Sheet metal can come in quite a variety of types. Sheet metal fabrication processes are also designed to adapt to the metal being used.
What are commonly used materials in sheet metal work?
Varied metals and metal alloys can be formed into sheets and used to fabricate sheet metal parts. The choice of materials depends on the requirements of the application, and factors in material selection include formability, weldability, corrosion resistance, strength, weight, and cost. Some common types of metal include:
Two families of stainless steel—standard and spring-like—are used in sheet metal fabrication.
Austenitic stainless steel
Standard stainless can be non-magnetic—any of the 300 series sheets of steel—they are austenitic stainless steel.
These are non-magnetic metals with high nickel and chromium levels. They are widely used due to their resistance to corrosion and formability. It does not require hot work or other stress relief during manufacturing.
- Grade 316 is the most corrosion-resistant of the stainless steel grades and maintains its strength at high temperatures.
- Grade 304 is the most widely used and, while it is somewhat less corrosion-resistant, offers good formability and weldability.
Ferritic stainless is magnetic. They are good for non-structural or decorative applications. Martensitic stainless also give strong and corrosion-resistant products.
Standard type magnetic stainless for sheet metal fabrication is the 400 series. Grade 410 offers less corrosion resistance but is heat treatable. Grade 430 is an inexpensive alternative to the other stainless steel options and is used in applications where corrosion resistance is not a major requirement such as brush-finished appliance surfaces. Because these materials tend toward elastic rather than plastic deformation, they must be over-bent to achieve the final form.
Spring-like steels will work-harden quickly and must be heated to relieve stresses when being formed. Grades include 301, 17-4, 1095, and 1075. Spring-like stainless typically requires specialized equipment and processes and must be significantly over-bent to achieve the final form.
Hot Rolled Steel
A type of steel is produced when a series of roll processes (at over 1700 degrees Fahrenheit) create steel. You can easily form such steels into large pieces due to their flexibility.
Cold Rolled Steel
This is essentially hot-rolled steel with further processing. The process of cold rolling steel is used to smooth the finish of hot rolled steel as well as to hold a tighter tolerance when forming. CRS is available in 1008 and 1018 alloys.
These are also referred to as galvanized sheet metal materials, it is either hot-dip galvanized steel or galvanized steel, which is galvanized and then annealed.
They come with a protective coating to prevent them from rusting. They also support easy sheet metal processing methods due to increased ductility.
Galvanized steel is available in two varieties: electro-galvanized sheets and hot-dipped metallic-coated sheets. The former is composed of cold-rolled annealed steel. It has a pure zinc coating with no zinc spangle. The latter is composed of cold-rolled hard steel plates coated with a mixture of pure zinc and an iron-zinc alloy. This type of galvanized steel offers more corrosion resistance and is slightly more affordable than electro-galvanized sheets.
A moderately-priced material, aluminum has a range of characteristics across several grades to meet application requirements.
Another popular choice for the manufacturing sectors. It comes with an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. It also comes with many characteristics that help it meet many application requirements. This metal is much more lightweight, though it is still quite a strong metal to use.
Grade 1100 offers relatively low strength but is chemical and weather-resistant, weldable, and ductile, allowing deep drawing. Grade 3003 is stronger and formable, weldable, corrosion-resistant, and affordable. Grade 5052 is significantly stronger while still formable, weldable, and corrosion-resistant. Grade 6061 is a structural alloy that is corrosion-resistant and strong, but not formable. It is weldable, though it sacrifices some strength when welded.
We recommend using aluminum for low-temperature applications, such as temperature control, food preservation, and aerospace.
Working on brass is easy, thanks to its lower zinc content. Copper metals also come with protective oxide layers to prevent corrosion.
Designers and engineers who want a “red” metal typically choose electrolytically tough pitch (ETP) copper, either C110 or C101. In less frequent cases, cartridge brass is used as an alternative.
Brass is often used for things like small components. Fittings, and trimmings. It’s also quite light and resistant to corrosion, making it great for medical applications.
Resource: Designing for Sheet Metal Fabrication