Types of Sheet Metal for Fabrication: The Ultimate Guide in 2022
Have you ever wondered how many goods and tools for specific and how to choose material for meal sheet fabrication? That’s right, numerous. The physical properties of materials used to fabricate flat pieces of metals are beneficial for nearly any industry.
Let’s review the pros and cons of sheet metal materials and their types. We also detailed some recommendations useful for buying a sheet metal that perfectly meets your requirements.
Sheet metal is basically any suitable metal material formed into a thin, flat piece. It is produced through a specific industrial process.
Such a procedure can be seen as an application of force onto the material. Due to the force, a metal is stressed to deform into a flat piece, typically having a square shape. It is also called “a cold working process” due to not heating material before machining it.
In its turn, sheet metal material is any type of metal suitable for cold machining. The physical property of a metal to be hammered to thin sheets is called “ductility.” All the materials that can be machined into sheet workpieces are detailed below.
You can purchase sheet metal in the form of cut pieces or in the form of coiled strips. Typically, the thicker metal is, the more convenient the coiled strip.
There are more materials often considered sheet metals. But I’m jumping ahead. You’ll know more by the end of this post.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Sheet Metal Material?
So let’s get to it. Comparison of sheet metal material and formed sheet metal pieces is possible with other raw workpieces only. These may be metals that are not stressed into flat form.
Here is the list of all advantages and disadvantages of the sheet metal materials we determined for your review.
- Durability. Sheet metals are strong and durable overall. They are considered the ideal workpieces for the production of high-strength components suitable for numerous applications.
- Ease of transportation/fabrication. Flat pieces have a low weight to thickness ratio. It makes them more transportable and also contributes to the simplicity of use for fabrication.
- Good malleability. Metal materials used for the production of flat pieces are naturally malleable. They can be formed, bent, cut, and shaped into any custom design that meets absolutely any specification.
- Repairability. Sheet metals are easy to be fixed, replaced, or repaired with a piece of the same material. It is just the practical benefit of using components made from flat pieces.
- Sustainability. A comparatively wide range of materials for the fabrication of sheet metals may enhance a finished component in many ways. Sheet metals are sustainable and may be resistant to corrosion and physical deteriorations.
- Environment-friendliness. Metals are natural substances and are considered environmentally-friendly. The other pro is that sheet pieces can be recycled multiple times.
To be completely honest, there are not many cons of sheet metal itself. But there are some extra specificities that make this form of material a bit challenging to use.
- A choice of metals. Not any metal can be machined into thin sheets. As previously mentioned, a material should have a certain degree of ductility. Overwise, it just cannot be hammered into a completely flat form. Thus, alternative options may offer a wider range of materials than sheet metals.
- The thickness of the material. Being considered the main pro of sheet metals, thickness significantly impacts a material’s physical properties. Sometimes, it is impossible to machine a sustainable flat piece of metal of required dimensions if sheet metal is too thin. You will find more explanations at the end of the post.
- Costs. Prices for sheet materials may significantly vary depending on the type of metal, the process of sheet metal forming, and other factors. The fact is: sheet metals are always more expensive than raw, unprocessed workpieces. But it does not make them less cost-effective from a practical perspective.
- Turnaround time. Sheet metal production is a labor-intensive and time-consuming manufacturing method. If you consider manufacturing flat pieces for your own needs, you should predict lengthier production timelines.
Applications of Sheet Metals
- Building materials. Sheet steel is frequently needed for structural parts, sustaining huge weights. A few other examples are ductwork and furnaces. Additionally, sheet metals can be machines into a roofing material such as rain gutters and flashing.
- Decorations. Such parts as spiral staircases, handrails, and gates are almost always manufactured from thin, flat pieces. One application you most likely have never thought of is equestrian purposes. It includes decorative horse tacks, an instance of which is breastplates.
- The automotive industry. Nearly half of the components of a vehicle’s body are made of sheet metals. Automated equipment units needed for automobile building are also partially formed from flat metals.
- Airplanes. The casing of all the planes is done with the use of sheet metal materials. A few examples are wings and fuselages fully covered in thin metal pieces.
- Medical instruments. Tolling for medical use is required to have specific mechanical and chemical properties. The purpose is to make metals withstand body fluids and chemical substances used in the process of healthcare delivery. Thus, many surgical tools are made of sheet metals.
Types of Sheet Metal Materials
1. Stainless Steel
This material has superior corrosion-resistant properties. It is also heat-resistant and chemicals-resistant. From storage tanks to kitchen vessels, stainless steel offers reliability and great durability.
But the real kicker of this material is its appearance. From shiny gold to bloody red, brass with different contaminants can be of any color to your desire.
In fabrication, several grades of aluminum can be used. Each of them has a unique set of properties. As an example, Grade 1100 metal has low strength but is weather-resistant. Grade 6061 is strong but not formable.
The choice of metal is always a compromise between one or another property to find optimal ones for a specific manufacture needs.
4. Galvanized Steel
It is even more corrosion-resistant and durable. Galvanized steel is a common material for automobile parts.
5. Mild Steel Sheet
Mild steel sheets are highly ductile, machinable, and weldable than flat pieced made from other materials. This metal also has some magnetic properties, but its tensile strength is rather low.
6. Alloy Steel
Basically, there are two types of alloy steel: Low-alloy and high-alloy steel. The first category has the containment of all the alloying elements up to 8% of the weight in total. If the proportion of alloying elements exceeds this limit, a material obtained is considered high-alloy steel.
7. Corrugated Sheet Metal
Corrugated sheet metals are perfect for roofing as they can withstand severe weather conditions. Typically, a few coils of different materials are used to form a sheet piece of metal with the properties required.
Things to Consider When Buying a Sheet Metal
Greater ductility of metal implies that it is less likely to fail or deteriorate in properties if stretched.
Tensile strength is measured as force per unit area. The momentum when a metal breaks is called “the yield point.”
It is vital to know the maximum temperature of the metal to make sure that a manufacturer’s capacities can actually melt a material.
Highly-malleable metals are mostly used for forming parts with intricate designs by bending, curving, etc.
As mentioned above, metals can be coated by other materials and proceed in any way to enhance initial properties. There are numerous options to modify a sheet metal. You can learn more about sheet metal finishing here.
Basically, the more receptive to finishing a metal is, the more it is beneficial for a manufacturer. You would be surprised to know how significantly surface finish can impact a prepared component.
The thickness of sheet metal can also contribute to the cost. While higher thickness means that more material was spent, the lower thickness may cause difficulty forming a sheet metal piece.
What are the Minimum and Maximum Thickness of Sheet Metal?
We’ve decided to devote an entire section to such an important point as sheet metal thickness. You definitely should know all the pitfalls of choosing appropriate material. And minimum and maximum width or depth of sheet metal are some of such tricky points.
You may have heard the fancy word “gauge.” It is another way to measure sheet metal thickness, along with millimeters, mills, and inches. Gauge is the thickness of metal in relation to its weight per square foot. Thus, a higher gauge value equals a smaller thickness. One mil is a thousandth of an inch. Other measurement units are simple.
You can choose any measurement unit you like, just do not confuse regular mils with “mils” as a plural for millimeters. See the infographics below to learn how thicknesses of distinct metals are measured differently and split into gauges.
And here is the kicker. Actually, there are three groups of sheet metal materials determined by their thicknesses. Let’s review them.
You can handpick a sheet metal with any properties that you like or require. Choose the basic material, considering the points detailed above, select the appropriate thickness, and you’re good to go.