Revered for its strength, versatility and value, steel and its derivatives has been one of the most widely used materials in construction (among other industries) for centuries. However, the implementation of steel in building would not be possible without the involvement of steel fabricators.
Any industry that deals with metal requires fabrication, and without the work of steel fabricators, the implementation of steel would not be possible. Here's a rundown of what fabricators do:
In essence, steel fabricators use a variety of techniques to turn basic steel sections into predefined shapes, ready to be implemented in construction. Fabricators work closely alongside steel detailers and drafters, who provide detailed drawings and designs which fabricators essentially bring to life. This requires a keen eye for details, an array of tools and techniques, and an extensive knowledge on the properties of steel. Steel products need to arrive on site ready to install and thus need to be manufactured with complete precision by the steel fabricator.
The processes that steel fabricators use have come a long way since steel was first harnessed for mass production in the 17th century. This is due mostly to huge advances in computer technology such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) systems which monitor and control the movement of machines that fabricators use such as routers, welders and laser cutters. 3D modelling has also made it easier to visualise even the most complex components.
Shot blasting is the process of blasting steel sections with shot (small steel beads) in order to remove any impurities, preparing the metal for fabrication. The main reason shot blasting is necessary is to provide a clean finish that will be easy to weld as well as a rough surface that will accept paint. It is a crucial technique in a variety of industries including construction, auto and shipbuilding and the production of various steel structures like pipelines, silos and tanks.
Fairly self-explanatory, steel cutting in the process of cutting up steel sections prior to fabrication so that they are easier to work with, or cut down to size for custom purposes. Steel sections are cut using a number of techniques including flame cutting, plasma cutting and cutting with a circular saw.
Modern applications of steel in modern architecture and construction require more intricate steel shapes and elements. Fabricators can achieve this by using a number of tools and techniques. A common example is to pass a steel section through a roll bender numerous times until the required arc is achieved. Press braking can be used for more straightforward bends involving lengths of steel up to 12 metres long.
Steel fabricators are master welders. Welding employs high heat to melt the parent material with whatever is being attached. When the weld pool solidifies the two materials then are fused together. It is a technique that is ubiquitous in steel fabrication.
Steel often requires coating for both practical and aesthetic purposes. Galvanisation, which is the process of coating the steel surface with zinc to hinder corrosion, is a common process. Custom colours and looks may also be requested by an architect which requires coating with paint. This usually happens at the end of the fabrication process.
Any industry that uses metal will no doubt require the services of a steel fabricator. Common industries that require steel fabrication: