What is Sheet metal fabrication? A complete guide on processes, applications, pros, and cons

Sheet metal fabrication is a highly versatile manufacturing process that creates complex parts and structures from metal sheets. From cellphones and kitchenware to submarines and rockets, numerous industries utilise this process to create a wide range of products and technologies that shape our daily lives and facilitate technological advancement. This sheet metal fabrication guide comprehensively explores sheet metal fabrication, exploring everything you need to know about the process.

What is sheet metal fabrication?

Sheet metal fabrication is the process of creating parts, components, assemblies, and structures out of sheet metals, encompassing multiple operations. As the name implies, this manufacturing process is exclusive to metals, with the raw materials being flat metal sheets of various sizes, thicknesses, and metal types, depending on the project and the final product’s application.

In this manufacturing process, flat metal sheets undergo various processing stages to achieve desired sizes, shapes, patterns, and geometries. Sheet metal fabricators cut, form, and assemble pieces of flat metal sheets to create various parts and structures. These include containers, chassis, enclosures, frames, brackets and mounts, barricades, vents, and panels.

Sheet metal fabrication stages

Sheet metal fabrication comprises various processes and operations. These processes can be classified into the following manufacturing stages:

  • Design
  • Fabrication
  • Post-processing and finishing

How to 3D print parts. The 3D printing manufacturing steps

While there are many types of 3D printing, They all follow the same broadly defined steps to create a part. The actual printing is just one step, with the complete 3D printing manufacturing process from conceptualisation to the final product involving five steps.

  • Creating a 3D digital model of the object
  • Slicing the model and converting it to G-code
  • Setting up the 3D printer
  • 3D Printing the object
  • Post-processing and finishing


The sheet metal design stage involves creating 3D models of the structures or parts to be fabricated. In this stage, designers use CAD (Computer-Aided Design) modelling software to create digital replicas of the final product. These may be single models of standalone parts or entire assemblies. Designers meticulously apply dimensions, tolerances, and surface finishes to the model, accounting for part features and position, materials, and potential fabrication processes.

Sheet metal design using CAD software

The design stage, creating 3D models, serves two crucial functions. The first is generating machine-readable language, G-code (Geometric code), for CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufacturing. Modern sheet metal fabrication operations, such as cutting and bending, typically utilise CNC machines. These machines are controlled by embedded computers that dictate various aspects of the operation, enabling highly accurate execution. After designing a model, the designer imports it into CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software that analyses the model and generates the corresponding G-code, containing specific instructions on producing the part. Operators then program the computer using the G-code.

In addition to facilitating CNC manufacturing, the design stage ensures the feasibility and manufacturability of a sheet metal fabrication project. There are numerous factors that sheet metal fabricators must consider and rules they must follow to fabricate a part successfully. These factors and rules relate to the thickness of the workpiece, type of metal, geometries and shapes, positioning of features, and many more. The sheet metal design stage also guides the fabricators on the appropriate processes and operations required to produce a specific part or structure. See our comprehensive sheet metal design guide to learn everything you need to know about designing for fabrication.


The fabrication stage comprises various operations and processes performed on the workpiece(s) to achieve the final product. These operations include cutting, bending, forming, heat treatment, welding, joining, and assembly. Depending on the project, some of the operations may be optional. There are also various setup stages in which operators prepare the machines for use. Operators may also need to preprocess the material. The various sheet metal fabrication operations are later explored in this sheet metal guide.

Post-processing and finishing

Post-processing in sheet metal fabrication comprises operations carried out after fabrication that enhance the quality of the fabricated part. Post-processing operations may be aesthetic, improving the part’s appearance, or functional, creating desired properties and characteristics. The most common post-processing operations in sheet metal fabrication are heat treatment, such as annealing, tempering, and hardening, and surface finishing, such as coating, anodising, and electroplating.

Sheet metal fabrication processes

Sheet metal fabricators produce metal parts and structures from metal sheets using numerous operations and processes. These operations are classified into the following:

  • Cutting
  • Forming
  • Joining and assembly
  • Post-processing and finishing

The application of these processes may vary by project. For example, a sheet metal fabrication project may require only cutting and finishing or cutting, assembly, and post-processing. Similarly, while fabricators typically perform these operations in this order, some projects may require forming before cutting or finishing before assembly.

