The Difference Between Welding & Metal Fabrication
When people talk about working with metal, the terms welding and fabricating are often used interchangeably. Even more, the occupations of welder and fabricator get mixed up as well.
If you’re considering taking on a metal project of your own, no matter how big or small, knowing the difference between these two terms is basic knowledge that needs to be understood.
Let’s have a closer look at each one individually to help explain the difference.
What is Metal Fabrication
Simply put, fabrication is the creation of metal structures through the process of bending, cutting and adjoining pieces of metal.
These processes include the use of various tools like use of saws, drills, press brakes, cambering machines, stamps, forges, casts, dies, and CNC machines to name a few.
Metal fabrication is used for structures and projects of all different sizes from the simple manufacture of aesthetic decorations, to the building of large structures.
Different Types of Metal Fabrication
Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication
The type of metal fabrication Meta Fab performs is considered precision work. Typical tolerances of 0.010″ and sometimes smaller are commonly used when fabricating enclosers, brackets, panels, face-plates, covers, and chassis used in many types of manufacturing industries.
Mill and Lathe Fabrication
The use of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines to remove massing from blocks of metal. Also known as subtractive fabrication.
Architectural and Structural
This kind of metal fabrication includes the construction of buildings, both large and small. The use of structural metal beams provides structural support and has quickened the building process in recent years.
Shipping Container Manufacturing
Metal is used for virtually everything in the shipping industry. From the metal that makes up containers to the fasteners that hold everything together, fabricated metal is necessary.
Spring and Wiring
Metal is found in virtually every type of wire. It’s used to conduct electrical currents. Both springs and wires play a significant role in machinery that’s used in factories that manufacture other products.
Hardware and Tools
Computers wouldn’t play such a prevalent role in our society if we weren’t able to fabricate metal that’s used for all their hardware components.
Residential and industrial hardware is also made possible by metal fabrication. This includes everything from light fixtures, to hinges, and doorknobs to name a few.
Metal fabrication is also essential for the production tools like hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, drills, and many others.
These are just a few of the many industries that require metal fabrication. In our daily lives, you can assume that almost everything you use, see, or touch has been made possible through metal fabrication.
If you’d like Meta Fab to quote your next metal project, please submit your RFQ here!
What is Welding?
Contrary to popular belief, welding is actually a specific metal fabrication process. It involves joining metals together through the use of heat that melts parts together. Once they cool, these parts fuse and become a singular piece.
The process usually involves the addition of a filler material that’s added to the joint to form a molten pool. This adds support and helps ensure structural integrity. A shield is also added to the filler to prevent it from becoming contaminated or oxidized.
Different Types of Welding
MIG – Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
This welding process involves a continuously fed electrode that comes through a welding gun. Between the base metal and the electrode, an electric arc forms.
The benefits of MIG welding in particular it includes less waste, minimal cleanup, and fewer fumes.
Stick – Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
In stick welding, an electrode carries a current. The electrode consists of a core of wire-coded influx and the electric arc is created when the tip of the electrode is withdrawn while remaining in close contact to generate temperatures upward of 6,500 degrees.
This method is preferred because of its low cost and the equipment needed is highly portable. This technique can also be performed outside, even in wind or rain.
Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
Similar to MIG welding, this process requires the continuous feed of an electrode. Instead of being made from solid wire, it utilizes a tube-shaped wire with full flux.
The main advantages here are high electrode efficiency and less waste.
Electron Beam Welding (EBW)
This type of welding fires a ray of high-velocity electrons into sheets in order to weld metal.
Particularly useful for things like aerospace components, transmission assemblies, and bimetal saw blades, the advantage is the ability to seal electrical pieces.
Atomic Hydrogen Welding (AHW)
AHW is the method of choice for welding tungsten because it’s so resistant to heat.
The process employs two tungsten electrodes in a hydrogen atmosphere in order to break apart hydrogen molecules and combine them in an explosion of extremely high heat.
Gas-Tungsten Arc Welding
This is the most difficult and time-consuming welding process. It requires ample skill and focus because of the small area between the arc of the flame and the material being welded.
It’s commonly used in the manufacture of aircraft and bicycles.
Plasma Arc Welding
In this process, an electrical current is passed through a small nozzle that goes through protective gases in order to maintain a high degree of accuracy for welding in tight areas. The result is deep, strong welds.
Clearly, metal fabrication and welding are two very different things. While metal fabrication is a term that encompasses the working of metal in general, welding is a specific type of metal fabrication.
Knowing the difference, and the basic details of each term is essential if you’re going to execute a successful project using metal. If you have questions about either term or the processes involved, reach out to us Meta Fab. Meta Fab uses a host of welding techniques in our fabrication and can help you decide which would be best for your project. We’re happy to help in any way we can.