At Metalwest, our goal is always to provide you with the processed metal you need for your products. Last month we talked about the many methods companies use to finish processed metal. This month we’re back to talk about more.
Plasma cutting is the process of using an electrically-conductive channel of plasma to cut through molten metal. The plasma is created by firing a highly-concentrated stream of gas through a nozzle with a plasma cutter. As the stream is directed at the metal, an electric arc is formed between it and an electrode within the machine. This arc ionizes the gas, forming superheated plasma.
Plasma cutting, which we perform at our Cd’A Metals and Norfolk Iron & Metal facilities, is one of the most highly efficient ways to finish processed metal. Plasma cutting can cut through thick metal plate and becomes more cost-effective every year. It creates clean cuts and can also be used to erase evidence of metal-melting fusions.
Processed metal is not complete until it has been polished. Polishing sets any metal product’s appearance apart and improves its sanitation qualities. This is vital if your product is destined for the food processing or service industries. At Metalwest, we perform all of our polishing in-house and offer a wide range of finishes for our customers.
To finish processed metal by polishing involves buffing away irregularities on the metal’s surface. To do so, polishing lines use abrasives attached to a flexible backing to reach every surface of the metal product. The grit of these abrasives determines their role.
Low-grit abrasives (those in the 60 or 80 ballpark) smooth out nicks or grooves in the surface, while high-grit abrasives (with values closer to 120 or 180) create a beautiful sheen. At Metalwest, we provide No. 3, No. 4, No. 4 Fine, No. 6, and No. 8 finishes in addition to other specialty finishes specific to your product.
A press brake is a piece of machinery designed to bend sheet metal. It is usually long and narrow to accommodate large pieces of metal. The material is pressed between a punch and a die, and the applied pressure is used, sometimes percussively, to shape the metal into specified configurations.
The specifics of press brake machinery vary depending on the application. Press brakes can be mechanical, electric, pneumatic, or hydraulic. They have varying speed settings. Press brakes are rated by their tonnage—the amount of force they can apply. It is common for tonnage to sit between 100 and 300 tons, though some press brakes go up to 3000 tons, measuring 50 feet long.
Hydraulic press brakes are known for providing the most power. However, electronic press brakes minimize operating costs and reduce the risk of leaks. They also take up less space while working more quickly and accurately. When you want to finish processed metal with a press brake, the settings matter, and our team at Norfolk Iron & Metal is very familiar with the force and power required.
Sawing describes the use of a saw blade to cut larger pieces of metal into smaller and more manageable pieces. It is a common method used to finish processed metals such as stainless steel, brass, bronze, aluminum, titanium, nickel alloys, and copper, and it is employed across a wide range of industries. All of our facilities—Metalwest, Cd’A Metals, and Norfolk Iron & Metal—have sawing capabilities.
There are two main kinds of sawing. Band saw cutting uses a long straight blade with metal teeth to saw back and forth through metal pieces. Because the teeth are slightly bent, the cut created by a band saw is slightly wider than the blade without risk of the blades getting pinched or stuck. Band saws make highly accurate and straight cuts.
Circular saws are the other common tool used in manufacturing settings. The process uses a circular saw blade which spins as it cuts. circular saws are rigid and highly stable, making them ideal for reducing vibration levels. This results in impressive precision and speed.
Sawing is beneficial for high-volume applications. It cuts down on material waste because the tolerance cutting is impressively close. Without sacrificing cut quality, sawing has quick turnaround times and impressive finishes. Usually the need for further finishing is minimal.
Shearing is a form of cutting metal that utilizes sharp cutting blades coming together. The metal does not need to be heated before it can be sheared. Working at room temperature to finish processed metal is common, but shearing can even be performed when the metal is cold. The process is a way to ensure that the metal is not burned or melted while cutting and that no chips are formed.
Shearing is generally conducted in one of two ways. Bench shears are good for smaller applications. They are small and lightweight and can be mounted on a workbench, easy for one person to use. Using a power shear (or guillotine machine) is another option. These are powered by electricity or a hydraulics system and are generally more complicated to operate, but they are also usually faster and more effective in large-scale applications.
In both cases, the metal roll or sheet being cut is placed by a squaring arm, and a higher blade is brought down quickly to meet a lower blade. This results in clean, straight cuts with minimal waste. While shearing is often used to finish processed metals like bronze, brass, and aluminum, it doesn’t work as well for harder metals, and performing the process incorrectly can lead to damage and deformation of the metal. We have shearing functionality at our Metalwest and Norfolk Iron & Metal locations.