One of the most versatile and used building materials on the market today is sheet metal. Sheet metal is more than just affordable and robust. It is also very easy to work with.
You can use sheet metal for projects ranging from intricate electronics applications to major industrial jobs, and pretty much anything in between.
But what is sheet metal? And how can you use it in your next project?
We're glad you asked. Keep on reading and we will go over everything that you will want to know!
What Is Sheet Metal?
Sheet metal is a kind of metal that is created by an industrial process and is turned into flat, thin pieces. This kind of metal is one of the fundamental forms that is used in metalworking.
Sheet metal can be bent and cut into all types of shapes. There are a lot of common items that are formed from sheet metal.
The thickness of sheet metal can vary greatly. Very thin sheets of this are known as leaf or foil. Pieces that are thicker than six mm are considered to be structural steel or plate steel.
Sheet metal can come in coiled strips or flat pieces. The coiled strip versions are made by running a sheet of metal through a roll slitter.
Properties of Sheet Metal
While sheet metal can come in various forms, there are certain properties that you can expect from sheet metal across the board. Let's look at those properties below.
It's Tough and Shiny
Stainless steel is a steel alloy. It contains at least ten percent chromium.
The chromium in stainless steel is what gives the metal its anti-staining and anti-corrosion characteristics. The actual amount of chromium, as well as the content of other metals and carbon, will vary based on what kind of sheet metal you need.
It is worth pointing out that sheet metal isn't totally stain-proof or corrosion-proof. The metal's resistance is going to depend on the content of the metal. Some chemicals might be able to damage the metal, regardless of its chemical makeup.
However, stainless steel sheet metal will offer you plenty of stain and corrosion resistance. This is especially true when you add in its other properties too, like durability and aesthetics.
The Sheets Range in Thickness Up to Six MM
Sheet metal can be extremely thin. In fact, it can only be considered sheet metal if it is 6 mm or thinner.
The thickness of sheet metal will be measured by gauge. The thinner the sheet is, the higher the gauge number is going to be.
In order to measure your sheet metal, you can use a gauging tool and refer to sheet metal size charts.
Cold-Rolled vs Hot-Rolled Sheet Metal
Cold rolling and hot rolling are two methods for making sheet metal. When it comes to construction steels, you'll only get a thickness of 3 mm max with cold rolling. From that point on, plates and sheets are hot-rolled.
While the hot rolling process starts for stainless steel from 3 mm, cold rolling will cover sheets of all sizes.
When it comes to engineering purposes, the two processes should be differentiated. Cold-rolled steels are ideal for precision applications because the fabricator has more control over the final dimensions.
Hot-rolled steels, on the other hand, shrink a bit after cooling. The shape might change slightly from this.
Forming Processes for Sheet Metal
There are a lot of options available when it comes to ways to form sheet metal. The decision will mainly depend on the purpose of the sheet metal.
With that said, a lot of the popular methods are going to provide you with fairly similar results. Cost will also be a factor. Plus, there is the desired accuracy and availability.
Sheet Metal Bending
One forming process is bending. This is when sheet metal is bent into the desired shape by applying stress to bend the metal. The sheet metal is going to bend so that plastic deformation can be accomplished.
This is going to ensure that the sheet metal doesn't go back to its original shape.
Corrugations, flanges, and other parts can be made with bending. V-bending is the most typical type of bending. With this kind of bending, a die in the shape of a V and a punch are pressed together.
This will give the sheet its desired shape.
You can also bend flanges using a punch and wiping die with a popular method known as edge bending.
Sheet Metal Curling
In order to make it safer to handle sheet metal, you can put a circular ring at the edge of the sheet metal. This process is known as curling.
It should be noted that there is a difference between a tear-shaped hem and a curled edge. The initial edge, with curling, is rolled into a formed circle. In the tear-shaped hem, on the other hand, the initial edge will still be exposed.
You can also classify curling into an on-center and off-center roll. An on-center roll will have the center at the same level as that of the metal sheet. The off-center roll will have the center above the level of the metal sheet.
Sheet Metal Decambering
You can get rid of the camber from the sheet metal by utilizing a method known as decambering. When you have a sheet of metal, a horizontal bend will show up when the metal is flattened into sheets. This is especially true with strip-shaped parts.