Sheet metal cutting

Sheet metal cutting is the process of slicing through the workpiece. This operation has two main functions: cutting away parts of the workpiece to achieve a shape or size and cutting into the workpiece to create a pattern. The cutting technologies predominantly applied in sheet metal fabrication include:

  • Waterjet cutting 
  • Laser cutting
  • Plasma cutting
  • Mechanical cutting

These cutting methods offer different advantages in terms of accuracy, precision, speed, and cutting abilities.

Waterjet cutting

A highly pressurised water jet cuts through the workpiece during waterjet cutting. The stream of water flows through a tiny nozzle, further increasing its force and stream velocity, with some machines capable of up to 620 Mpa pressure. At these speeds and pressure, the stream acts as a physical blade. The nozzle focuses the jet stream onto the metal workpiece, seamlessly cutting through it on contact.

waterjet cutting

Waterjet cutting is a CNC process, with computers controlling the movement of the nozzle, the water pressure, and the flow activation. This process may utilise plain water or water containing abrasive particles. Depending on the material, waterjet cutting can cut through various thicknesses of metals up to 300 mm (cutting speed and accuracy start to decrease above 100 mm). One of the advantages of waterjet cutting for sheet metal fabrication is that it is a cold-cutting process. Therefore, it doesn't cause heat-related issues.

Laser cutting

Laser cutting uses a high-energy laser beam generated by exciting lasering materials to cut through metal workpieces. Optics in the machine beam down the laser through a cutting head onto a workpiece below. The laser cuts the workpiece by melting through it. CNC controls the laser's movements and intensity.

Laser cutting

Laser cutting can cut through a workpiece or cut out patterns. Depending on the material, this process can cut various thicknesses of metals up to 30 mm.

Plasma cutting

In this sheet metal fabrication process, plasma generated from highly energised gas is the cutting medium. Unlike waterjet and laser cutting, this process is only compatible with conductive materials like metals. This is because plasma cutting is an electrical process. When plasma ejects the nozzle and contacts the workpiece, an electrical arc forms between them, creating enough heat to melt through it.

Plasma cutting

CNC controls the activation, intensity, and movement of the plasma.

Mechanical cutting

Mechanical cutting describes operations that utilise a physical cutting tool to cut through the workpiece.

sheet metal shearing

  • Sawing: This process involves running the sheet metal through a rotating or oscillating saw to cut through it.
  • Punching: Punching is the process of perforating the workpiece using shaped cutting tools known as the punch and die. The die is forced into the sheet metal at high speeds, cutting out the specific shape.
  • Shearing: In this sheet metal fabrication process, operators feed the sheet metal between two large blades and compress the blades till they cut through the material. 
  • CNC machining: Mechanical CNC machines can also cut sheet metal. These machines use a rotating cutting tool or a hard metal blade to cut through the workpiece.

Waterjet vs laser vs plasma cutting

Waterjet vs laser vs plasma cutting

Sheet Metal Forming

Sheet metal forming is the controlled application of force to the workpiece to change its shape or achieve a specific geometry. This crucial sheet metal fabrication process involves forming sheet metal through various techniques to create complex shapes and structures without material removal. Sheet metal forming techniques include bending, stamping, stretching, rolling, and deep drawing.

The processes require different specialised equipment and create varying geometries. Their application depends on the desired shape and structure of the end product. A combination of these processes or multiple executions of a particular process may be required to create a part. Sheet metal fabricators may preheat the workpiece to increase its workability.


sheet metal bending

Bending involves folding the workpiece at specific points. The sheet metal workpiece is deformed along a straight axis to form a desired angle or shape. Various bending techniques and machines exist. One of the most common bending techniques is V-bending. In this technique, a punch forces the edge to be bent into a V-shaped die. Other bending techniques include U-bending, Air bending, and Roll bending.

sheet metal bending techniques

Bending is one of the most predominant sheet metal forming operations and can create circular, cubic, and parametric shapes. This process is also critical in achieving the final geometry and has numerous considerations that vary by material thickness, bend orientation and angle, and intended shape.


Stamped sheet metal part

Sheet metal stamping is the process of pressing a shape into a workpiece or vice versa. In this process, sheet metal fabricators place a blank, flat workpiece in a stamping press. The press contains a die with the desired shape. When the stamping force is applied, the metal is deformed into the shape of the die.


