Sheet metal has become a facet of modern day life for many people and whether they are aware of this or not, the affordable building material is used in most everything from sensitive electronics equipment to the construction of entire buildings. Typically when people think of sheet metal they think of aluminum or steel since that is the form it typically takes where it can be seen; but what many people do not realize is that the process of creating the metal sheets has been applied to many different metals and have been given different names since they typically have different functions then construction. For the most obvious example, tin foil is actually a type of sheet metal of an exceptionally high gauge so that it can be easily bent and ripped for various purposes. Another common form of sheet metal is known as 'leaf', where gold, platinum, or silver is rendered down to sheet metal and used as a form of decorative covering for otherwise plain jewelry or statue. Moreover, there are restaurants in Europe that have wooden horse heads that sheathed in gold leaf outside their doors to signify that they will serve horse meat in their dishes, but how many would guess this was also sheet metal? Aside from decoration, the leaf and traditional sheet styles are also used in the fabrication of wiring and catalysts, as a way to stretch otherwise limited resources for the maximum amount of functionality that can be gained. However, it is not only precious metals that are used alongside aluminum and steel for the construction of metal sheets. Brass, copper, nickel, tin, and titanium are all shaped into sheets for a wide variety of uses from household appliances to the outer layer of the Chrysler building's steeple.
No one can deny that sheet metal has vast and extensive applications but few understand what exactly goes into the fabrication or the wide variety of ways that it can be formed into useable shapes. The sheet style is formed when the metal being used is poured into a rectangular mold to cool into an ingot that is washed in various chemicals to 'pickle' it, cleaning it and removing impurities that might still be in the metal. Once the ingot has been picked it is passed between into a press where the ingot is run between two rollers to thin out the metal again and again until the ingot has been reached the proper width; this process also hardens the metal so that it can withstand more strain and is more difficult to break. Once the metal has reached the desired thickness the sheet metal is then prepared for packing, either laid out sheets atop one another or rolled and sent out that way. Typically metal of a higher gauge, and then thinner, is rolled since it is a relatively easy matter to flatten it back out for whatever purpose it is being used for. Once the sheet has been formed, there is a large variety of ways to shape the metal into the form it needs to be used in but the most common is simply known as 'bending'. Through this process a piece of sheet metal is passed above the mold shape the metal will be forced into and the 'punch' which is a mimic of the shape below and forces the metal into the mold so that it fits the shape accurately. A variation of this method is actually how items like sinks and tubs are formed!
From electronics to food preservation to creating part of the signature look of some of the world's most recognizable buildings, sheet metal has become a staple component of the modern world and for good reason. The process to create sheet metal creates a durable, repeating material that can survive well beyond when it would otherwise have broken or rusted away or even used to enhance the durability of an existing structure by layering the sheet metal over top of it. This is not even going into the decorative purposes that leaf can be used for or the creation of electronic components. The next time you are in need of building something or sometimes renovating your home, you can keep an eye out for quality sheet metal products that you can rest assured will last as long as you need them to.
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