Metal Fabrication Process

Exploring the Metal Fabrication Process

Metal is a big part of how we humans get along. We use metal in everything, but it doesn’t come out of the ground as MRI machines or semi trucks. The metal fabrication process is how we create the products we are familiar with from sheets or coils of raw metal. It’s a fascinating procedure full of variety and unique challenges.Metal Fabrication Process

What Is Metal Fabrication?

Metal fabrication is the process by which raw metal materials are changed into a finished product. It is not confined to one industry. In fact, metal fabrication is pretty universal across most industries, structural, commercial, and industrial. It is difficult to find a component of daily life that hasn’t been affected by metal fabrication in some way.  

Though sometimes considered synonymous with metal fabrication, welding is only a small part of the metal fabrication process. There are a number of techniques and methods that also play a role, including cutting, forming, burning, machining, and assembling. Any process that takes metal from a raw state to a finished product is included. Because of its additive nature, metal fabrication is considered a value-added process.

What Are the Stages of the Metal Fabrication Process?

As indicated by the word process, metal fabrication is completed in stages. The steps employed vary slightly depending on what is being created, and the details within each stage are highly specific to customer specifications. While the nitty gritty of the metal fabrication process is based on industry needs and standards, these are the most common stages:


The metal fabrication process begins with a design. Engineers create shop drawings designed precisely to the client’s specifications within a computer aided design (CAD) software. CAD accommodates incredible specificity and accuracy, even with highly complex designs. 

The software produces a 3D prototype that can be tested in simulated environments, displaying the success of the design without expending any metal. Once the design is finalized to reflect the intended measurements, it can be fed directly into welding machines for precise cuts.Metal Fabrication Process


Fabrication may involve the aforementioned cutting, bending, and/or assembling in a completely unique program. Fabricators must often work with plate metal, which describes metal at least two inches thick, and the methods used will reflect that challenge. 


The way metal is cut is a reflection of the type of metal used, its thickness, its hardness, and the application for which the metal will be used. Though any metalworking project has a very low tolerance for error, some industries require a greater degree of precision than others, and the tools used will reflect that. Those tools may include nibblers, mills, shears, and lathes in addition to more precise equipment like plasma cutters. 

Mechanical shearing, water jet cutting, and laser cutting are all standard methods to cut metal. Shearing is best for getting through very thick sheet metal, when greater physical force is required, while laser cutting is excellent for cutting intricate designs or achieving extreme accuracy. At Cd’A Metals, it is common for us to use plasma cutting because it is highly accurate and efficient.

Other Reductive Methods

Sometimes simply cutting metal isn’t the most effective way to get to the desired product. In such cases, there are other means of reducing metal to the right size or shape. 

  • Shearing works with what amounts to industrial scissors, a combination of movable and stationary blades that slice flat metal with straight diagonal cuts. 
  • Notching (sometimes called nibbling) is perhaps a finer version of shearing, producing detailed angles and cuts in sheet or rolled metals in smaller volume than the shearing process. 
  • Blanking uses a metal punch and die to cut out large pieces of sheet or strip metal.
  • Punching is very similar to blanking, producing a slug as opposed to a new metal work surface and better for high volume production.


After cutting brings the metal to the correct size (and even the right shape sometimes), it can be shaped into the correct form. Forming may be the most versatile stage of the metal fabrication process. It includes methods like bending, forming, stamping, machining, and punching holes to bring the metal to the desired shape.

Sometimes the cutting process may be bypassed if the raw metal used is molten. In such cases, forming is achieved through casting. Casting is the process of pouring molten metal into a die or mold of the intended shape and allowed to harden and cool. Casting is particularly effective in the mass production of the same form. After the metal has been cast, it can be further formed into the correct shape by using a lathe to trim the metal’s edges and sides.Metal Fabrication Process


Assembling is the process of bringing all the pieces together to form the final product. The parts are fitted together and usually held in place by clamps. Then, they are fused together often with screws, rivets, or another kind of bond. This is where welding comes into play, and there are many different kinds of weld.


Even when the product is the correct shape, it is still not quite finished. The finishing stage of the metal fabrication process is a last check for fabricators to ensure that the product meets specifications. It is also the time to add finishing touches such as glaze or paint for color or other properties like rust resistance. 

Finishing is the time to grind down or debur the product to remove any excess material; to heat treat or plate it to give it extra strength; and to brush, polish, or shine it to give it a finished quality. This is also the stage where decals, logos, and other information are added.


Once the product is complete, occasionally the metal fabrication process includes installation. If engineers or fabricators are involved in this process, they can make on-the-spot corrections or adjustments specific to the product. 