When you use decambering, you will remove this horizontal bend. You'll do this by flattening the edges and getting rid of the camber.
The force that is applied will push it into a straight form. This is done on a deformed edge and not on the face.
It's usually done on limited-length sections.
Another sheet metal forming process that is worth knowing is deep drawing. This is when the shape of a sheet of metal is changed to a new shape in several stages using different kinds of dies. It is only considered to be deep drawing if the depth of the shape formed is greater than the original diameter of the sheet.
Dies and punches are utilized to make changes at each stage. Using this process, a sheet of metal is turned in several different shapes, like car parts, a sink, or a fuel tank.
This is a popular process when it comes to producing in large batches.
Sheet Metal Expanding
When it comes to sheet metal expanding, a sheet of metal gets put through perforating scissors. When this happens, it is stretched and cut into a new pattern.
It tends to be a diamond-shaped mesh because it has a structural advantage over other shapes.
This type of forming process is usually used for making grating, platforms, catwalks, and fences. The process gives a strong and self-draining product that can support the weight that it's designed for.
These objects can be used where a passage of a liquid or air is necessary but you need to stop bigger particles from getting through. The strength of the original metal will still remain.
Hydroforming is a new and exciting way of shaping sheets of metal into desired shapes. With this method, the metal is first placed on a die. However, high-pressure liquid is used to shape the metal instead of a punch.
With this process, you can make more intricate parts in a shorter amount of time. It's also more affordable and takes less work than other methods.
This kind of shaping is also compatible with practically all metals, such as precious metals, brass, carbon steel, aluminum, and stainless steel.
Because you don't need matching dies, you can make unusual shapes with hydroforming.
Incremental Sheet Forming
This is a metalworking method that gives a certain shape to a sheet of metal. Incremental sheet forming is only possible with low volumes.
You can make changes to an object without a lot of hassle and quickly with this process. The object will be made in incremental stages.
The sheet metal will be shaped by using a single-point sphere.
While the process is going to give you results that are similar to deep drawing, you won't need to have a lot of dies and punches. The main advantage of incremental sheet forming is that it's flexible.
It can also be helpful if you need sheet metal for a custom project.
When you need to reduce the thickness in a certain part of the sheet metal, you'll want to use the ironing process. This will let you get a uniform wall thickness when you deep draw items.
Making cans for soda is a good example of the ironing process. The walls of the can need to be reduced to a specific thickness. Two or three ironing processes with different dies are typically needed to achieve the desired thickness in aluminum soda cans.
You typically combine deep drawing with ironing.
Laser cutting is becoming more and more popular for cutting sheets of metal. It is very accurate and the finish looks very smooth.
CNC machines are typically used to cut specific shapes.
After feeding the program, a laser is used to cut a certain shape. Laser cutting is very flexible. When you need it, you can easily change the required shape.
It's also possible to cut the metal sheets into very intricate parts by utilizing laser cutting.
If you want to cut holes in a sheet of metal, you will likely want to do it with punching. The setup consists of a punching die and a punch. There's a small clearance between the two.
When the die and punch connect, the material that is between them is pressed. More pushing will lead to a hole cut into the sheet.
The process is fairly affordable in high quantities.
While you can make holes in different sizes, it's generally recommended that the diameter of the hole you want is greater than the thickness of the material that you're cutting. For alloys that are very strong, the difference between the thickness and the hole diameter needs to be greater.
This is a process where controlled corrosion is carried out in order to make sheet metal parts according to certain desires. With photochemical machining, a photoresist and an etchant are used to give the sheet of metal its shape.
This method has been around for decades and is fairly affordable. You can use this method to cut any metal.
Photochemical machining is great for mass production. It is easy to bring about changes when needed.
Also, just like cutting with lasers, this process is very accurate. You'll also get a smooth finish.
Photochemical machining is used to make jewelry, electrical contacts, metal gaskets, flexible heating elements,, apertures, and very fine meshes.
The Importance of Knowing About Sheet Metal
Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now feel that you have the answer to the question, "what is sheet metal?" As we can see, there is a lot involved when making sheet metal. Sheet metal also has a lot of different and useful applications.
By knowing more about sheet metal, you can make more educated and confident decisions when it comes to making choices for your next project.
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