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Custom Metal Fabrication: Advantages and Disadvantages

by Aug 13, 2020Axenics, Pipe & Tube Bending

Choosing whether metal or thermoplastic materials are the ideal solution for your components depends on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to: the uses of the components; how the components are fabricated; your budget; and whether material appearance is a factor. Axenics’ technicians work in metals and plastics, but to help your decision process, in this post, we’ll look at custom metal fabrication advantages and disadvantages.

Why work with metals?

There are several pros and cons to consider when working with metals. Primarily, the individual metal manufacturing results depend on which type of metals go into the components.

Each category of manufacturing metal comes in a variety of grades. Our customers commonly request these types of metals for their custom fabrication needs:

  • Stainless Steel: This is a popular choice across a wide range of industries because of stainless steel’s high corrosion-resistant properties, and its ability to withstand long-term exposure to a variety of environments. Custom steel fabrication is used in medical device manufacturing and a variety of other industries where caustic chemicals are involved.
  • Copper: This is one of the softer, more pliable metals and therefore responds well to bending and soldering. Copper is also known for its high electrical conductivity properties and is used to conduct heat or electricity.
  • Titanium: This lightweight metal is extremely strong, and is commonly used in the aerospace industry for the development of aircraft components and also for structural design.
  • Aluminum: It’s also lightweight, making it ideal in aircraft component construction and within the aerospace industry. Aluminum is less expensive than titanium, easy to weld and is known for its high corrosion-resistant properties as well.
  • Inconel: This metal is ideal in extreme environments where pressure and heat are present due to its oxidation- and corrosion-resistant properties. It is often used in aerospace applications, but can also be quite useful in several other industries as well where extreme temperatures are involved, such as chemical manufacturing.

Custom metal fabrication advantages

  • For long-term projects or jobs requiring a lot of fabrication, metals tend to be a more cost-effective solution to fabricating thermoplastics.
  • Metals are generally heat resistant, which means they have a higher melting point than many plastics and can maintain structural integrity under high temperatures for longer periods than plastics.
  • Metals also have a tendency to be stronger, tougher and more durable than plastics, which makes them better for maintaining the structural integrity of production lines.
  • The basic properties of metals allow more fabrication options than some plastics, meaning there’s greater opportunity to alter the structure and design of the materials to fit a plethora of solutions. Metal fabrication via stainless steel tube bending has multiple benefits defined below.

Tube bending fabrication

Axenics fabricates precision tubes using a Horn Metric CNC Tube Bender, which produces bends ranging from ¼” to 2″ in diameter. Our use of this CNC precision tool bending machine allows us to significantly cut time, materials and costs for our customers and other benefits, including:

  • By using a CNC precision tool bending machine, welds, joints and expensive fixtures can be eliminated from a complex assembly system.
  • By eliminating welds and joints within a system, you can also eliminate the risk of leaks that may occur in welded or jointed complex assembly systems. The semiconductor industry, in particular, can benefit from building systems without the wall thinning that can occur in welded systems. With precision tube bending, the integrity of the materials is maintained.
  • Precision tube bending also allows for a much smoother finish. Depending on how the system is being implemented, an engineer may prefer a system that looks better cosmetically.
  • Fewer bends in a system will minimize flow restrictions for chemicals and liquids
  • that may otherwise get trapped in joints or sharp corners.

Disadvantages of choosing metal fabrication

  • Although purchasing metal materials themselves may be less expensive in the long run than buying and fabricating thermoplastics, the cost of custom metal tooling is expensive, which adds to start-up costs. Creating custom tooling also adds time to the job.
  • Some metals are more likely to require additional finishing processes after fabrication, such as painting and deburring, which can increase production time and overall costs.
  • Metals also present design limitations when working to create a complex system requiring unique shapes, tight radii or sizes of components.

There are pluses and minuses for choosing metals or thermoplastics for your components, which is why we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of choosing plastics fabrication in our next blog post. Axenics’ team of metals and plastics experts will also answer any questions you have when choosing between custom metal fabrication and custom plastics fabrication.

This blog post answers the questions:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of custom metal fabrication?

The advantages of custom metal fabrication includes metal's high heat resistance and can maintain structural integrity under high temperatures. Metals also have a tendency to be stronger, tougher and more durable than plastics, which makes them better for structural purposes. Because of their properties, metals are able to be fabricated in more ways than plastics, which allows more opportunities for changing the structure and design of the materials. They also offer a more cost-effective solution to long-term projects, or projects where there is a high volume of component fabrication. A disadvantage of custom metal fabrication include the cost of metal tooling, which result in higher start-up costs.

What is metal fabrication?

Metal fabrication is the processing or manufacturing of metal, for example stainless steel, from its base form into something such as circular tubing.

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