Lastly, the metal fabrication process may incorporate necessary repair and routine service. This allows those who have project-specific expertise, skill, and equipment to be invaluable to make sure everything is performed correctly.Metal Fabrication Process

The Future of Metal Fabrication

As mentioned above, metal fabrication is a key component of almost everything we interact with on a daily basis. The industry isn’t going anywhere. The applications are so broad and encompass so many different industries. Here are just a few:

  • Food-safe food processing and packaging equipment
  • Home appliances
  • General consumer products, everything from car seats to kennels
  • Aircraft parts for commercial and military craft
  • Components of automotive and recreational vehicles
  • Materials, tools, and equipment used in construction projects
  • Agricultural equipment
  • Alternative energy structures and equipment for retrieving and processing fossil fuels
  • Military defense tools and communication equipment

We rely on metal fabrication for almost unlimited applications. If you are considering a career in the industry, know that the variety and job security are both excellent.

Plasma Steel Cutting

Shaping Heavy Steel Plate and Plasma Steel Cutting

When you complete a project with heavy-duty applications, ordinary metals will not do. Truly impressive projects require truly impressive materials to ensure that they hold up over time. Heavy steel plate fits that bill, but it cannot be cut as thinner metals are. At Cd’A Metals, we use plasma steel cutting to cut and shape heavy plate to give you the results you are looking for in half the time.Plasma Steel Cutting

What Is Heavy Steel Plate?

“Heavy steel plate” qualifies any steel plate material with a thickness of three inches or more. Such thick plate is required for many industrial-grade applications. The most common are building construction equipment and infrastructure construction, but they can branch to even broader fields like mining, automotive construction and repair, and the energy industry.

Because it has to hold up in settings where high force is regular, the thicker steel plate material contains alloys which serve to enhance the hardness and strength properties of the steel. These vary, as to the grades of steel used. Each different grade is best suited for specific applications, though there is some overlap. To give our customers customizable flexibility, we work primarily with the following grades:

  • Strenx 100—Known for its impressive strength, this plate is ideal for heavy load-bearing or structural applications.
  • Hardox 450 and 500—This wear plate is abrasion-resistant and perfect for dump trucks, excavator buckets, and heavy duty containers. We also recommend it for components such as gears, cutting edges, and sprockets. We partner with Hardox and can vouch for their reliability.
  • Weathering A588—This plate requires minimal maintenance because it naturally forms a stable, protective layer of rust around it. It can be used in projects which are prone to get wet, such as the fence between the Spokane River and the Spokane Convention Center, a relatively recent project.

We understand that heavy steel plate is not right for every project, so we also supply plate of less than two inches. Here are just a few examples:

  • Stainless plate up to 1/2″ thick
  • Aluminum plate up to 1″ thick
  • Steel and aluminum floor plate from 1/16″ up to 1/2″ thickPlasma Steel Cutting

Plasma Steel Cutting

Because it is so thick, using heavy steel plate often rules out several metal-cutting practices. At Cd’A Metals, we favor plasma steel cutting for its ability to slice through heavy plate quickly and cleanly. The natural evolution of plasma welding that was all the rage in the 1960s, plasma cutting is an economical way to cut plate using an accelerated stream of hot plasma via electrically conductive materials.

How It Works

Plasma steel cutting uses the heat that is generated from an electrically ionized gas plasma arc to cut through steel and other materials. The system creates a full electric circuit between the plasma cutting tool and the metal being cut. First, pressurized gas (specific to the project but typically oxygen) is forced through a nozzle at high velocity, applying a highly-concentrated stream directly to the metal.

Within the gas, an electric arc is created between the metal being cut and an electrode that is built into the nozzle of the plasma cutter. In the process, some of the gas is ionized, forming a superheated and electrically-conductive channel of plasma. The circuit is completed with a grounding clamp built into the plasma cutter.

The powerful combination of plasma and pressurized gas sear through the molten metal and blow any residual components away. The ultra-high heat causes the metal to melt as it is shorn or melded together, and the sheer power of the plasma can erase any evidence of the fusion.Plasma Steel Cutting

Applications of Plasma Steel Cutting

Plasma steel cutting can be used to cut a wide variety of metals, including stainless steel, carbon steel, alloy steel, brass, copper, and aluminum. Because of its versatility, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, and overall efficiency, most metal fabrication professionals will use the method, from industrial corporations to local hobbyist shops. 

If you are looking to make meticulous cuts within the budget and project schedule, you can’t go wrong with plasma steel cutting. The method is most commonly applied in manufacturing workshops, auto restoration and repair, salvage and scrapping operations, and industrial construction. Whatever project you have in mind, Cd’A Metals is here to help you complete it.Plasma Steel Cutting

Cutting Heavy Steel Plate with Cd’A Metals 

As part of the Norfolk Iron & Metal group, we at Cd’A Metals have the resources and professional expertise to complete any metal work to your satisfaction. We work in material distribution, including various grades of stainless steel and aluminum, cold-rolled and hot-rolled steel, and wear-resistant steel. We also service metal projects, employing sawing; oxy-fuel, laser, and plasma steel cutting, and press brake formation to make the parts you need. In addition to more straightforward cuts, we can also thread holes. Whatever you need, reach out to Cd’A Metals to handle it.

