Sheet metal is a thin, flat sheet formed through an industrial process. It is versatile as it can be cut or bent into various shapes to make everyday objects. When fabricating sheet metal, there are a lot of different metals to choose from. And while they may all look like thin sheets of metal, the materials are what makes each sheet of metal unique.
Different Sheet Metal Materials
Each type of metal has specific properties that set it apart and give it an advantage over other metals for specific projects. There are seven common types of sheet metal materials for sheet metal fabrication:
Aluminum is an excellent option for applications that require a lightweight material. This sheet metal material offers reliable corrosion resistance even without a finish. It is also widely used for fabrication because it is strong and can undergo laser cutting, welding, and machining. Overall, aluminum is a moderately-priced material with various characteristics across several grades to meet different application requirements.
This sheet metal material is a product of iron alloyed with carbon. It features high amounts of strength with options of low, medium, or high carbon contents, depending on the desired application. Higher levels of carbon usually result in a more fragile product, and carbon steel with lower amounts of carbon is more sturdy, making it a preferred choice for creating fences or gates. Meanwhile, carbon steel with mid-level carbon is favored for automotive vehicles and appliances.
Alloy steel combines different elements, with carbon steel as the main component. The common metals added to form alloy steel are tungsten, chromium, and manganese if a sheet metal fabricator aims to achieve rigidity. But if the goal is strength, vanadium or nickel is added. Overall, this sheet metal material is highly versatile and affordable.
Tool steel is also a very versatile sheet metal material and is rigid as it only contains 1% carbon. Like alloy steel, tool steel combines different mixed and matched metals to exploit a particular characteristic. Aside from rigidity, the other advantages of tool steel are its resistance to abrasion and outstanding performance under extreme temperatures. Because of its properties, this sheet metal material is famously used for construction tools like blades, hammers, dies, and punches.
Galvanized steel can be classified into electro-galvanized sheets or hot-dipped metallic-coated sheets. Electro-galvanized sheets are made from cold-rolled annealed steel with a pure zinc coating with no zinc spangle. Meanwhile, a hot-dipped metallic-coated sheet is made from cold-rolled rigid steel plates and coated with pure zinc and an iron-zinc alloy. Hot-dipped metallic coated sheets have more corrosion resistance and are more affordable than electro-galvanized metal sheets.
This sheet metal material works great for products constantly exposed to moisture. It contains chromium, which gives it excellent corrosion resistance against harsh or damp environments. Because of this characteristic, kitchen and office products made from stainless steel sheet metal usually have a longer lifespan.
Cold-rolled steel is made in cold-reduction mills. This material is cooled near room temperature, followed by annealing or rolling tempers. It also has a wide range of surface finishes and possesses excellent tolerance, concentricity, and straightness.
Key Factors To Consider When Selecting a Sheet Metal Material
Selecting a suitable sheet metal for your project is crucial as it determines whether the fabricated component or parts will perform faultlessly. Here are some key factors to consider:
Size and Application of the Component
Knowing the component’s size and intended use is essential when selecting a sheet metal material. Keeping these factors in mind will help you determine how strong the piece needs to be and which sheet metal material is the most applicable in its use-case scenario. For example, aerospace industry components require a sheet metal material with an excellent strength-to-weight ratio.
Design and Tolerance Requirements
When choosing a sheet metal material, the design and tolerance requirements of the component you manufacture are essential to keep in mind. Wall thickness, bend allowance, K-factor, and the orientation of holes and slots are some elements that will influence your choice.
Compatibility With Manufacturing Processes
The manufacturing process also dictates which sheet metal material is suitable for the job. The sheet metal material must withstand the manufacturing process, including laser cutting,
Compatibility With Common Fabrication Methods
As with manufacturing processes, the chosen sheet metal material must also be compatible with standard fabrication methods used to finish corners, close gaps, and enhance or maintain the shape and integrity of a component. TIG welding, MIG welding, riveting, and brazing are typical fabrication methods.
Learn More About Sheet Metal Materials From Metal Works
We at Metal Works of High Point have a team of experts with a hundred years of combined experience to provide you with a responsive and personalized service! We also offer state-of-the-art equipment and software that deliver precise and high-quality products.
Metal Works’ ISO 9001: 2015 Certified facility features bar-coded scheduling software and ERP technology, enabling us to get a real-time view of your product while it is manufacturing. Moreover, our capabilities grant us the knowledge and expertise to guide you through any questions or concerns that you may have about sheet metal materials.
Contact us today for your next metalworking project!