We all have seen or used products made of steel. Like steel ladders, mezzanines, platforms, steel frames, handrails, and more. But how are they made? How is the steel gets molded and fabricated into different forms and structures? All of it and much more is possible just because of Structural steel fabrication.
What is Steel Fabrication?
Steel Fabrication refers to the cutting, bending, straightening, rolling, fitting, fastening, and cleaning of steel to form different structures. Moreover, This process forms structures like frames, platforms, ladders, and more. Also, the sizes and shapes of the structures are already predefined.
Steel Fabrication is the manufacturing of steelwork components, assembling them, along joining them to form a complete structural steel frame. Fabricated structural steel components can be assembled in the shop, or it can be done on-site. Both types have their pros and cons.
Like every other process, steel fabrication includes certain steps. Following these steps will ensure an effective and efficient fabrication process. In this article, we will list down Steel fabrication steps.
10 steps involved in the typical Steel Fabrication process:
Carrying out the process of Steel Fabrication requires high skills and professionalism. Moreover, to complete the process properly and efficiently, it is important to follow certain steps. We will discuss the steps in detail.
The first step in the steel fabrication process is cleaning the surface of the steel. It involves removing mill scale and rust before fabrications. Several methods can do the cleaning process. The most common surface cleaning method is hand preparation. It includes wire brushes and Rubbing emery paper. These methods will make sure to remove all the rust and roughen the surface of the steel.
Cutting and Machining:
As we move ahead in the steel fabrication process. After cleaning the surface of the steel comes cutting and machining. Cutting includes processes like sawing, shaping, drilling, turning, grinding, and more. While machining process got 3 basic concepts or principles. The principles are turning, drilling, and milling.
4 methods of Cutting and Machining:
In steel fabrication, cutting and machining includes following steps: –
- Shearing and Cropping: In this process, the steel fabrication experts use specialist plate shears and hydraulic shears. The shears cut steel sections in lengths and widths. Heavy plates are shaped and cut into lengths.
- Flame Cutting or burning: This method involves heating and cutting steel by high-pressure flame. The flame is a mixture of oxygen and a combustible gas such as propane. Flame cutting uses a jet of high-pressure oxygen released at a temperature of around 1500 degrees centigrade. The experts prefer this method for several reasons. One of the main points is that it doesn’t need any power supply for cutting through this method.
- Plasma Fusion Cutting: In this method, steel fabrication experts produce the cutting energy by heating gas in an electric arc. The Electrodes of tungsten and workpiece together form the electric arc. Due to this, the method is also known as arc plasma cutting. The Arc usually uses a DC source and requires much power. This method is efficient up to the thickness of 150mm steel. Also, it is a slow process. The experts use this process mostly for welding thin membranes like architectural work components and stainless steel.
- Cold Sawing Method: During steel fabrication, when it is difficult to cut the steel to length by other methods, the final tool in the arsenal is the cold sawing method. It also has some degree of computer control for precision.
Punching and Drilling:
Next step after the cutting and machining process in steel fabrication is punching and drilling. This step involves making holes in materials using large fabricators. These fabricators are controlled numerically. The fabricated drill holes are in response to keyed-in data fed in them. The holes are necessary for joint bolts in the flanges And rolled steel sections.
Straightening, Bending, and Rolling:
The transportation, punching, and drilling processes can bend the rolled-in steel. Therefore, in steel fabrication, the straightening or leveling process is for straightening sections, pipes, and other flat surfaces after rolling. In addition, this process is important to create structures like tanks for beautification or aesthetic purposes. The process mostly used for straightening, bending, and rolling is.
- Roller Bending: it is a cold process. In this procedure, the member passes through a set of rolls. The shaping of the rolls is so that they are a cross-section of the steel member. The roller applies force across opposing sets of rolls repeatedly to achieve the desired curvature.
Fitting comes after straightening, bending, and rolling in steel fabrication. In this process, the professionals hold the pieces, which are then welded together in a place. It mostly involves tack welding to give support at proper angles. The experts can easily remove the joints if they are not aligned perfectly.
As we move towards the concluding steps of the Steel fabrication process, next comes combining or joining parts for final assembly. This step is known as fastening. Fastening is very important as the strength of the entire structure depends on the fastening process.
3 methods for the Fastening process:
Essentially, there are three different types we can join the parts of the structure.
- Bolting: In this process, bolts and nuts create joints between structural elements and fasten them.
- Riveting: This method uses permanent mechanical fasteners, also known as rivets. Which helps fasten structural elements together.
- Welding: This method uses heat and pressure to fasten. The fastened parts form a joint after cooling.
Finishing or Surface cleaning:
Steel, After going through all the process steps of steel fabrication, needs improvement in its surface. Surface cleaning is important as it will enhance the durability and appearance of steel. During the steps of cutting, punching, straightening, joining, fastening, and more, the steel gets welding marks, oils, grease that needs to get removed. Finishing is when the professionals do an overall cleaning of the finished product to remove welding marks, oil, and grease marks. It makes the structural steel clean and smooth. Grinding is most commonly used to clean and smoothen the surface during finishing.
Quality Control is very important for client satisfaction. It ensures that the organization meets the client’s requirements and specifications during the structural steel fabrication process. In this regard, the Inspections become an important part of Quality control. It includes checking and compiling the mentioned requirements and specifications of the clients. The next step is to provide inspection reports regarding those requirements.
The final step of the manufacturing process of steel fabrication is Surface treatment. In this step, blasting, painting, or galvanizing treats the surface of the finished product to achieve certain benefits.
2 major methods for Surface Treatment:
- Blasting and painting: The professionals use the blasting technique on the finished product to smoothen the rough surfaces, remove surface contaminants or shape a surface. A two-layered process of painting follows the blasting.
- 1st step is the application of Red oxide or Zinc oxide. It forms a prime coat on the steel surface.
- 2nd step is forming an outer layer for beauty and protection. The application of oil, epoxy or other types of paint forms this outer layer.
- Galvanizing: In steel fabrication, Galvanizing or Galvanization is the process of coating a protective zinc coat on the finished fabricated steel. This coat prevents the steel from rusting. The most used method is hot-dip galvanizing. In this method, professionals dip the structural steel in molten zinc to form a protective coat on the steel.
5 Advantages of Surface Treatment:
Surface treatment is an important process for durability and long-lasting structural steel. Here are five advantages of surface treatment:
- Beautification: The most prominent and obvious benefit of surface treatment is beautification. The product looks aesthetically pleasing after surface cleaning.
- Environmentally friendly: The treated steel will be more environmentally compliant than untreated steel.
- Less maintenance required: Surface treatment protects the structure steel against corrosion and rusting. It reduces the maintenance requirements of structural steel.
- Increased durability: Treatment of steel increases its life and durability
- Damage resistance: surface treatment helps the structural steel against the external environmental forces. It helps increase the steel’s overall lifetime.
After completing all the manufacturing steps involved in structural steel fabrication, the 10th and final step of the process is Transportation. Transportation has essentially 3 parts.
- The first part includes assembling all the components of structural steel.
- The second part includes tying the components together and covering them properly to reduce the risk of accidents and damage.
- The third part includes transferring finished goods to the required site. A flatbed truck or any other vehicle suitable according to the specification of fabricated structural steel is used as transportation.
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