Warehouse Operations Specialist

A Glimpse at Our Team: Warehouse Operations Specialist

When people think of the metalworks industry, they often think of welding, cutting, and shaping slabs of metal into shapes requested by the customer. While the industry itself involves a lot more than the fashioning of metal, that process is precisely what warehouse operations specialists spend their time doing. If you are interested in shaping metal and working with your hands, take a glimpse at what our fabricators do.

The Job: What Does a Warehouse Operations Specialist Do?

In both commercial and industrial settings, warehouse operations specialists are the personnel chiefly responsible for shaping metal into the forms the client requests. They follow schematics, drawings, and blueprints to ensure that the project is precisely to a customer’s specifications. They then measure meticulously and cut the metal before notching, shaping, positioning, aligning, and fitting it properly.

When the metalWarehouse Operations Specialist has been shaped, it can be welded together to retain that shape. MIG and TIG welding processes are the most commonly employed at this stage. When the welding process is complete, a fabricator may also need to grind and de-bur and grind the metal to achieve the correct surface texture. Fabricators may also depart from this general structure to assist with other processes that need to be completed on the factory floor. 

Because of the diversity of tasks they complete, warehouse operations specialists must be familiar and competent with an array of tools and equipment, including ironworkers, band saws, shears, plasma and flame cutters, drill presses, ring rollers, press brakes, grinders and even forklifts. They must be able to comprehend and interpret drawings, plans, and work order booklets, and they must be able to communicate with other members of the team. The projects they work on depend on the company for which they work, but can include things like electronic devices, cars, and aircraft, to name a few. 

Factories and plants are full of potential hazards. They are also loud and busy. Safety is, therefore, our utmost priority. Gear that protects the eyes, ears, hands, and feet should always be worn when working, and fabricators should act as examples to their coworkers about observing safe practices. Any unsafe practices or conditions should be reported to the supervisor as soon as possible, and fabricators should make any on-the-spot corrections possible to improve safety in the workplace.Warehouse Operations Specialist

Are Welding and Metal Fabrication the Same?

Welding is a process by which a welder applies heat to join metals together. While welding plays an important role in a warehouse operations specialist’s job, it is only a part of what he or she does. As mentioned, fabricators also cut, bend, and finish metal projects. That being said, welding may be the largest component of a fabricator’s work, and there is more than one way to do it. Here we discuss MIG and TIG welding, both of which employ electric arc and a shielding gas but approach the electrode and filler components differently.

MIG Welding

Metal inert gas (MIG) welding uses a solid wire for both electrode and filler. This consumable continuous wire is machine-fed to the weld area through a lead to streamline the welding process for the welder. Also known as gas metal arc welding (or GMAW), MIG welding is best used to join large and thick materials because the process is not as precise as TIG welding. This makes it easier to learn and a more expedited process, which can save time and production costs. If a weld of aluminum or mild or stainless steel requires little to no finishing, MIG is a good fit.

TIG Welding

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, on the other hand, is a much more nuanced process. Also called gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), TIG welding utilizes a tungsten rod as an electrode. It is not consumable and does not double as the filler. It must also be hand-fed into the weld pool, requiring the welder to use both hands. The process may feel more cumbersome and is certainly more time consuming and difficult to master.

However, the nature of the TIG process provides greater control over the welding operation, meaning that such welds are stronger and more precise. Available for a variety of applications with metals such as copper, aluminum, titanium, and steel, TIG is better for working with thin or small materials. Projects that require a high level of precision, i.e. industrial structures, production line manufacture, motorsport, and aerospace, should employ the TIG method.Warehouse Operations Specialist


Besides the pleasure of shaping sheets of metal into recognizable structures, the benefits of being a warehouse operations specialist vary by employer. Our fabricators receive competitive hourly wages within the industry standard (between $17 and $25) based on experience and skill levels. We also take excellent care of our employees with comprehensive benefits packages and training initiatives.

What We’re Looking For

The ideal candidate to work as a warehouse operations specialist for Cd’A Metals values integrity and quality as much as we do. Adaptability and proactivity are highly desirable character traits that make our teams efficient and pleasant to work with. Communication skills are also beneficial and part of being physically and cognitively capable of performing the work required. Fabricators should be dexterous with their hands and able to stand on their feet for extended periods of time on the factory floor.

Experience in the metal fabrication industry is invaluable. Those who have worked before as warehouse operations specialists or who have certification in the discipline from a trade school are more likely to have an expedited training process. They should already know how to read schematics and blueprints as well as be trained in welding and metal fabrication. Industry experience with following safety protocols will be given priority. Warehouse Operations Specialist

About Cd’A Metals–Norfolk Iron & Metal

Cd’A Metals, a part of the Norfolk Iron & Metal Group, has a long history of processing and distributing carbon flat-rolled and non-ferrous products across the United States. From our many facilities, we provide only the highest quality products and services, as our customers have come to expect. We also value our employees, knowing we could not do what we do without them. If you are looking to join a great team and bend some metal on the way, Cd’A Metals may be the place.