating either the boring tool or the workpiece and slowly feeding the former along the axis of the latter.
What is Metal Fabrication?
In fabrication, raw materials such as sheet metal, textiles, and plastic are used to create objects and parts. Specifically, the machine fabrication process involves the use of certain techniques to add, remove, cast, join, or form material. The highly trained members of our parts fabrication team use the highest quality precision equipment to cut, bend and assemble complex parts of any size.
By using a brake, a sheet metal company can bend sheet metal into shapes, and channels at angles up to 120 degrees. The thinner the gauge of sheet metal, the easier it is to bend. The opposite is also possible: sheet metal manufacturers can decamber strip-shaped pieces of sheet metal to remove the horizontal bend.
Various pieces of machinery are available for cutting sheet metal, some of which are unique to sheet metal fabrication.
Laser Cutting: Laser cutters use powerful laser beams intensified by lenses or mirrors. They work well on thin and medium gauge sheet metal but may have trouble penetrating harder materials.
Water Jet Cutting: This method of sheet metal fabrication uses a high-pressure stream of water (mixed with an abrasive substance) to cut through the material. Since water jet cutters do not generate heat, they are often used to fabricate parts with low melting points.
Plasma Cutting: By creating an electrical channel of ionized gas, plasma cutters form a jet of hot plasma that can easily penetrate thick-gauge sheet metal. Although not as accurate as laser or water jet cutting machines, they are fast, powerful, and require little setup time.
When the sheet metal is placed between the two machine components, the punch forces itself through the metal to reach the die, creating holes. Punching removes circular pieces of materials, which can either be scrapped or turned into new workpieces- a process known as blanking.
With welding, heat is applied to a section of metal where it connects to another component, allowing both to be joined together. As the metal melts between the two components, it fuses to form a solid connection. Metals such as stainless steel and aluminum are comparatively easy to weld while others may require a specific welding process, such as arc, electron beam, etc.
Some metal fabricators, including Veriform Inc., also offer powder coating and assembly services for completed components.
As soon as your part is fabricated, it will need machining to knock off the rough edges or maybe a hole will need to be drilled to add a metal component. It is common for something to be machined after it has been fabricated. An example of this would be to add metal objects to a plastic part or remove flash around the edges.
VeriForm Inc.: Your Machining and Fabrication Experts
Machining and fabrication are key technologies when you’re working with sheets of metal. At VeriForm Inc., we have dedicated processes for aluminum, carbon steel, and stainless steel fabrication as well as CNC countersinking, drilling, laser cutting, and tapping. Our in-house personnel efficiencies will prepare and ship your machined and fabricated final products so you’ll have them when needed. To learn more, please visit our website, call 519-653-6000 or contact us online.
When you’re working with sheet metal, the welding procedure you choose can determine the success of your project. If you don’t use enough heat, the weld penetration will be subpar and you can get brittle joints. Too much heat and you risk burnout.
At VeriForm, Inc. we handle sheet metal using the latest and most advanced versions of proven welding technologies. In this article, we go over the 3 best methods of welding sheet metal, along with recommended applications for each one.
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding
Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), or TIG welding, uses tungsten electrodes that cannot be consumed. The tungsten electrode generates an arc that provides heat for welding. Filler material is often used to reinforce and build up welds. As with MIG welding, which will be discussed in the next section, a gas shield protects the pool from contaminants.
Depending on the filler size and how the filler wire is applied, TIG speeds range from 7” to 15” per minute. This method is not normally used on carbon steels due to its comparatively slower speed. However, it may be applied if the size of your MIG gun prevents you from accessing the weld.
Stainless Steel: Because of its clean appearance, TIG is primarily used on stainless steel. It is important to control heat input and speed when TIG welding stainless steel because it is prone to warping when heated unevenly. Unless the adjoining material requires brushing after the weld, there is usually no post-weld cleanup.
Aluminum: For many years, TIG has been the standard process for working with aluminum. For thicker materials, a preheat cycle may be required to ensure complete penetration of the weld. Filler metal is used in the weld puddle, so the speed is generally slower than MIG.
