3 Important Phases In The Steel Fabrication Process

by Claude Walters

A huge advantage in the construction of steel-framed buildings is the ability to prefabricate components. Yet many people fail to understand the various operations of steel fabrication. Whether you work in the construction industry or are simply curious about modern metalworking, read on. This article will outline three important phases of the steel fabrication process. 

Surface cleaning

Surface cleaning is generally the first operation to occur on a newly milled piece of steel. This is necessary to prepare the steel for further fabrication or painting. Otherwise, surface imperfections such as burrs and mill scale will mar the appearance and/or behavior of the steel during these later phases.

The most common method of surface cleaning is known as blast cleaning. This involves a stream of tiny particles projected against the steel at high speed. Not only does this method remove impurities, but it also roughens the surface, making it better able to bond with paint and other coatings. Depending on the resulting quality, blast cleaned steel may fall into one of four categories: Sa1, Sa2, Sa2.5, or Sa3.

Machining and cutting

Once the steel has received its surface cleaning, generally the next process involves cutting the steel to the appropriate length. There are a variety of different ways that this may be accomplished. Among the most common are: flame cutting, arc plasma cutting, and cold sawing.

Flame Cutting

As its name would suggest, flame cutting involves directing a highly focused band of flame at the steel. Because the melting point is around 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of this flame must be incredibly high. This is accomplished by combusting a combination of oxygen and propane. As a result, cuts can be made both quickly and with a high degree of precision.

Arc plasma cutting

In arc plasma cutting, the energy used to cut the steel is generated electrically. This is accomplished by means of ionizing an arc of gas, which consequently conducts an electrical current between the cutter and the steel. This super-hot electricity melts the metal, resulting in an incredibly clean cut.

Cold Sawing

Unlike flame and arc plasma cutting, cold sawing is accomplished mechanically. These saws are generally controlled by a computer, which can be programmed to make incredibly precise cuts. Depending on the type and size of the steel to be cut, the saw used either has a circular, band, or hack-style blade.

Punching and Drilling

When dealing with structural steel, holes for bolts and other forms of connection are a common requirement. Historically, such holes were usually made with a radial drill--a laborious, manual method. Today, most fabricators use drill systems that operate using an NC--short for Numerically Controlled--tooling system. This type of system allows drilling commands to be plugged into a computer, which then automatically carries them out via the machine.

For more information about the metal fabrication process, contact a company like Countryside Welding.