Rolling is a sheet metal fabrication operation that involves passing the workpiece through a set of rollers. The rollers compress the workpiece as it passes through, reducing its thickness. Fabricators use this operation to achieve uniform thickness or to make the workpiece thinner. Certain applications require passing the workpiece through different rolling machines with progressively lower distances between the individual rollers to create lower thicknesses. Rolling produces flat, straight geometries. It can also be used to create curves.

Deep drawing

Sheet metal deep drawing

In deep drawing, a punch forces a blank sheet metal into a specifically shaped hollow die. The punch and die are shaped in a way that they fit. For example, if the die is a cylindrical hole, the punch will be cylindrical with a diameter close to the die's but with clearance. The blank is placed in between the punch and die. When the force is applied, the punch stretches and draws the workpiece into the hollow die, and the workpiece takes the shape of the die. Sheet metal fabricators use drawing to create hollow container-like parts that are round or have rounded edges.


Sheet metal spinning

In sheet metal spinning, operators clamp a flat metal disc or tube onto a lathe-mounted rotating mandrel. As the mandrel and workpiece rotate at high speeds, a forming tool progressively presses the workpiece against the mandrel at specific points, gradually forming it into an axially symmetrical shape. Sheet metal spinning forms cylindrical, conical, and other round geometries.

Sheet metal Joining and assembly

Joining and assembly encompasses techniques, operations, and processes used to assemble processed workpieces to form a final sheet metal part or structure. Typical sheet metal joining operations and techniques include.

  • Welding
  • Brazing and Soldering
  • Fastening
  • Adhesive bonding

Sheet lamination is compatible with thermoplastics, sheet metals, paper, glass, and composites such as carbon fibre and Kevlar.


Welding is the process of joining metal parts by melting the joint edges and allowing them to fuse on cooling. In this sheet metal fabrication process, operators position the parts with the weld edges in contact. The operator uses a high-energy thermal source to raise the temperature at the edges to their melting point, adding a filler material to the molten weld pool. Upon cooling, the edges solidify, creating a solid permanent joint.

Sheet metal welding


  • Creates strong, permanent joints with similar strengths to the base metal
  • Compatible with a range of ferrous and non-ferrous metals
  • Makes it possible to create complex structures as a single unit without any visible or movable joints.


  • The heat-induced expansion and contraction of the workpiece may create residual stresses in the part.
  • Requires skilled operators

Various types of welding techniques exist. These techniques vary by the energy source and consumables used. The most common in sheet metal fabrication are TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding and MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding.

Also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. An inert gas, typically argon, shields the weld area from contamination. TIG welding is known for its precision and is often used for welding thin materials and applications requiring high-quality welds.

On the other hand, MIG, also known as Gas metal arc welding, utilises a continuous wire electrode fed through a welding gun. It typically uses a mix of argon and carbon dioxide as shielding gas to protect the weld area from contamination. MIG welding is known for its speed, ease of use, and ability to weld thick cross-sections of steel and ferrous alloys.

Brazing and soldering

Brazing involves using a filler metal to bond workpieces together without melting the base metals. In this process, the operators place the workpieces together. They then melt a filler metal, with a lower melting point than the base metals, over the joint. The molten filler metal flows into the gaps of the workpieces’ joints and bonds them together upon cooling.


Soldering follows the same principles as brazing, with the difference being the temperatures at which they occur. Brazing is done at temperatures above 450⁰C. While soldering is performed below 200⁰C. Both processes must be below the temperature of the base metals.


  • It can bond different types of metals together.
  • The lower temperatures reduce the risk of heat-related issues in the workpiece.
  • Creates leakproof bonds, as the filler metal completely seals the joints


  • Creates weaker bonds than welding. This is a result of the difference between the internal structures of the filler metal and the base metal
  • Better suited to thin, small workpieces


Fastening involves using hardware fixtures to hold sheet metal parts together mechanically. These fixtures may be incorporated into the workpiece or be external.

Threaded holes and screws: Operators create threaded holes by tapping pre-drilled holes in the workpieces. They then join parts by aligning the holes and screwing them together using screws. Other threading methods include the use of threaded inserts.

