The Difference Between Heavy Metal and Light Metal Fabrication Work

Blog | October 24th, 2022

Heavy metal is one of our favourite genres here at McKean’s, and we don’t just mean it in terms of the music! We have no objections to the creation of light metal, but we find that the heavier stuff sounds and feels more acceptable.

There does not appear to be a canonical definition that makes the distinction between the two, as far as we know. It’s one of those things that, once you see it, you immediately understand what it is. Substantial gantries and storage tanks for industrial use. Which one features construction from aluminium, glass, and steel? In what sense does one speak of “light fabrication,” and where exactly does one place the boundary between the two?

Let’s do some more digging to figure out the answer.

It Is Found in Metal Fabrication Materials

Steel and stainless steel are occasionally referenced while addressing the need for strength, such as when discussing the aforementioned weighty fabrications.

Plates, tubes, and pipes are made of metal. There is now a formal definition for the plate. A480/A480M requires plate steel to be at least 3/16′′ thick (5.00 mm.) The sheet is located underneath that. There is a distinction with aluminium. In this sense, “plate” refers to anything thicker than 1/4 inch (6.00 mm.)

While steel and iron are often associated with heavy production, aluminium is not. However, when it comes to light fabrication, aluminium reigns supreme, with the sheet and extruded segment forms commonly employed. In addition to steel and stainless steel, copper and brass are employed in light fabrication. You wouldn’t consider using aluminium extrusion in heavy metal construction, either.

It Is Found in Metal Fabrication Products

The usual hefty construction may best be described as large and weighty. Tanks and gantries are two other good examples, in addition to large-scale agricultural gear and equipment, access walkways, and other similar structures.

The term “heavy fabrication” may be used for virtually any manufactured component of a structure. Light fabrications include RV parts, brackets, toolboxes, and other relatively insignificant architectural components.

Metal Fabrication Procedures

In contrast to the more usual processes used for sheet materials and extrusions, unique methods are necessary to cut and shape these “heavy” structural materials. Because the plate is resistant to shears and press brakes, neither tool can be used to shape it.

Rolling is used for shaping, whereas cutting is done with a flame or plasma (the three-roller kind of mill.) A turret punch, for example, is ideal for creating sheet metal forms, and a press is ideal for shaping, but neither of these pieces of equipment is suitable for dealing with thick steel.

When it comes to welding, however, there is an exception. Despite significant differences, gas metal arc welding (GMAW) is as efficient on thick plates as on thin sheets. A plate weld requires more attention in preparation, but there is less possibility of injuring the weld from applying too much heat. However, resistance welding is not employed to build massive metal constructions. As manner of joining, it would require much time and effort.

Another critical aspect of the welding process is inspection. Welds can be subjected to high stress in heavy metal fabrications. To verify the dependability of welded connections, weld inspection utilising technologies such as eddy current/mag particle or ultrasonic testing may be necessary.

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