The Art of Turnkey Metal Fabrication: A Review of our Paint Brushes
Turnkey manufacturing includes:
- Laser Cutting Centers
- Turret Punches
- Powder Coating
- Press Brakes
Turnkey Manufacturing is an art. We turn natural metals into ER rooms, dental equipment, air travel, computers, and yes, even sculptures. Like any artist, we transform and bring to life designs that change the world. Our factories are our studios and our equipment are our instruments.
Full-service metal fabrication (also known as turnkey metal fabrication) utilizes a variety of equipment to innovate and improve products for our customers in an efficient and timely manner. Meta Fab’s engineers and manufacturers work with many pieces of equipment, such as laser cutters, turret punches, powder coating booths, and press brakes, which are critical for quality and capacity.
First, why laser cutting? While Meta Fab has punching and stamping equipment, we chose to invest in laser cutting for its speed and economic efficiency. Tooling equipment can bend and cut material, but relying on tooling involves time and investments that compromise efficiency. Lasers cut, change, and connect metal at 4 trillion times the sun’s energy, which is a significant advantage for a turnkey manufacturer.
There are two types of lasers: C02 and fiber. Introduced in 2008, fiber lasers have lower operating costs and higher cutting speeds. Fiber lasers are ideal for thin material making it a superb investment for Meta Fab to invest in fiber lasers. Fiber lasers function through a fiber optic cable that is like energy transfers in the telecommunications industry, which is why Meta Fab is a reliable supplier to telecommunications manufacturers.
Laser cutting may not be the best investment for all manufacturers, but for Meta Fab, laser cutting is essential as a full-service manufacturer.
Laser cutters are excellent for swift cutting in volume; however, metal fabricators must also bend and form metal that requires a level of detail only available by CNC tooling machines. Press brakes allow Meta Fab to manipulate and bend multiple, large sheets of metal at once thereby moving our products through an ongoing process with limited interruptions. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) allows manufacturers to control the power unit with .0004” accuracy.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “what about turret punches?” Indeed, Meta Fab works with turret punches too. Turret punches provide greater flexibility than laser cutters for bending and cutting metal. Prototyping is among Meta Fab’s signature services, which supports new and existing customers’ opportunities to explore new designs. Our CAD (Computer Aid Design) operated turret punches also enable our engineers to improve customer designs and reduce costs.
Understanding turret punches is also essential to Meta Fab as a leader in manufacturing. Turret punches teach apprentices about manufacturing basics, such as inspection and sharpening. These skills are fundamental to the manufacturing industry and can help companies identify artists among their staff. In that vein, Meta Fab not only seeks to improve and create designs but build specialists and artists in our field.
Last, but certainly not least in turnkey manufacturing is powder coating. Powder coating has several significant advantages. First, a full-service metal fabricator applies the final touches to assure the final product is the color, texture, and shine sought by the customer; therefore, Meta Fab relies on equipment that produces precision.
Powder coating originated in the 1940’s where plastic molecules were flame sprayed onto a metal surface. In the 1950’s, a transformative technique developed by Dr. Erwin Gemmer used a fluid-based bed process to thermoset powder coatings, which resulted in more accuracy and efficiency. Though more efficient and cost-effective, most manufacturers could not adopt Gemmer’s techniques for lack of necessary and available equipment.
Powder coating’s most impactful transformations took place a decade later with the advent of the environmental movement and innovation in manufacturing. Higher air quality standards placed restrictions on the type of solvents that could be released. To remedy conventional solvents’ impact on the environment, companies must invest in and install absorption equipment. And while alternative solvents, such as UV, water-based and radiation-cure coatings can be less harmful to the environment, they are not as environmentally friendly as powder coating.
Last, the application of powder coating is what makes it particularly beneficial. The electrostatic coating occurs when the powder is charged and sprayed onto material where it sticks through electrostatic attraction. The particles then melt, fuse, and are cured in an oven. Powder coating relieves manufacturers of challenges presented by solvents, such as air quality and energy use. As fewer volatile particles are released, less ventilation is required thereby resulting in shorter baking time. Altogether, the powder coating process is more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
Summary of Turnkey Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry hosts a wide array of equipment that serves diverse needs. Like watercolors, oil paints, and charcoal pencils are to the artist, laser cutters, press brakes, turret punches, and powder coating equipment are to the metal fabricator. And while some artists love working only with charcoal, others love diverse avenues of expression. We call it “full-service” or “turnkey”.
A few pieces of advice for manufacturers considering which equipment to purchase:
- Understand your value proposition and deliver what you promise;
- Seek financial planning support before making large equipment investments;
- Utilize the support of local trade groups for referrals to the best equipment;
- Understand that equipment is a long-term commitment, which requires ongoing maintenance;
- Invest in and sustain employee training programs so they can address issues arising from complicated equipment.
Last, but not least, see #3 (utilize support from local trade groups) for subcontractor referrals until investments in additional equipment make sense.
Trade Group Resources:
- EMA/Electronics Manufacturing Association (ema-oregon.org)
- PNDC/Pacific NW Defense Coalition (pndc.us)
- OMEP/Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (omep.org)
- SCORE (portlandor.score.org)
- Azzam, Hani: “How I Fell in Love with Powder Coating,” Modean Industries (https://modeanindustries.com/expertise/resources/history-of-powder-coatings/)
- Excellentcoatings.com: “Powder Coating 101: A Brief Look at the History, Uses, and Advantages,” https://www.pacific-press.com/press-brakes-then-and-now/
- Leuthold, Keith (1/8/2018): “Lasercutting: A Guide for Finding the Right Laser Cutting Machine,” fabricator.com (https://www.thefabricator.com/article/lasercutting/a-guide-for-finding-the-right-laser-cutting-machine)
- Pacific Press Technologies (10/25/2018): “Press Brakes, Then and Now,” https://www.pacific-press.com/press-brakes-then-and-now/
- Thompson, Brett (4/6/2019): fabricator.com (https://www.thefabricator.com/article/lasercutting/what-makes-the-laser-metal-fabrication-s-indispensable-tool)
- Wilson Tool (10/8/2017): “Accuracy, Speed, Flexibility Keeps Turrets Punching,” (https://www.wilsontool.com/en-US/News/Case-Studies/Accuracy,-Speed,-Flexibility-Keeps-Turrets-Punching)