Bolt and nut vs screw

Bolts and nuts: In this method, operators drill non-threaded holes through the workpieces at the points where they are to join. To fasten them, the operator aligns the holes, passes a threaded bolt through and attaches the nut on the other side.

Rivets: The riveting process is very similar to using bolts and nuts. However, it uses non-threaded cylindrical pins with wider heads known as rivets instead. The rivet is inserted through the holes and extends out of the other end. An operator uses a hammer to flatten the other end of the rivet to be wider than the hole, securing it in place.



  • Requires less effort, time, and cost than welding and brazing
  • Parts can be easily disassembled for transportation and storage
  • Does not cause heat-related issues in the final product
  • Facilitates the joining of metals with other materials.


  • Joints are not as strong as in welding
  • Typically limited to overlapping joints 

Adhesive bonding

Adhesive bonding is the use of industrial-grade adhesives to join parts together. This sheet metal assembly technique can join sheet metal with other materials such as wood and plastic


  • Simple, straightforward process
  • Can join different types of materials
  • Does not affect the physical properties of the parts


  • Creates relatively weaker joints 
  • Disassembly may require destructive processes

Sheet metal design rules

Sheet metal fabricators need to follow specific guidelines to ensure seamless fabrication. Designers apply most of these guidelines during the design stage, while the fabricators execute them during production. The guidelines cover various aspects of cutting, forming, and bending, including rules on dimensions, tolerance, how to create various features, feature placement, material considerations, and efficiently performing processes.

  • Account for every process involved in fabricating a part, including order, accessibility, and the effect of the processes on the workpiece.
  • When cutting out a shape from a larger piece of sheet metal, optimise the layout to minimise waste.
  • Include relief cuts at the ends of cut lines to prevent material tearing or warping during cutting and forming.
  • Account for kerf width when assigning dimensions to parts. Kerf is the width of material that is removed by a cutting process. For example, laser cutting cuts by melting away 0.1 mm to 0.3 mm of material
  • Design walls with uniform thickness to ensure even distribution of forming stresses and to prevent thinning.
  • Consult relevant charts, such as K-factor charts and bending charts, to obtain the right values for your project’s specific material and thickness.
  • Position features in ways that they wouldn't be affected by subsequent processing. For example, holes should be designed away from bends as they may distort during bending.
  • Metals tend to slightly return to their original shape after bending. This phenomenon is called springback. To account for spring back, slightly extend bend angles beyond the desired value.
  • Design for the specific joining methods by accounting for accessibility, joining features, and the effect of the joining process on the part. For example, design overlapping holes for parts to be assembled via screws.
  • Include features that facilitate the real-life application of the finished product. For example, incorporate ribs and gussets into load-bearing parts.

There are numerous other rules and guidelines involved in sheet metal fabrication. Many of which relate to specific features and fabrication processes. See our comprehensive sheet metal design guide for everything you need to know about designing sheet metal parts.

Sheet metal Post-processing and finishing

Post-processing refers to operations performed on a fabricated structure or part to bring it to a desired physical state or induce certain characteristics. It improves the overall quality of the finished product and may be functional or aesthetic. Sheet metal post-processing operations can be classified under heat treatment and finishing.

Heat treatment is the controlled heating and cooling of the part or structure. Sheet metal fabricators use heat treatment to receive stresses that form during fabrication and elicit desired properties. These operations always come before finishing operations. Common heat treatment operations are:

  • Annealing
  • Tempering
  • Normalising
  • Through hardening (Quenching)
  • Case hardening (Carburising)

Finishing typically describes post-processing operations directed at the surface of the part. These operations alter colour, surface finish, and surface properties. Operators perform finishing operations to improve aesthetics, provide protective coatings, and induce certain properties. Common sheet metal finishing operations include:

  • Bead blasting
  • Powder coating
  • Anodising
  • Electroplating
  • Chemical coating

Note that while post-processing operations are typically performed after assembly, some projects may require some of the operations before assembly. For example, a sheet metal fabricator is likely to powder coat a part before assembling it with screws.

Bead blasting

Bead blasting involves spraying a continuous, pressurised stream of tiny abrasive glass or plastic beads at the part's surface. This stream knocks off loose particles, removes burrs and imperfections, and smoothes out the surface, leaving a uniform satin or matte surface. Sheet metal fabricators predominantly use bead blasting for aesthetic finishing and as a preliminary surface preparation process for other finishing operations. Bead blasting is compatible with small to large-sized parts.


