What Is The Difference Between Welding And Fabrication?
You’ll often hear the terms fabrication and welding if you work in the metalworking sector. Although people often use the terms interchangeably, there is a clear distinction between welding and fabrication. What is the difference between fabrication and welding? One way to explain it is that fabrication refers to the entire process of making metal. Welding is just one part of the fabrication process. Although fabrication can include welding, welding is still apart. While you can make metal parts without welding, welding is a necessary part of fabricating your final product.
The fabrication process and welding trade require different skills. Metal fabricators and welders are both highly skilled craftspeople who often share tasks within the overall metal manufacturing industry.
What Is Welding And Fabrication?
Welding is simply the joining of metal pieces together. Although welding can include glass and thermoplastics, most people associate it with metals. As part of their fabrication process, welders combine metals.
Fabrication refers to all the tasks involved in fabricating metal products. This includes all aspects of manufacturing, from the design and finishing of products. Fabricators are responsible to take product ideas and use complex procedures to make them a reality. Welding is one of these highly skilled processes.
Many metal fabricators are also skilled and competent welders. Many welders can also be fabricators. The role of a welder and a fabricator depends on where they work and what job they are doing. You might work primarily as a welding operator, but you also have to cut, bend, shape, and finish your project. You might also be a metal fabricator and do some welding to get the job done.
Welders and metal fabricators are an important part of the American industry. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around a 1.484million people work within the U.S. Metal Fabrication industry. Many of these people are welders. Others in the fabrication industry include machinists and millwrights as well as cutters, benders, benders, and assemblers. There are also people who manage, design, engineer, and manage fabrication projects.
Analysts expect a bright future in the fabrication industry. Chris Kuehl, an economic analyst, predicts that the metal fabrication industry will continue to grow at the same rate as the U.S., despite current tariffs on steel, and other metals. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), rate is between 2.7 percent and 3.4 percent. This is good news for metal fabricators and welders.
Metal Fabrication Process
Welding is just one step in a process that starts with a conceptual idea and ends with a finished product ready for installation. Fabricating any component or part requires a clear and linear process from start to finish.
Metal fabrication begins with the end goal in mind. Every material that is fabricated or welded into a project has a purpose. It must be planned and documented. Each step of a fabrication job involves many steps, and each depends on the others for success. These are the key components of metal fabrication:
Each project begins with work being offered or bidded on. The scope of work will be provided to the end-user. This includes details about the product and how many units are required. It can be extremely detailed in the case where a part is used in an industry such as aerospace or it can be a general idea that can be applied to a truck trailer.
Bidders for metal fabrication jobs will evaluate their ability to handle the job with the resources available. Many fabrication companies have the ability to handle all aspects of the work themselves, while other companies may need to subcontract.
Bids can only be as good as and accurate as of the information that the client provides to the contractor. Competitive bidding between metal fabrication companies can be adversarial and counterproductive to achieving the best-priced work and highest quality manufacturing. Many fabricator and client agreements today follow the design/build structure.
This is an important phase of fabrication. Even though there isn’t much actual metal cutting, welding, or bending going on, planning can be crucial to a project’s success. It is said that failing to plan can lead to failure. This holds true for metal fabrication.
The planning stage sets the stage for the other steps of the process. Engineers and designers work closely with clients to understand the client’s requirements, end purpose, and concept. The planning team can create the best combination of materials or techniques to finish the project by fully understanding the requirements.
Planning is about teamwork. Project managers who are good at teamwork ensure that everyone is involved in the fabrication process. They expect welders and other task-oriented professionals to share their knowledge and skills. Welders are required to be involved in any project that involves welding.
Production is the place where the real work happens, according to the outside. After the client has awarded the fabrication company a contract via the design/build agreement or competitive bid system, and plans have been made, production begins. Here is where the actual construction begins.
