cnc milling machine

Metal fabrication: the process explained

Metal fabrication involves cutting, bending, and assembling metal to create a variety of structures, from little parts to entire buildings. The first step in metal fabrication is to create a design. Once the design is complete, the metal is cut to size and shape then bent and formed. The pieces are then assembled, usually by welding.


Step 1: Design

Designing for metal fabrication requires a thorough understanding of both materials and the manufacturing process. Strength, stiffness, durability, and tolerances of both the metal and its finish must be considered.  With modern computer-aided design it is possible to produce intricate metal parts with high tolerances. However, even with the best technology, a designer should still have a solid understanding of their craft to create the best possible product.

Step 2: Cutting

Metal cutting uses machines to cut and shape metal into the correct shapes and sizes. Each shop has their own cutting process, all of which come with their unique pros and cons. The most common cutting technique is shearing. Shearing uses two blades to cut metal along a line. Other common cutting techniques include plasma cutting, oxy-fuel cutting, and waterjet cutting.

Step 3: Shaping

In metal fabrication, shaping is the process of altering metal into the desired form.  This can be accomplished bending, stretching, or milling. Shaping is an important step since it make complicated forms possible.

There are a few factors to consider before the shaping begins. Different metal types require different techniques. Aluminum is bent or stretched, and steel is typically milled. Different levels of precision also require specific processes. Parts that need to be extra precise are milled, while general shapes can be satisfactorily bent or stretched.


Step 4: Welding

Welding is a process that uses high heat and pressure to join pieces of metal. The process can be done by hand or machine, and there are a variety of techniques that can be used to create a strong bond. In fact, welding can be a very durable joining technique if done correctly. Welding can also be used to make repairs on damaged fabrications.

Step 5: Finishing

There are a wide variety of different finishes that can be used on a metal fabrication, depending on desired look and purpose of the product. A popular finish choice for metal fabrication is powder coating. Powder coating is a dry powder paint which cures under heat. This finish is both durable and beautiful with a wide range of available colors. Another popular finish for is anodizing. Anodizing is an electrolytic process that creates a corrosion resistant film on the metal’s surface.

white and blue CNC machine with sliding door open used for Precision Components Company in San Luis Obispo


In conclusion, the process of metal fabrication is complex, but by understanding the basics you gain an appreciation for the final product.  Metal fabrication is an important industry that is used to create a wide range of products for a variety of clients. To get your own project started, check out