Metal Fabrication Vs Welding: Understanding the Difference

Look around you and you will find many products and components that require precise sheet metal fabrication. Be it an aerospace part or a paper clip, its journey must have started with a piece of metal or alloy stock. People looking for metal fabrication service professionals often settle with welders. However, metal fabrication and welding are two completely different processes. Metal Fabrication comprises of several processes and welding is just a part of it. To understand the difference between these two, let us first understand the meaning of Metal Fabrication and the processes involved therein.

Metal fabrication and designing

The design is of utmost importance before the metal shearing process starts. This is because one needs to cut, weld and bend the piece of metal in a particular way. When you approach a metal fabrication firm, the professionals create a design for each metal part and lay things out so that everything can be put together in a proper way and the person can be provided the finished product. For intricate designing of metals, laser cutting is used. The laser machines provide superior quality cutting but also require maintenance and regular replacement of laser spare parts.

Metal fabrication and specific shaping

Unlike Welding, Metal Fabrication is not just about putting two metal pieces together. It is much more than that. If a piece of metal is big in size, it has to be precisely cut to a particular length and shape. When you need a particular sheet to be bent in a specific way, it will not require a welder but a bending machine. Also, this kind of shaping and bending can be done only by an experienced professional.

Difference in the tools

Even if metal fabrication is carried out by amateurs, it needs tools like angle grinder discs, set of Cleco fasteners etc. You can’t use metal fabrication tools for welding because it requires certain instruments like

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Abrasives
  • Benders
  • Consumable electrodes
  • Cylinders with custom carts
  • Chipping hammers
  • Electrode holders
  • Hand file
  • Vice and vice grips
  • Welding clamps
  • Soapstone
  • Tungsten inert gas consumables

Both welding and metal fabrication need cleaning supplies in order to disinfect the metal. Wire brushes and organic solvents, like acetone or a citrus-based degreaser are used to scrub off the grease and other oily deposits.

Difference in the process

As mentioned above, welding is a metal fabrication technique and works hand in hand with sheet metal fabrication. In order to get the final product, every process involves techniques like assembling and bending. You can weld in different ways including oxy acetylene, gas metal arc (GMAW) welding and TIG (the most commonly used technique in fabrication shops)

In short, welding just involves joining two pieces of metal together. It doesn’t involve designing, layout creation, forming, cutting or machining. As Sheet Metal Fabrication is a comprehensive process, it involves many different processes including specialty techniques like Finishing, Roll Forming, Shrinking, Die cutting, Hydroforming, stretching, stamping, spinning etc.

We hope that this article gave you a lot of clarity regarding both the processes and how they are implemented. This will definitely help you to decide whether you want to approach merely a welding professional or a metal fabrication company.

About The Author

Steve M Glassner is the General manager of Alternative Parts Inc, the leading manufacturer and distributor of various Amada machine parts including LVD Strippit laser spare parts and consumables. Steve is a Machine Tools industry enthusiast and frequently writes about various aspects of the industry.