In the tumbling process, the part is placed in a vat of vibrating granular tumbling media over a specific period. The media progressively knocks off impurities and smoothes the part as the vat vibrates. Tumbling is limited to small to medium-sized parts, depending on the size of the vat.

Powder coating

Powder coating involves applying a thin layer of electrostatic, coloured polymer powder to the part’s surface, followed by curing. This process creates a smooth, coloured, visually appealing protective layer on the part, thus improving aesthetics and providing corrosion and weather resistance.

Powder-coated sheet metal part

Powder coating is a more durable option than painting and is compatible with all metals. However, it cannot be easily applied to internal surfaces.


Anodising is an electrochemical process that creates a layer of stable oxide coating on a part or structure. In this process, the part is submerged as an anode in a bath of acid (typically sulphuric or chronic), and an electric current is applied, causing the formation of a metal oxide layer. Anodising creates a smooth, highly resistant, visually appealing surface.

There are three main types of anodising, with the difference between them being the type and temperature of acid used and the duration of the process. These methods form layers with different characteristics. The types are Type I (Chromic acid), Type II (sulphuric acid), and Type III (sulphuric acid at a lower temperature and higher voltage).

Type II produces a layer thickness of 0.0025 mm to 0.0013 mm, while Type III produces a thickness of 0.025 mm to 0.05 mm. The Type II coating is also very receptive to dyes, providing numerous colour options. Anodising is typically used with aluminium but is also compatible with titanium, zinc, and magnesium.


Electroplating is an electrochemical process that deposits a thin layer of another metal on the surface of the sheet metal fabricated part. Common metals used in electroplating include gold, silver, and copper. In electroplating, The finished part is immersed in a solution containing plating metal ions. An electric current is applied, causing the ions to deposit onto the part's surface.

Gold-plated sheet metal copper part

Electroplating improves corrosion resistance, improves surface finish, and creates a visually appealing surface. This process makes it possible to create a part with the properties of a particular metal without having to fabricate the entire part from the metal. For example, rather than creating a costly pure solid gold part, a sheet metal fabricator can create a part from steel and electroplate it with 70 to 90% less gold.


Annealing is the process of heating the part or workpiece to a specific temperature, followed by slow, controlled cooling. This process relieves internal stresses, improves ductility, and reduces hardness.


Normalising is similar to annealing but utilises air cooling at room temperature rather than the slow, controlled cooling utilised in annealing. This air cooling results in a more uniform grain structure and improved mechanical properties.

Through Hardening

Also known as quenching, this process involves heating the workpiece to a high temperature and rapidly cooling it via immersion in a quenching medium such as oil, water, or air. As the name implies, hardening increases the workpiece's hardness and resistance to wear, abrasion, and deformation.


Tempering is typically performed after hardening to increase the toughness and reduce the brittleness of hardened parts. It involves reheating the workpiece to a specific temperature, holding that temperature, and then allowing it to cool on its own. The temperature determines how much of the hardness is reduced. Tempering creates a balance between hardness and toughness.

Sheet metal fabrication inspection and quality control

Quality control inspection is a critical aspect of sheet metal fabrication that ensures that the final products meet the required standards and specifications. Effective quality inspection involves three main stages: visual inspection, dimensional inspection, and nondestructive testing.

Sheet metal fabrication inspection

Visual Inspection

Visual inspection is the first line of defence in quality control. It involves thoroughly examining the sheet metal parts to identify any visible defects, such as surface imperfections, scratches, dents, or discolouration. Inspectors typically use magnifying glasses, mirrors, and machine learning cameras to aid in detecting defects, ensuring that each part meets visual quality standards before proceeding to further processing.

Dimensional Inspection

Dimensional inspection ensures that the fabricated parts meet the specified dimensions and tolerances. Inspectors use tools like callipers, micrometres, and high-precision lasers to measure the thickness, width, length, and numerous other dimensions of the sheet metal components. These precise measurements help identify any deviations from the design specifications, allowing for corrective actions to be taken before further processing.

Non-Destructive Testing

Non-destructive testing (NDT) is crucial for detecting internal defects without damaging the parts. Ultrasonic and radiographic testing are two common testing methods.