Gas Metal Arc Welding
Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), also known as MIG welding, uses a continuous solid wire electrode fed through a welding gun. When the contact tip is electrically charged, it melts the wire and creates a weld pool between the two components. A shielding gas protects the pool from environmental contaminants that could cause defects. Due to the spatter that is created during welding, MIG is best used for projects in which cosmetics and weld appearance are not important.
GMAW manual weld speeds vary according to the weld size and location, but they are generally around 30″ per minute. Throughput can be increased by using robotic welding. GMAW welding yields the best results on materials like the following:
Stainless Steel: For stainless steel sheet metal, Pulse MIG welding reduces spatter. The electrode does not come into contact with the pool during Pulse MIG welding. An electrode adds molten metal to the pool with each pulse of the current, which alternates between a high and low level.
Carbon Steel: For carbon steel, MIG welding is preferred over TIG welding due to its speed. It can also be used to join parts that do not fit closely together. Typical weld examples include outside corners that require dressing.
Aluminum Sheet Metal: To achieve a TIG-like weld appearance with aluminum, a pulse MIG machine is used with a special assist gas. The surface scale on aluminum must usually be removed before welding to avoid dust and splash marks.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding
Also known as stick welding, shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) uses a consumable electrode with a metal rod at its core. The arc formed between the electrode and the base metal produces the heat required. Disintegrating flux coatings release vapors that act as shielding gases and provide a protective layer of slag. Both prevent atmospheric contamination of the weld area. During the welding process, the metal rod inside the electrode melts, forming a molten pool that creates the weld.
You can control several variables that affect the width and height of the weld bead, the amount of spatter, and the penetration of the weld, making SMAW welding results easier to control. Stick welding is also more cost-effective than other methods, such as TIG. With its portability and versatility, it can be used in any position and with any thickness of sheet metal.
There are some downsides to SMAW welding, such as slag created during the welding process and slower speeds (3” to 6” per minute), but as your proficiency develops these issues are easier to control.
Stainless Steel: Stick welding stainless is easy in flat and horizontal positions, but uphill, it can be challenging. Metal drops seem to fall off faster when the rod gets hot, the arc force seems to drop, and the bead crowns. To avoid these problems, set the amperage at the lower range of the required heat level so that the rod doesn’t get too hot and deposit metal at a more rapid rate.
Carbon Steel: Stick welding is compatible with all grades of carbon steel, from 0.30 to 0.90%. Depending on the grade, it may need preheating and post-welding heat treatment to prevent cracking.
Aluminum: Aluminum is more complicated to stick weld than steel, and the results may not be as aesthetic as you’d like, but it can still be done. Aluminum’s high thermal conductivity and low melting point pose many welding challenges, so you need to apply more heat to the weld pool although the melting point is lower. Getting the right heat requires varying the amperage output on your stick welder, and you’ll need to keep a shorter arc. Be sure to use moisture-sensitive electrodes designed for working with aluminum.
Is It Better to TIG or MIG Weld Sheet Metal?
Sheet metal comes in different varieties, some of which are more suited to one welding method than another. If you’re working with stainless steel, TIG welding will yield the clean visual results you’re looking for. You won’t want to use it on carbon steel, though, because it’s a comparatively slower process.
MIG welding, on the other hand, doesn’t yield attractive results on stainless steel. If you’re working with aluminum, you’ll want to use a MIG machine with a special assist gas. With carbon steel, however, MIG is the recommended approach due to its higher speed.
VeriForm Inc.: Your Sheet Metal Welding Experts
For every project, VeriForm Inc. employs only CWB-certified CSA W47.1 and W59 welders, along with a certified welding engineer. Our on-staff CWB-certified welding supervisors will also supervise your work to ensure the best results for your project. Let us use our experience and in-house efficiencies to prepare and ship your welded sheet metal products, so you have them when you need them. To learn more, please visit our website, call 519-653-6000 or contact us online.
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