Editor’s note: This article is part of ChivMen exclusive series where the articles will guide and provide knowledge to men about everything in life.
Sheet metal is a material crucial for countless industries. It’s used to create all manner of products that we use every day, and the market for it is only getting bigger – globally, it’s forecast to increase from $3.8 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion in 2027, according to Research and Markets.
If you want to know more about sheet metal, you’ve come to the right place. What is it, how is it made, and what is it used for?
What is thin sheet metal?
Sheet metal is any metal that is pressed into a thin uniform sheet, which is then typically spun into a large roll. This allows it to be easily transported to manufacturers and machined into different products. All manner of metals can be formed into sheets, although the most common is steel.
How is it produced?
Created in an industrial foundry, sheet metal is formed out of large ingots of metal. These are superheated until over 900°C, then passed between heavy rolling stands which compress the metal and increase its surface area. The metal goes through these rollers multiple times, each time becoming thinner and more uniform, before being spun onto a spool. This process is called hot rolling, and produces a cheap, though less precise, product.
Hot-rolled sheet metal can then also be cold-rolled. This involves the sheet being left to cool, after which it is squeezed through two rollers. This creates sheet metal that is much more resistant, has a greater sheen, and is more expensive, than purely hot-rolled sheet metal.
Sheet metal is also often given a finish to give it valuable additional properties:
- Galvanisation – where the metal is coated with zinc to combat corrosion
- Annealing – a heat treatment that makes the metal more workable
- Anodising – where aluminum is applied via electrolytes to protect the metal against wear
- Tinning – used for food cans, a coating of tin is applied to stop oxidation
- Tempering – where the metal is reheated and cooled to improve its durability.
How is it used?
Sheet metal can be manipulated in countless ways. It can be cut with water, laser, or plasma jets to create different shapes and sizes of metal. Hydraulic presses can be used to form the metal – stamping and punching shapes in the metal to make and repair parts such as wheel bearings, for example. The metal can also be ground, where the material is removed from the sheet to create thinner sections.
The many ways sheet metal can be manipulated means it has found uses across multiple industries. It’s used extensively by automotive manufacturers to create car parts, such as bodywork. In construction, it forms air ducts, roofing, wall coverings, and more. And in the aerospace industry, it is used to make plane bodies, tails, wings, and engine nacelle housings.
Do you use sheet metal? Know any interesting or surprising applications for it? Let us know in the comments section below!