  • Ultrasonic Testing uses high-frequency sound waves to identify flaws such as cracks, voids, and inclusions within the metal. The sound waves are transmitted through the material, and the reflected waves are analysed to detect irregularities. Ultrasonic testing is particularly useful for detecting defects in thick or complex parts that cannot be visually inspected.
  • Radiographic Testing employs X-rays or gamma rays to create images of the internal structure of the components. It effectively identifies internal defects like porosity, inclusions, and cracks. The resulting radiographs provide a detailed view of the metal's internal condition, ensuring its reliability and safety. This method is often used in critical applications such as the aerospace and automotive industries, where material integrity is paramount.

Both ultrasonic and radiographic testing provide valuable information about the integrity of the sheet metal parts, ensuring their reliability and safety. These methods help manufacturers maintain high-quality standards and prevent the use of defective materials in final products.

Geomiq provides industry-leading post-production quality inspection involving these and more procedures. Every single order is subjected to thorough standard inspection for the utmost quality. You can also request advanced or custom inspection. Our numerous ISO certifications, including ISO 13485:2016 and ISO 9001:2015, testify to our absolute commitment to superior quality standards. Visit our quality assurance page to learn more about Geomiq’s quality guarantee.

Sheet metal Fabrication materials

Sheet metal fabrication is compatible with various metals and their alloys. These materials are selected for different applications based on their properties, availability, and cost. The table below lists common sheet metals and their properties, common applications, and relative cost. Note that the table contains common sheet metals and is not exhaustive. In addition, each of the metals listed has alloys with varying properties.

Common sheet metals and their properties, applications, and relative cost

Common sheet metals and their properties

Geomiq offers these and more sheet metal material options. See our materials page to learn more. Not sure about the right material for your application? Contact us to discuss your project with our team of engineering professionals and select the best material for your application.

Applications of sheet metal fabrication

The applications of sheet metal fabrication are almost endless. This highly versatile manufacturing process is used in numerous industries to produce a wide range of products. Research and Markets estimates that the global Sheet Metal Fabrication Services market will surpass £15 billion by 2030. From providing shipping containers that support global trade to building vehicles for outer space exploration, sheet metal fabrication is practically indispensable to civilisation.


Sheet metal fabrication is indispensable in the aerospace industry and is widely employed in aircraft and outer space applications. Numerous aerospace components and machines are manufactured from sheet metals. These include aircraft bodies, fuselages, skins, engine components, and spacecraft. A characteristic of sheet metal fabrication that is especially beneficial to the aerospace industry is its compatibility with various metals. This characteristic makes it possible to meet the various high demands of the industry. For example, sheet metal fabrication is compatible with aluminium for strong, lightweight aircraft parts and titanium to withstand the heat of spacecraft takeoff and the frigid temperatures of space. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is manufactured using sheet metal fabrication techniques from various aluminium and lithium alloys.

Automobile and transportation

Sheet metal fabrication is the predominant manufacturing process in the automobile industry. Over 50% of car parts and components are manufactured from sheet metal, using a variety of sheet metal fabrication processes. Automobile parts such as body panels, quarter panels, floor pans, frame rails, inner fenders, brackets, mounting plates, bumpers, fluid tanks, casings, and more are all manufactured via sheet metal fabrication techniques, including cutting, stamping, rolling, drawing, welding, and numerous others.

Car frames fabricated from sheet metal

This manufacturing process is fast, highly scalable, precise, and compatible with various metals, making it perfect for the automobile industry. Sheet metal fabrication extends beyond automobiles to other automotive and locomotive vehicles. Buses, lorries, trailers, rail cars, trains, and even tractors all predominantly feature sheet metal parts. In addition, maritime transportation is also facilitated via sheet metal fabrication. Marine vehicles, such as ships, submarines, and deep-sea trawlers, are all made from sheet metals.

Construction, building and architecture

The application of sheet metal fabrication in the construction industry is as vast and varying as the industry itself. Sheet metal is applied in building cladding, roofing sheets, doors and windows, plumbing and waste management, HVAC, power and gas supply, finishing, facades, railing, structural elements, gates, and decorative elements. Sheet metal fabrication’s vast construction applications are due to the durability, strength, high weather resistance, manufacturability, versatility, aesthetic qualities, and other beneficial properties of various sheet metals, including steel, aluminium, and copper.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

One of countless examples of sheet metal fabrication in the construction industry is the Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles, USA. This building features an iconic stainless exterior comprising curves and complex shapes that the builders created using advanced sheet metal fabrication techniques. 