Raw materials are transformed into useful products during production from either standard stock or specialized resources. Metals are typically selected and then cut into the appropriate sizes. You might use simple tools like shears or high-tech techniques like laser cutting.
After the critical components have been shaped by the metal fabricator/fabricating team, it is time to assemble them. This is the case for most fabrication projects. This is where fabrication and welding differ. While welding is only one step of the fabrication process, it is an essential part of a complete job.
Many skilled people are needed to manage projects throughout the planning, production, and bid stages of metal fabrication businesses. While welders and fabricators are the two main roles in most metal fabrication projects, other skilled players greatly contribute to a successful outcome. These specialists in metal fabrication include:
- Engineers: Professional engineering is essential to the fabrication process. They are responsible for setting standards and monitoring performance. You’ll see structural, mechanical, and chemical engineers in metal fabrication.
- Designer: These professionals are able to take over engineers and transform ideas into practical instructions. Computer-assisted metal fabrication relies on computer-aided drawing (CAD) to plan and ensure that everyone involved in the process is on the same page. Designers will also provide instructions for welders and fabricators.
- Ironworkers Raw iron, a complicated material that requires special handling, is Ironworkers are involved in fabrication by sourcing and preparing the iron for production. Ironworkers might also be found shaping or cutting iron.
- Blacksmiths: In the past, blacksmiths were essential to the success of the metalworking industry. Blacksmiths are experts in heating and forging iron into finished products. Although welders and fabricators are the most common blacksmithing tasks, there is no substitute for blacksmithing knowledge when it comes to ironworking.
- Machine Setters: Machinists, and millwrights are important roles in metal fabrication. Many fabrication shops use complex machinery to turn blank metal stock into usable parts. The setters are responsible for setting up and maintaining metalwork machines that can accept stock. They also monitor the machine throughout the manufacturing process.
- Managers: Without someone to oversee and manage the processes, a metal fabrication shop cannot function. Managers and supervisors are responsible for ensuring a cohesive workflow from beginning to end. They are responsible for client satisfaction and quality control.
Although many parts of the metal fabrication process work together, it would be difficult to finish a project without welding support. Welders are a key part of the overall fabrication process. Welders need to be able to function properly and contribute effectively.
The Welding Process
Welding refers to the joining of metal-based materials. Fusion is the name of this technique. This complex process involves heat and pressure. The welding field is complex and requires many different tools and processes.
Welding is only one part of metal fabrication. It’s a skilled trade that requires a lot of practice and training. It takes many years to become a skilled welder. Apprentices are often promoted to master welders. This is due to the large variety of metals and wide range of welding techniques.
Two main welding processes are common in the metal fabrication industry. The first is fusion welding. The second is solid-state weld. Fusion welding is the process of heating metal parts and then adding a filler. This allows them to be fused together. Solid-state welding, which is similar to metal-joining but does not require any additive, is an alternative. These are the most common welding processes that you will find in the metal fabrication sector:
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) This form of welding is the most well-known and widely used. This fusion method is also known as stick welding. This involves the use of an electric current and consumable welding sticks that act as fillers between the surfaces being joined.
- Oxyacetylene Welding A torch nozzle is another common method of welding. This involves using a tank with oxygen and one of acetylene. The flame heats the metal, while a filler rod allows for metal fusion.
- Tungsten Inert Gas Welding (TIG) TIG welding has the highest quality results compared to a TIG. This is a two-hand procedure that uses a non-consumable, tungsten electrode to make the weld.
- MIG (Gas Metal Arc Welding): This method uses a wire-feed rod that is fed from a continuous spool with electrode wire. MIG welding is great for sheet metal and thin stock welds.
These are just four of the many welding methods available. While SMAW, OA, and TIG are the most common methods used in metal fabrications, welders can also use other methods. Submerged arc welding (SAW) is an example of this. It is performed underwater. Exothermic welding (Thermite), which uses extremely high heat and an aluminum-based charge in order to fuse metals, is another example.