Ask a fabrication expert what happens to most metal pieces that move through the shop, and they will likely tell you the metal has to be cut at some point during fabrication. Cutting systems vary from one shop to the next, but one commonality is that most shops will have at least two cutting systems, and some will have even more than that. Check out three types of equipment used to cut, trim, and form metal during fabrication.
Waterjet Cutting Systems
A waterjet cutting system has a high-pressure water jet that has the capability of cutting through a variety of different metals while they are positioned on a flat surface. The beauty of a waterjet cutting system is that the cuts that are made are incredibly precise and incredibly clean. For metals that are hard to cut without scarring the metal because it is soft and easy to bend, the waterjet cutter is the perfect solution. For example, materials like copper or aluminum sheets often buckle when they are cut with a traditional saw, but a waterjet can be controlled and gentler on these softer metals.
Plasma Cutting Systems
Straight out of the future, plasma cutting systems are a relatively new player in the field of metal cutting systems, and they are really interesting to watch. Plasma cutters have a stream of plasma (ionized gas) that burns at a super-high temperature. This stream of plasma cuts right through metal pieces like they are merely warm butter. Best of all, these systems can be programmed to do all kinds of things, such as making trademark designs on a metal component or cutting tight turns and angles into a metal sheet. Plasma cutters are a little less common because of their expense, but they can be found in a lot of metal fabrication shops.
Metal Cutting Shears
Although they may seem outdated, metal cutting shears are still reliable and are easily one of the most commonly found pieces of metal fabrication equipment used for cutting pieces of metal. Shears can have teeth-like blades that chomp into a piece of metal, or they can have elongated blades that are super-sharp and used to cut thin sheets of metal. Even though metal cutting shears offer a reliable function, they are not the most precise cutting equipment pieces for metal. There are other cutting pieces that can be far gentler on a piece of metal while it is being cut.