Industrial machinery and equipment

This sheet metal application cuts across various industries. Many of the equipment and machinery used in production, agriculture, manufacturing, and oil and gas industries have sheet metal components, brackets, enclosures, and frames.

Packaging, storage, and transportation

Sheet metal was one of the earliest forms of packaging and continues to be the go-to packaging material for numerous products. Sheet metal fabrication produces small to medium-sized containers for canned foods, beverages, paint, aerosols, gases, oils, and chemicals.

Sheet metal consumer packaging

Manufacturers also produce large industrial-sized containers for storing various solids, liquids, and gases from sheet metal. This application cuts across various industries, including agriculture (silos), oil and gas (fuel storage tanks), shipping and logistics (Maritime containers), food and beverage production (production tanks), chemical processing (mixing and storage tanks), and many more.

Consumer goods

Various Manufacturers utilise sheet metal fabrication to produce numerous consumer items. These items include the following:

  • Electronics: Phones, tablets, TVs
  • Electrical appliances: Electric irons, electric kettles, microwaves
  • Kitchenware: Cookware, utensils, countertops, sinks
  • Bathroom fixtures: Sinks, shelves, plumbing
  • Musical instruments
  • Garbage bins
  • Sports goods
  • Furniture
  • Personalised items


The versatility of sheet metal fabrication makes it indispensable in the defence industry. This manufacturing method provides various metal options with the unique properties often required in defence applications. Examples include tungsten alloys for armoured tanks, copper and brass for ammunition, carbon steel for weapons, and titanium for military satellites.

Advantages of sheet metal fabrication

Capability: Sheet metal fabrication can produce numerous complex cubic and parametric geometries, as well as various curves, shapes, and patterns. In addition, sheet metal manufacturers can use sheet metal fabrication techniques to produce extremely high-quality, durable parts and structures.

Versatility and availability of options: Sheet metal fabrication has various capabilities and characteristics that make it a highly versatile manufacturing process. This process can create standalone parts or whole assemblies, small or large structures, and one-off or large-scale productions. It is also compatible with numerous metals.

Another characteristic that adds to sheet metal fabrication’s versatility is the availability of processing options. At every stage of processing, there are several options to choose from, depending on the project. For example, cutting options include waterjet, plasma, and laser cutting. There are also various forming options, such as drawing, bending, spinning, etc. In addition, sheet metal fabrication is compatible with numerous finishing options.

Scalability: Most sheet metal fabrication processes can either be automated or process multiple parts simultaneously. This characteristic makes fabrication highly scalable and suitable for large production volumes. Most applications of sheet metal fabrication are carried out on an industrial scale using automated production lines.

Materials: Sheet metal fabrication is compatible with hundreds of pure metals, alloys, and super alloys. There are suitable sheet metals with unique properties for almost every possible application.

Accuracy: Incorporating advanced CNC machinery significantly increases the accuracy and precision of sheet metal fabrication processes. Computers can control various aspects of fabrication, including cutting, forming, and bending. CAD also provides manufacturers with the ability to account for potential errors right from the design stage

Limitations of sheet metal fabrication

Requires skills: Sheet metal fabrication requires highly skilled personnel from design to finishing. Most steps require meticulous execution. Fabricators must also follow numerous rules to ensure manufacturability, mitigate challenges during manufacturing, and achieve high-quality finished products. In addition, certain metal fabrication processes, such as welding and powder coating, are manual, increasing the possibility of error and the need for highly skilled workers.

Involves multiple operations: Unlike CNC machining and 3D printing, which typically involve one or two processes, most sheet metal fabrication projects require multiple processes. This significantly increases the fabrication time for one-off and manual productions.

Affects material properties: The deformation and temperature changes that workpieces undergo during fabrication may affect the internal structures of the metal. These changes can lead to stresses in the material and negatively impact its properties.

Generates waste: The sheet metal cutting process typically generates scrap from the trimmings and cutouts. However, this issue is mitigated by the fact that most sheet metal is recyclable.


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