Fabrication is an essential component of most metal tube supply chains. Unless your application requires very basic components (such as basic carbon steel tubing for structural applications), you'll need fabrication services to make your product function.
Here's a bird's eye view of the fabrication process, from start to finish.
The 6 Main Steps of Metal Tube Fabrication
Metal tube fabrication begins with a contract. The fabricator plans their fabrication process based on the client's requirements, and provides a quote for services. The typical process consists of:
If they win the bid, they can put this process in motion.
You can't do tube fabrication without materials. Ordering materials sounds simple, but it's a lot like working the stock market - you have to watch prices carefully and purchase at the lowest price possible (while being able to meet time constraints).
Some fabricators will keep common materials in stock by buying mass quantities at low price points. This can save their clients money, as long as they don't require specialty materials.
In the meantime, the manufacturer's engineers get to work on the CNC machinery. They input a series of commands that allow the machine to do its job efficiently, with minimal human interference.
Manufacturing engineers are constantly working to make the tube fabrication process more efficient and streamlined through CNC programming. The more improvements they can make, the less your components will cost overall.
Once the materials are in the facility and the machinery is programmed, the manufacturing process can begin. Fabrication consists of three main types:
- Cutting - anything that involves removing pieces of the material. This could be cutting to size, punching, drilling, stamping, or laser cutting.
- Forming - any process that affects the shape of the tube without adding or removing material. This includes bending, stretching, and indenting.
- Assembly - adding or connecting components. This includes welding, adhesives, and other manual processes.
There are different ways to achieve each fabrication method, and your best choice will depend on your materials and application.
5. Quality Control
The metal tube fabrication process doesn't end with fabrication. Your manufacturer will also have to do strict quality control inspections to make sure your product will function properly. This is the difference between happy customers (business growth) and unhappy customers (stagnation or failure).
Quality control should be high on your list of priorities - if your product fails, you take the fall, not your fabricator.
Once your product has been manufactured to specifications and inspected for quality, it can be shipped out to its rightful owner (you!).
As your fabricator becomes more familiar with your needs and projects, they can produce results more quickly. Many manufacturers can even give advice on product and process optimization. This saves you time and money in the long run.