Metal working is a very old art form. It’s an interesting process that has changed a lot over time, and this blog goes into some details about the biggest changes thus far, as well as what is still to come.
Since ancient civilisations roamed the earth, metal working has played a key role in society with metals being used for both industrial applications and luxury goods such as jewellery. Custom metal fabrication began to take shape in what we now know as the “Bonze Age”, the period beginning in 3,300 BC in India where metals were first combined with the aim of gaining new and advanced properties. Metals were melted down in a furnace and bronze became the first hard metal. This enabled the production of swords, armour and many weapons of war. It therefore follows that those civilisations with the most metals and the best crafting abilities rose to supremacy – bronze was a source of true power and as war raged on across the continents it cemented its naming rights to the age.
Custom metal fabrication continued to revolve around the malleable yet tough nature of bronze until 1485 when Leonardo da Vinci drew a preliminary sketch of a rolling mill. This simple idea slowly but surely revolutionised the way we use metals today. In 1501, the mill was used to roll gold to a uniform thickness to create coins as well as to cut already formed sheets into strips.
This pressing process continued to advance in the 1600s when the mill was produced on an industrial scale to create tin and lead plates and eventually the cold rolling of steel. The first steel fabrication services are attributed to a mill in Newcastle, England where water wheels drove the rolling process. The 1700s saw more complex steel fabrication in demand, with rounds, squares and rails needed to help the world continue to industrialise.
For sheet metal to be cut into this variety of shapes and sizes, the long-standing method was to use shears. Over the 1800s there was a shift from a manual method (shears being used in a similar way to scissors), to the “bench method” where one blade is fixed and the other is manually lowered. Today, there are many other cutting methods from lasers to waterjets. As each custom metal fabrication is different, they can suit different cutting methods.
The same can be said for punching and forming sheet metal. While these practices were relatively common in centuries past, today’s technology and more highly trained metal smiths, make the precision and accuracy in metal fabrication better than ever.
The advancements in metal fabrication show no sign of slowing down. Currently, the demand for steel is exceeding supply. This means more resources will need to be put towards recycling steel in the future. While currently steel is made up of between 50-60% recycled materials, this will need to reach 100% in order for supply and demand to come close to equilibrium. Future trends and tastes will also dictate much of the direction for custom metal fabrication. While today, steel is hugely fashionable for those seeking a modern, industrial look, with every new generation comes a new favoured look.
Finally, as with every industry, technology will play a huge role in dictating the future of custom metal fabrication. As metal demand increases it is likely mining of iron ore will follow suit in order to create more of the computerised technology which plays such a pivotal role in raising the efficiency of metal fabrication.
For more information about metal fabrication, contact Acorn Metal Products today!