Within a manufacturing environment, sheet metal is one of the most common materials used to create a wide variety of items. Sheet metal itself, formed when various types of metals are made into pieces that are very flat and thin, is popular within metalworking due to its ability to be easily cut and bent into almost any shape imaginable. In fact, sheet metal has been around much longer than you may think, since it was often used to create armor worn by ancient soldiers and even by knights. As for its role in today’s manufacturing world, sheet metal continues to be useful in many ways.
Many Types of Sheet Metal
While you may think sheet metal can be made only from such metals as aluminum or steel, the fact is many types of metal can be transformed into sheet metal. Some of the most common include nickel, copper, brass, titanium, tin, and even valuable metals such as gold, silver, and platinum.
Though some sheet metal is extremely thin, this is not always the case within manufacturing. For example, sheets that are extremely thin are called leaf or foil, while pieces that are at least one-quarter of an inch thick are referred to as structural steel. Yet however thick or thin a piece of sheet metal, all parts manufactured from it must always maintain the designated thickness required to ensure no manufacturing defects occur.
In any type of manufacturing facility where mass production is used, it is important to keep costs down while production levels stay high. By using sheet metal, this can often be accomplished. Using a technique known as punch blanking when making various products, companies can not only cut the sheet metal to a specific length and width, but also use punching machines to punch holes in the sheet metal or notch corners.
Cheap and Durable
For the most part, sheet metal is popular within manufacturing because it is relatively cheap to create, very durable, easy to manipulate into various shapes and to install, and extremely lightweight. As a result, it can be used in many different types of industries, ranging from automotive to architecture and many more.
Within the architecture and construction industries, sheet metal has found a popular use for roofing. While most roofs in years past have been asphalt shingles, more and more homes and businesses today now have metal roofs installed. Though costs are slightly higher than asphalt shingle roofing, sheet metal roofing offers many advantages. Along with being very lightweight and much quicker to install, they are made to last anywhere from 50-70 years, far surpassing the 20-30 years of asphalt shingles.
Whether it is a fighter jet on a combat mission or a passenger jet taking people to various destinations for business or pleasure, virtually all airplanes in existence today are made of sheet metal. Used to build a plane’s wings and fuselage, sheet metal of various types and thicknesses go into the construction of today’s most sophisticated aircraft.
When sheet metal is being manufactured for specific items, the manufacturing process known as bending plays a large role. This technique, allowing the sheet metal to be folded from 2-D into 3-D for various parts, is used when engineers are designing aircraft, automobiles, and many other items. Done using such equipment as a press brake and bending die, the folding must be done in a specific order so that none of the folds will interfere with notches or holes punched into the sheet metal.
With so many various uses, engineers are always looking for new and innovative ways to put sheet metal to good use. Whether it was protecting knights back in the Medieval period or covering the wings and fuselage of today’s most sophisticated planes, there is no doubt that as technology continues to expand within manufacturing, sheet metal will find many more uses.