Metal Fabrication and Structural Steel Fabrication: Is There a Difference?

16 November 2017

There are several very real differences between metal fabrication and structural steel fabrication services. Client’s need to know those differences if they’re to select the right service for a looming project. The scale of the work illustrates the first major craft dissimilarity. Imagine the latter discipline using sophisticated tools to process complex metal parts. Structural steelwork operates on a larger scale, a larger-than-life scale that involves incredibly heavy loads.

Cracking the Metal Fabrication Question

Simply put, we’re describing a process that transforms raw metal into a series of tool-worked metal components. Iron handrails fall under this category, as do the architectural accents that decorate modern buildings. However, none of these constructs, as dimensionally accurate as they undoubtedly are, can be classed as a structural steel product. After all, the welded and cut metal segments are robust, plus they’re probably weatherproof, but they’re not designed to support structural loads.

Assessing Structural Loading Issues

This is a large-scale industrial and commercial sector, one that uses massive beams and dense sheets to construct weighty frameworks. Bridges and tunnels are core members of this structural construction group. Furthermore, those steel parts are loaded with special material characteristics. The goal is to treat the steel alloy so that it’s rigid, even when those mammoth structural loads apply their full weight. Welded and otherwise fastened into complex frames, the structure safely contains its own weight and any other loads, including those imposed by people, traffic, and heavy winds.

Structural Steel VS. Metal Fabrication

Catering for regular alloy manipulation, the work entails the processing of softer metals. Bronze and copper are included in this category. Mild steels and variously graded irons are also processed here. They’re bent, imbued with special finishes, before being cut and drilled. Geometrically complex or plain in shape, the end product will function just as the client specified. Structural steel fabrication has a second master. Gravity decides the material. Gravity and project density guide the material selection process. Large-cross sectional area beams, made from mild or carbon-reinforced steels, then ensure structural stability, no matter how tall the finished building becomes.

Just about every property of a metal fabrication project enjoys some leeway, so different metals can be selected. Only harder alloys satisfy the structural steel fabrication mandate. They’re built on a far larger scale to support multiple floors or tall steel shed frames. Additionally, much of that structural work is carried out on-site, with the partially finished components assembling up high, which is why crane services partner so naturally with steel fabrication operations.

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