Steel Fabrication: 2 Initial Phases

Prefabricated steel building components have revolutionized the speed at which new structures can be erected while helping to keep costs at a minimum. Yet even within the construction industry, not that many people understand how the fabrication process works. If you work in a construction related field, or even if you're simply a curious amateur, read on. This article will teach you about two early phases of steel fabrication (such as is done by professionals like those from Schaffer's Custom Welding Ltd).   

Phase 1: Surface Cleaning

Before a piece of freshly milled steel can be machined, cut, or otherwise altered, its surface has to be carefully cleaned and prepared. You see, fresh steel contains an abundance of surface imperfections like mill scale and burrs. Not only will these impair the appearance of the steel, they also make it more dangerous to handle, and can present complications when it comes to the way the steel behaves during processing.

The most widely practiced form of surface cleaning goes by the name of blast cleaning. Ultra-fine particulate matter is projected against the surface of the steel at a high velocity, thus scouring it of any impurities. That isn't the only benefit of surface cleaning, however. By slightly roughening the outer surface of the steel, it increases the metal's ability to form a bond with paints, rust retardants, and other coatings.    

Phase 2: Cutting

Now that the raw steel has been cleaned, it can be cut down to the needed size for its particular function. Here are three of the most common ways this task is accomplished.

Flame cutting involves the application of a highly condensed flame to the surface of the steel. In essence, it cuts the steel by way of a controlled melting. To do this, the temperature of the flame must be above 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the melting point of steel.

The energy necessary to conduct flame cutting is produced by the combustion of propane and oxygen. Arc plasma cutting differs in that the energy involved is produced electrically. An arc of gas is ionized, thus allowing the conduct of an electrical current between the cutting tool and the steel. Its ability to be honed down even more finely than a flame, allows arc plasma cutting to achieve the most delicate of cuts--no matter how thick the steel.

Finally, there is cold sawing. As its name would suggest, this is a mechanical process, and not a form of high-temperature melting. The saws in question are not wielded by humans, however. Rather they are guided by a robotic system, which itself follows the instructions fed into a computer. A variety of different saw blades--from band, to circular, to hack-style--are used to create a particular cut.