Have you ever heard the terms “metal fabrication” and “welding” and wondered what the difference is? Aren’t they both ways to make the metal goods that we use every day? Although this is true, metal fabrication and welding are actually very different processes.
Welding is only one step in the overall process of metal fabrication, which is used to make all the metal items we use every day. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two techniques and what skills and safety precautions are required for each.
What Is Metal Fabrication?
Metal fabrication is an overarching term for a variety of processes that go into making something out of metal. The fabrication process involves everything from the initial layout plans to finishing work. Welding is one small process in the overall field of metal fabrication.
Metal fabrication has touched just about every area of your life, whether you realize it or not. Every time you’ve gripped a hand rail while going down stairs or held a metal fork, you’ve touched metal fabrication. And metal fabrication was involved in making your car, the metal struts of your office building, the spring in your ballpoint pen, and the screws holding your computer and phone together.
What is Welding?
Welding is one of the processes that happens during metal fabrication. Welding is a technique that joins two similar pieces of metal, glass, or thermoplastics. The two pieces are fused together and become, for all intents and purposes, one solid piece.
There are a few different types of welding that can be used for different applications. These can include spot welding, gas metal arc welding, arc welding, and gas welding.
Uses of Each
As we mentioned, metal fabrication’s uses spread across every area of our life. Take a look around you right now, and look for everything in your sight that’s made of metal. Metal fabrication is the process by which those items were made.
Welding can be important for sheet metal fabrication, joining large sheets of metal together to create bigger structures. It can also be used to shape, join, and repair different pieces of construction. Welders work on everything from agriculture and transport to nuclear energy and aerospace construction.
Tools for Each
Metal fabrication and welding use very different sets of tools. Metal fabrication tends to use a lot more cutting tools, including mechanical saws, laser cutters, and plasma torches. You may also see metal lathes, stretchers, and shears to create holes and add any necessary angles to the piece of metal.
Welding tends to use more joining tools than cutting ones. You’re going to see welding clamps, torches, power sources, and consumable electrodes. There’s also a lot of specific safety equipment (which we’ll delve into later) that welders use to prevent burns or vision damage.
Metal fabrication involves a number of specialty techniques to work, only one of which is welding. But it may also involve die cutting, stretching, hydroforming, and roll forming, all of which help form metal into the proper shape. You may also see spinning, stamping, shrinking, and finishing employed in metal fabrication.
Welding has to use a number of different techniques, depending on what you’re needing to join and for what purpose. Fusion welding processes, which include gas welding, arc welding, and gas metal arc welding, are the most common techniques used. But pressure welding is highly specialized and isn’t used outside of a few specific industries.
You won’t be surprised to learn by this point that welding and metal fabrication require two entirely different skill sets. Metal fabrication begins with layout and design, so engineers need to be able to manage those aspects of the process. This will include figuring out the most efficient way to create something with the materials you have and determining things like tensile strength, heat resistance, and much, much more.
Welders have to know how to create a strong bond between two pieces of metal. This involves knowing a lot about the composition and properties of each metal. You also need to be able to create a neat weld that will take the least amount of finishing work.
Safety precautions are equally important for welders and for metal fabrication workers. Anyone working around these tools should be provided protective, flame-resistant pants and jackets, a leather apron or coveralls, heavy work boots, and thick, leather work gloves. They should also have safety goggles, hearing protection, and a regulator or dust mask.
Because welding is working at such high temperatures, some additional safety precautions are required. A Class ABC fire extinguisher should always be kept nearby, and welders have to keep their work areas clean. They’ll also need an auto-darkening helmet with the proper visor for the work they’re doing at the time.
Discover More Interesting Facts
Although welding and metal fabrication are often confused, they are two different trades that require very different skills. Metal fabrication encompasses every part of the metal creation process, from design and layout to finishing. Welding is one piece of that overall process, albeit one that requires a great deal of skill and care.
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