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.
When you need a metal product, there is a lot that goes into processing it. The exact method to finish processing metal we employ depends heavily on the intended product and what it is going to be used for. This month we take a look at five different ways to treat metal to create the shapes and designs you’re looking for.
Beveling is the process of cutting a slope at an angle on the edge of a piece of metal. Beveling is completed before welding can begin in order to make joining easier. The result is a smoother seam. The cut is made at a diagonal to match the thickness of the piece of metal, therefore giving more surface area for the weld. Beveling also reduces the thickness of the butting endings of the two joining metal pieces. This helps improve weld fusion
Overall, beveling is a powerful method to finish processing metal. It yields precision and a much stronger weld. Additionally, the risk of cracking in the centerline down the road is minimized. Creating a double bevel, which eliminates the risk of a gap between the pieces of metal at the apex of the joining, further strengthens the weld.
While beveling is one of the most efficient and quick ways to finish processed steel, it also creates emissions, so protective gear should be worn during the process. Our Cd’A Metals division of the Norfolk Iron & Metal Group can handle all your beveling needs.
Blanking is a precise and specific way to finish processing metal. Using a press and a die, blanking punches out metal pieces (blanks) from coils of sheet metal. The coil is fed continuously through the press, and the blanks that are stamped out are in turn used for the rest of the project. Blanks are almost always flat geometric shapes.
One of blanking’s best features is its ability to cut down on waste material. The process is conservative and highly customizable, accommodating customers’ designs and specifications in the size and shape of the blanks produced. Blanking allows for smaller tolerances and is versatile in the metals that can be shaped, including carbon steel, stainless steel, copper, iron, and aluminum. We manage all our blanking services at our Metalwest facilities.
Hole punching is the cousin to blanking. This method to finish processing metal follows many of the same basic principles: sheet metal is compressed between a press and dies to produce a hole. In the case of punching, however, the piece that matters is not the blank but the rest of the sheet, the piece with a hole in it.
A hole punching press puts percussive pressure on a metal sheet until the plastic pressure is too great and the fibrous structure is perforated. The dies on the other side of the sheet ensure that the metal does not break during the process. The process produces the best results on material between 25 and 30mm thick. The metals used may vary, including materials like aluminum, brass, copper, iron, and stainless steel. When our customers require hole punching for their materials, the service is performed at one of our Cd’A Metals facilities.
Offered at our Norfolk Iron & Metal and Cd’A Metals sites, laser cutting is an automated process that creates quick and highly precise cuts in sheet or plate metal. Appropriate for carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and brass applications, the method to finish processing metal uses a highly-focused high-energy laser to make 2-dimensional cuts in the material.
Laser cutting works along an X-Y plane to cut metal to manufacturer specifications. These are programmed into the machine beforehand in what is known as a G-code. Then the laser beam burns or melts through the material, with the quality of the cut reflecting the thickness of the metal (the thinner the better).
To remove molten excess material before it solidifies and compromises the cut, a laser cutter may employ a high-pressure stream of gas to blow the molten material out of the bottom of the cut. However, it may just vaporize the material as it passes through. This too depends on the material’s thickness. Laser cutters can process almost any material with the right amount of power. However, they are limited to how deeply they can cut, usually a max of 25mm.
Laser cutting has many advantages. Fabricators love it for its precision and efficiency—lasers can be focused to beams as tight as 0.1 mm in diameter. They also leave behind minimal post-processing work. The only exception is the occasional deburring if the material has slag attached to the cut edge.
Unfortunately, the method does have its drawbacks, including producing toxic fumes. Laser cutting is expensive to set up and to perform because it requires a lot of power. Still, for the work performed, it is a fantastically effective method to finish processing metal.
Sometimes metal is processed in coils, and the correct method to finish processing metal cannot be undertaken unless the metal is in sheets. That is where the leveling and cut-to-length processes come into play. They convert coil into sheet metal by unrolling the coil, leveling it, and cutting it into cross-sections. This must be accomplished with precision, adhering to very small tolerances for error.
We offer both leveling and cut-to-length services at our Norfolk Iron & Metal and Metalwest locations across the United States. Keeping material waste minimal, we work with customer requirements from 28 gauge to 10 gauge carbon steel, providing next-day delivery for newly-cut sheet. We occasionally (and at select locations) work with non-ferrous material in custom cuts.
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