Exploring Metals Used in Custom Fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication is critical to new and existing markets, from renewable energy to medical equipment and countless more. However, metals and their properties vary, meaning what’s right for one product may not be the best choice for another.  There are several types of metals commonly used in sheet metal fabrication, each with advantages and limitations depending on the intended use in a final product. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at which types of metals are typically used in custom sheet metal fabrication. 

Get to Know the Metals Commonly Used in Custom Fabrication

1) Aluminum - If your project requires a lightweight and versatile material, aluminum may be the right choice. Aluminum is highly malleable and can be easily stretched and formed into different shapes without cracking. That’s one reason why it’s often a top choice for pieces with intricate designs. It also has excellent corrosion resistance and a strength-to-weight ratio that makes it a popular choice for applications where weight is a concern. However, aluminum can be more expensive compared to other metals. Your fabrication partner should be able to tell you if other options will work for your project. 

2) Stainless Steel - Stainless steel is used in countless consumer goods like appliances (maybe you can see a few in your own kitchen), medical equipment, and of course in sheet metal fabrication. And for good reason. It contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium that helps prevent rust and corrosion as well as staining. That, along with its durability and strength, makes it a popular choice for a wide variety of industries. Stainless is also a popular material choice for outdoor NEMA rated enclosures. 

3) Carbon Steel - Another popular option for high strength and durability is carbon steel. This type of metal is created by combining iron with carbon and typically comes in cold-rolled or hot-rolled steel. Carbon steel sheets are commonly used for heavy duty machinery such as agricultural equipment, construction materials, and industrial machinery. One thing to keep in mind is that carbon steel does require additional protective coatings. This can include but is not limited to powder coating, pre-plated material, or a post-plating operation such as zinc plating. Work with your fabrication partner to ensure this process is accounted for in your project timelines and budgets.

4) Copper - Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. You probably know that it’s often used in things like electrical wiring, roofing and plumbing, but those aren’t its only applications. Copper also has antimicrobial properties making it a suitable choice for some medical equipment. Because it can easily be formed and joined and has good corrosion resistance, it’s been a frequent choice for intricate designs and decorative pieces. And, its unique color and texture have appealed to artists and architects for centuries. 

5) Titanium - Titanium is a strong, lightweight metal resistant to corrosion and heat. It’s commonly used in medical applications like knee replacements precisely because of these properties. Titanium is also used in the aerospace industry thanks to its superior strength and durability in extreme conditions. The material has proven to be useful and popular for sports equipment too — just ask your favorite golfer about titanium clubs. In recent years it has even developed a bit of a reputation as a luxury material for high-end watches, wedding bands or other pieces of jewelry. It can be an expensive option and may require special machine tooling, but when your custom sheet metal fabrication project needs to withstand harsh conditions, it just may be the right option. 

Understanding Your Options is Key

Choosing the right material for your project is an extremely important step in the fabrication process. It requires careful consideration of your piece’s function, design, environment and dozens of other factors. The metals discussed in this article — aluminum, carbon steel, stainless steel, copper and titanium — are just a few of the metals commonly used in complex custom fabrication. Each has its own unique properties and can be used for multiple applications. By understanding the types of metals available and the benefits they offer, engineers, program managers, and procurement professionals will be able to make informed decisions about what material is best for a given sheet metal fabrication project.

Maysteel has extensive experience working with a variety of metals, including those mentioned in this blog post. Talk to our team to learn more about the best choice for your program. CONTACT US

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